Its the uniqueness in individuals that sparks Alexandra Citrin's interest in Art Direction. The NY based artist, who recently started her own magazine 'Until Now' , has been hustling the grounds of Time Out New York for the past two years before finding herself encompassed to experience different fields in art direction. And as recently forming part of Women's Wear Daily's Art Department for the 2016 Spring /Summer Collections, the focus on her craft explains why she was finally able to debut her own path in illustration.
"Absorbing is part of the process," says Citrin, referring to the fact that part of her frequent tasks is to approach young illustrators who, most of the time, have a fresh and unique aesthetic. For a good measure, Citrin mentors these illustrators, not only by giving them opportunities right when they get off from college, but also, by advising them that while experimentation is essential, integrity is crucial. It may be by expressing one's own sense of style, but its also, the measure of communicating something more innate by purposely conveying a source imagination only you, the creator, are able to transfix.
"The thing is you don't know what your work really looks like, the one thing you do know is that it comes from your brain," says Citrin half scared, half exhilarated. As it is, after all, illustrators who are most accustomed to rejection, specially at a starting point in their career. "There is, however, no doubt of having a fulfilling reward once your work gets published. Its something that's physically out there in the world, and how amazing is that!" And the best part of it is that the specialty of her pieces have the same amount of worth and value whether they are found at a news stand, gas station, or living room.
"That's certainly one of the most satisfying things about what I do," Citrin admits, and as she mentions this, I can immediately tell this girl is truly courageous, something in which she confessed she lacked three, four years ago.
"Oh gosh, I was a freelancer and I found a cat in a box (named after Bear); and she came at a perfect time because I felt so lonely, so lost.." she says, "while Bear slept in my lap, I worked, and by work I mean I did a bit of stalk people's profiles, and I just thought to myself, 'why is her work so good, she's younger than me, and still a student!!!'"
As she questioned herself these things, it still didn't stop her from continuing to go her own way. After several years of experience came moments of growth, and little did she know she was building her own path, and slowly creating her own vision.
As Citrin allowed this to happen, her point of view lead to be present in spirit as as much as in character. Citrin's idea of having a particular print magazine full of whimsical illustrations and lively content, came in the most organic way. This side of the industry of coordinating printed visuals from other individuals, nurtured her in a way only drawing wouldn't do.
Citrin now divides her time freelancing for WWD and as a woman in charge of 'Until Now Mag' at her Queens apartment she shares with her fiancee and her beloved cat who could also be called her new assistant.
Does it feel scary to just leave your job? Yes. It may feel quite risky, in fact.
But as she thought about it for years, it was something that needed to be done.
I come to know all of this as I finally had the chance to sit down with the creator herself. Drinking tea at her joyous and charming apartment full light, was the inverse as to how I found myself around Queens while I searched for her cute little place as it was dark and cold.
It didn't matter- the hunt was worth the chat as many of the things which were discussed made us realize things such as; how twisted the world of Instagram can be, the synergy of print, and why breakups and rejection are, after all, something to laugh about.
Tell me a little about how this whole world of stories, illustrations and creativity started for you..
I got to focus when I was young on really cerebral stuff, every single day.. It was weird. In high school it was like being at the zoo, and I was just there watching things happen. I didn't really fit in until I got to college, as everybody was just like me in college.
But I guess I spent a lot of time thinking about teens, about misfits. I was interested at other people's experiences growing up while I was growing up. Which is a weird thing. But I don't know, normal stuff was really fascinating to me. Just the simple fact of what was going on on other people's houses. I was obsessed with the idea of being a teenager that was not my own.
I think that's how I came out on the other side of things.. and so I've always liked magazines and I've always liked working in illustrations and with other illustrators. I've been focused on creating my magazine since then. Its all connected; the curiosity, the visuals, the collaborations. But a big part of my decision that made me create this magazine was because I came to find out that there were people who cared about this.
How would you describe your style?
I know my strengths and weaknesses. You can tell what’s on my mind. I love objects and I love people. When I think about my illustrations I think about their functions as decoration first. That’s very hard for me to admit because I identify as an editorial illustrator as I love drawing for newspapers and magazines, but even with the other clients that I have, I tend to attract more teen magazines, and the average is great. I love beautiful things – so I like to draw beautiful things, but I also like moody things because I can be very moody.
I always drew since I was a little kid, but I really got into it once I hit puberty. I hated everyone – I had my own little world. I think for me I liked the idea of creating an environment. An environment in your brain. What satisfies me is that I can be clever, but Im not as clever as a lot of people.. as a lot of illustrators. So my work tends to be less about visual puns, but more of 'here’s a bunch of girls with a bunch of different hair styles looking upset' -- that speaks to me.
I just feel really privileged to say that I can exceptionally live in my own little world. That’s what Im basically sharing.
Why is it special to collaborate with others?
Sometimes you see somethings that the other person cant see and vice versa. You help them make their best work at any time I've had an illustrator say, 'Wow. I really like what I just did’.. its not always a given that you’re going to like something and its going to be published, it might not have been your favorite version, and it was a rough job, you just weren’t feeling it.. whatever, it happens.
I actually worked with some of my favorite illustrators in the world, and I really wanted an excuse to work with them, we just didn’t have that kind of budget, I had a chance and I said, 'ok..maybe I can do this.'
That’s another thing about starting art direction and looking at people that are 15 years my senior and have won tons of awards, because you’re just like.. "Could you draw for me??" Its kind of freaky because its what I look up to, and he told me he was so happy with the collaboration that was done. We were both really pleased.
How old were you when your first work was published?
I was 20… wait was I? - Oh yeah, I was because I was going through a break up!That’s how I remember time periods in my life, through breakups. Its funny now, not then.
Is the concept in 'Until Now Mag' basically about how some of us never really 'grow up' in a way?
Its a romantic idea, yes. I million psychiatrists would either disagree with me or would tell me to see a new psychiatrist, but I do firmly believe that no matter how much you grow up and change, you are really always the same person. And the definition of that person does tend to change. Well, hopefully.
I don't know, its like during your teenage years I was trying to be eight different people because you were trying to figure who you are. To me thats very fascinating. But you always are who you are no matter what happens.
What are your thoughts on print in this new 'digital revolution'?
Print is not dead, its just transitioning. It happened in the music industry in the early 2000s. And the whole world of magazines is completely reflective of that. Its funny because I feel like you only hear people talking about the death of print in the US… but independent magazines in Europe and parts of South America, they never went away.. people weren’t freaking out over it, they were just like, 'its just another thing'.
Print and digital should work together, not against each other – one does one thing, the other does another.. they are not supposed to replace each other, they are just doing different things. People are still trying to figure it out, and its nice to see that. Take Vogue for instance, Im never not going to want a ‘this thick’ Vogue to flip though on a Saturday afternoon.
What would you say is your favorite thing on Instagram?
That’s whats funny about Instagram, because once I put photos on Instagram, Im constantly surprised which drawings get the most ‘likes’, because they're almost not my favorite ones.
I always say like – omg this is so good EVERYONE IS GOING TO FREAK OUT !!! ...no body freaks out…
Then I put a piece of crap and everyone freaks out.. its just so amazing what gets people’s attention. And its helpful because sometimes I say, ok maybe I could do some more of that.. because everything I use on Instagram I do like. So yeah, having those kinds of tools is really incredible.
I love the whole element of the fact that Instagram opens people’s ability and understanding of what it actually is and why it’s a job. People who think that because you love what you do, you’re 'not working' – that’s such bullshit. When you do creative work, even the cutest quirkiest illustrations, that’s work. And that doesn’t make it bad. Like I said – it is an incredible privilege to be able to make this as a living, but its certainly hard work.
What do you do when you're not working?
I have other creative outlets - sometimes I do jewelry. There's just something about doing little things with my hands and not having the pressure that I put on myself of having something that needs to be done. That was a big discovery for me. I just needed something between getting stoned and watching Netflix, something with no pressure actually relaxing. Its just something creative for me personally.
Do you have anymore upcoming projects, plans, ideas for the future?
Im going to teach college this Fall semester. I've been trying a couple of the schools in the area just because I miss being around students.
I just want to help artists get their work out there. Im always really suspicious of people who are wary of artists who are just coming into the field. You cant be like that. Because you're in a whole different set of values and ambition. I never want to lose my sense that things can get better or be as great as they can be. I think that was very frustrating with me about working in a corporate magazine, of a certain level.. it was hard because they were operating on the good math level. And I'm not talking about the people there, because they were amazing, but of the brand itself…
As for the Until Now Magazine - Im planning to have it out probably by the end of the Summer. It will just depend of the illustrators an writers who I will work with, I want to know it has been worth it for them. I need to feel these new talents are getting something out of it apart from just experience.
But I just want to make sure Im doing this before some other crazy thing out there happens for me..