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Getting to Know the Artist – An Interview

Her name is Aja Wells (first name pronounced Asia), and she’s an illustrator, designer, and full-time freelancer. I first noticed her work when she uploaded photographs of her postcards and business cards on GotPrint’s Facebook fan page. Her youthful, vivid illustrations reminded me of the fairy tales, folktales, and story books I grew up on. Curious to learn more about her work, I asked Aja if she would be interested in an informal interview session.

Aja Wells promotional merry christmas postcard with mouse illustration printed by GotPrint

Aja’s 2010 Christmas Postcards

An aspiring paleontologist and veterinarian, Aja grew up drawing animals and dinosaurs. Her interest in animals led her to study wildlife biology in college, but required calculus courses steered her away from the sciences and toward graphic design. Not long after, her former advisor, M. Wayne Knight, encouraged her to research illustration, an advice she is very grateful for today.
“We didn’t have an illustration program at my college, so I started to study it on my own. Once I graduated, I worked for two years as a graphic designer for a wholesale jewelry company, mostly focusing on branding. While working this job, I joined SCBWI and GAG and started to attend conferences and submit work to various publishers. It felt like a slow start, but work gradually began to flow in. Today I’m 25 and do illustration full time, while also pursuing a MFA in Illustration.”
For Aja, the pursuit of one’s dreams is “a journey, not a race”, as she advises her blog followers. In fact, much of her work seems to embody this conviction, as one can see in the Tortoise and Hare series, based on the popular fable about the defeat of the quick, proud, unsteady hare by the slow, but persevering tortoise.

Aja Wells illustration of the tortoise and the hair fable

An illustration from the Tortoise and Hare series

Aja begins most of her work on a smooth, bristol board. She then scans and fully paints in Adobe Photoshop using an Intuos3 Wacom tablet. When Aja sketches, she keeps a moleskine and fills it up with Tombow pen drawings.

Aja’s influences include Beatrix Potter (Peter Rabbit), E.H. Shepard (Winnie the Pooh), and Racy Helps, who is famous for postcard illustrations. “They all preferred to draw animal characters, which I really relate to. The characters and worlds they created really touch me in a way that a lot of contemporary work does not.”

But not all of her illustrations are catered towards the children’s market–most of her illustrations have been used privately for corporations. She’s also worked as a creative designer in packaging, branding, layout and design, as well as a design consultant. In addition, she’s active in art organizations, such as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. And if that isn’t enough to keep her busy, Aja is also working on a magazine project to get youth artwork and writing published. 
 
“I tend to get bored if I have to dedicate all my time to one project. By diversifying into a few different but related areas, my mind stays fresh. I’ve recently been working on some activity sheets which I am really enjoying.”

Aja Wells the three little pigs illustration on business cards, printed by GotPrint

Illustrated business cards

Aja proves that even with great skill and training, it’s not always easy: “Despite years of figure drawing, I still loathe drawing human heads and hands!”

And what advice can she offer to aspiring artists out there?

“I hear so many young artists lament that they don’t have a style. The best advice I can offer is to not go searching for your style. Instead, keep doing studies and create art that is fun for you to make. In time, you’ll find certain nuances in your work that make it your own. From there, you can work on developing it.”

Of course, freelancers have to promote their work too. Aja sends out promotional mailers at least twice a year to around 200 publishers and art directors. In addition, she’s active in the social networking scene, as well as on the web. Looking for new and innovative ways to connect with clients is a must, but according to Aja, “Sometimes it just boils down to getting to know people and being friendly.”
In addition to sending postcard mailers to clients, Aja also inserts postcards in sample packs, and makes them available at artist receptions and portfolio reviews.

And, as for business cards? “I’ve only handed out a handful of business cards since I do the majority of my networking online, however, I’ll always keep them in my wallet because you never know who you will meet!”

Aja Wells colorful illustration promotional postcard printed by GotPrint
Promotional postcards
Rightfully said, Aja.
To see more of Aja’s illustrations, you can take a peek at her personal website, www.ajawells.com, or visit her blog, www.ajawells.blogspot.com.

Nareh S.

With over 10 years of experience in content marketing and writing, Nareh enjoys creating content for blogs, websites, advertisements - just about anything you can think of. A self-proclaimed wordsmith, Nareh enjoys compelling, witty taglines and phrases. When not writing, Nareh enjoys traveling and eating a ridiculous amount of avocados.

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