Alice Quayle: Inspirations, Ikigai & Infographics

Alice Quayle IOM Arts Council interview
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Alice Quayle is a freelance illustrator whose work can be described as celebrating the quirky and unique aspects of the Isle of Man. Her infographics and maps have become popular amongst Island residents and visitors alike. Following on from part 1 of our interview with Alice (which you can read here) we find out more about how Alice first started and what inspired her work along the way.

"As a kid I basically spent a lot of time doodling in the margins of my school exercise books."

Alice Quayle 

Q. When did your interest in Illustration begin?

I think as a kid I just loved certain pictures in books, on telly and on posters. I had some great picture books as a kid. Things like Barbapapa which is fun and surreal. I loved the maps drawn by Tolkien in the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. The little animations in old school Sesame Street are amazing. Also I went to London every year as a kid to visit my Gran, and I remember a few of the posters in the late 70s were still very funky. And then a few other things: we had a VHS of Yellow Submarine which is just genius frankly. Comics too....

As a kid I basically spent a lot of time doodling in the margins of my school exercise books.

Plus my Mum, bless her, used to let us draw on one of the walls.

"A big thing that inspires me is the subject matter, how to get a lot of info into one picture..."

Alice's style can be described as quirky, cartoonish and informative. 

Q. Were you taught by anyone or did you mostly teach yourself?

It's a mixture. Quite a lot was just through trial and error over the years, doing posters and flyers and leaflets for organisations I was in.

My recent style was developed though doing an Open University 1000 hour course about systems, where we had to do a LOT of clear but complicated diagrams, some of them quite cartoony.... like a picture to explain the UK criminal justice system (based on a big circular conveyor belt). Also there was an intensive summer school with lots of speed drawing and thinking hard about complicated stuff like an A&E department: making lots of different diagrams about it, to try and come up with ideas for improvements.

"Tove Jansson of the Moomins, Peter Firmin, John Alcorn, Bridget Riley, Louise Elliot, Paul Klee, Angie Lewin are just some of the artists and illustrators who inspire me."

I have had some great art teachers over the years, such as Colin Edwards at school and Dave Fletcher, Eileen Barratt and Ian Coulson at the Art Foundation Course. I did a really useful animation course a couple of years ago at UCM (IOM College then) with Juan Moore and Gary Myers who were full of practical tips, on skills, processes, technology and business.

Above: Some of Alice's key inspirations which she lists below

Q. Who or what particularly inspires your work?

Style-wise, mostly fairly funky things in a style a bit similar to mine. Tove Jansson of the Moomins, Peter Firmin, John Alcorn, Bridget Riley, Louise Elliot, Paul Klee, Angie Lewin are just some of the artists and illustrators who inspire me. Also lots of folk art, old fashioned signwriting, fanzine and comics, old maps, some street art, some psychedelia (line & colour), Archibald Knox, Jugendstil. Geometry in nature. Nature in general. Some modernism. Pinterest is handy. Lots of other random things and subjects I like: culture, history, interesting characters and stories, etc.

"One thing that inspires me is spotting a gap of something that hasn't been done."

A big thing that inspires me is the subject matter, how to get a lot of info into one picture such as how to put all our main viking history into one map. Also I like the process of trying out how to get something across like when I did the Celtfest / Yn Chruinnaght poster, I was trying to draw the experience of Celtfest, a little festival by the seaside in Peel of course, to appeal to people who hadn't been before... so I included the castle, beach, food, seals, etc.

Above: Alice's map of Peel taking inspiration from the famous sunsets above the castle.

A lot of ideas have come from people coming up to say hi at fairs and suggesting things, and some from friends and family. People quite often see one thing and suggest something related.

"I went through the Small Business Scheme in about 2014 which was brilliant."

One thing that inspires me is spotting a gap of something that hasn't been done. For instance with the Dark Skies map (which I did in 2014 I think) I heard about all dark skies sites that had just been awarded, and just thought it would be useful to have a map of them in a starry style.

I get inspired sometimes by people using pictures just to explore ideas in interesting ways.

Above: Alice's Dark Skies Map which celebrates the many dark skies sites we have on the Island.

Q. You became a full time illustrator in 2014. What has it been like to have an artistic career as your main source of income and in particular your experience with that on the Island?

It's not easy, to be honest. It's always interesting but it's not that easy. You have to be pretty organised and disciplined with time etc, but that would be true anywhere. To be honest it's an advantage that my overheads are quite low.

"Other things that are good here is the supportive Manx online community, the creative community, and the many creative events."

Particularly on the Island there are some advantages:

I went through the Small Business Scheme in about 2014 which was brilliant. The short course and business planning we had was extremely useful, such as on focusing on what exactly is the best thing for your business to do, and focusing on what's the best use of your time and effort. Then after this was the series of meetings with a mentor, who goads you into doing the necessary paperwork and hustling. I had Andrew Simpson as a mentor, who was great. Also there was some grant for kit, and a bit of regular funds to help tide you over until the business is up and running.

"It's important to gen up on business skills for illustrators..."

Other things that are good here is the supportive Manx online community, the creative community, and the many creative events. I think things like the Creative Network and the Creative Industries events and social media has been really useful and helpful for meeting up, swopping tips and ideas, and just egging each other on.

Q. What tips would you have for others looking to become a full time illustrator?

It's important to gen up on business skills for illustrators, of course. I've done a fair bit of googling and book reading on this (and picking people's brains). I do think it would be handy to have regular workshops here on this sort of thing aimed at creative industries people, just to help keep us on top form, and the admin side ticking over well.

"Another thing I've tried to do is to develop my own style and area of work, so I've carved my own niche to some extent, and I'm hopefully not copying any other artists or illustrators here."

Ikigai diagram by Alice Quayle

One big thing that I have found useful is the idea of Ikigai. This means identifying the crossover point between:

What you love to do
What you are good at
What you can be paid for
What the world needs

Another thing I've tried to do is to develop my own style and area of work, so I've carved my own niche to some extent, and I'm hopefully not copying any other artists or illustrators here. I feel if we are all differentiated, someone wanting work done knows what all the different people are good at, and what their best styles are, and what they like to do best, so the project will be fun and productive.

Two practical basic tips (maybe a bit obvious, but still useful hopefully):

1) Label your layers in photoshop.
2) When someone commissions you, make sure to write down all the spec and budget, and other relevant points, to make it clear for everyone.

An infographic by Alice on Hop Tu Naa and the traditional turnip lantern. 

Where to find out more/social media links.

I'm always happy to chat about commissions: the best way is probably initially to drop me a line through social media, (just google me) and then people can see my work too. And/ or by email manxmaps@gmail.com.

The best place to see / buy prints is Tynwald Library shop on Finch Road, just to the right of the 'Wedding Cake'; the shop is open during office hours. The Tide in Ramsey sells prints too, and Presence of Mann do my prints by mail order / online shop.

People can check out my work just by googling 'Alice Quayle illustration', and on my pages 'Alice's Illustrations'.

Facebook: @alicesillustrations 

 Instagram: @alicequayleillustrations

Most of my past projects are on LinkedIn: I use it as a big CV and scrapbook of what I've been up to.

Thanks & cheerio.... :)


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Isle of Man Government
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