An islander has shared how she took the leap from a career in finance, breaking new ground as an archeologically-inspired artist.
Ali Robinson (Ali Artology) specialises in detailed illustrations of flowers, insects and landmarks which she creates using techniques picked up during her archeology degree.
While Ali’s illustration journey started only a couple of years ago, her relationship with creativity started long before that.
Raised by practical parents – her engineer dad, “a bit of a mad professor type”, was always making and fixing things, while her mum, an accountant, made her children’s clothes when they were little and now makes celebration cakes – it is no surprise Ali herself started flexing the right side of her brain.
Pictured: Ali's illustrations combine detailed drawings and watercolours.
“I did Art ‘A’ Level - I loved it and it was quite a specialist subject where I grew up in the UK, Guilford,” she recalls. “It was not just something you did, it was an identity.
“I could not see the direction I would take it in afterwards, so I went into Archaeology. It seemed like a good combination of art and history - it is multidisciplinary and very practical, you go out on the field, and you explore things on your own, rather than looking at books.”
After graduating, Ali spent 18 months working on the field, but it was mostly short-term contract work which didn’t offer much stability.
With her other half a Jersey bean, she decided to move to the island and found a job in the finance industry.
Pictured: “The art is such a different style of working, it’s like a meditation or therapy when you get into doing your drawing," Ali said.
Although she wasn’t dedicating as much time to her artistic endeavours, Ali says she was always crafty, making invitations and decorations for her friends’ weddings, among other things.
“It’s like a way of thinking,” she said. “Once you have got that mindset, you always find a way to use it, like decorating your house. You bring it into anything you are doing.”
Two years ago, she decided to go back to her roots.
“I have been working in finance for a long time, I like the problem-solving aspect of this work, it’s really challenging which is great, but I was not really using the artistic part of my brain.
“The art is such a different style of working, it’s like a meditation or therapy when you get into doing your drawing.”
Pictured: Ali's practice is heavily influenced by the technical drawing techniques she picked up during her archaeology degree.
Ali’s specialty are colourful and detailed illustrations inspired by the natural and historical environment.
“You want to do something that is authentic to you,” she explains. “There is a lot of beautiful artwork out there, but there’s not point copying something else someone is doing. You want to try and find your niche.”
Her practice is heavily influenced by the technical drawing techniques she picked up during her archaeology degree which she uses for “an artistic purpose”.
“Archaeology illustration was a module I took - it was a big part of my degree. There are different techniques to bring out details from the artefacts, and you have to painstakingly measure things."
Pictured: Ali's favourite subjects are the natural and historical environment.
She continued: “I use the dot work technique for example, it’s just a really nice way of giving texture to something you do not get that with lines.”
Given her favourite subject matter, Ali is never short of inspiration in the island.
“Jersey is chockful of amazing natural beauty, it’s the perfect place for it, I just take inspiration from what I see in my garden,” she says.
“There are just so many sites that I really want to be doing... Jersey also has a little bit of a microclimate so there are plants here that are different to the ones in the UK and things like animals migrating because of the climate. Jersey tends to see them first so it’s quite interesting in that way.”
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As work was “up and down during the pandemic”, Ali says Instagram has been invaluable in helping her meeting fellow creatives near and far. T
hanks to the connection she made with Heather Brown, Ali recently had a selection of her work on display at Common Ground in St. Brelade as part of RampArts' ‘Revolving Wall’ initiative. She will also soon have a selection of exclusive artwork inspired by the island on ‘MadeinJersey.je’ created by Carla Butler.
Recently, she teamed up with Ian Rolls and a group of other creatives to transform the gum discarded on Pitt Street into mini artwork.
This month, Ali will be part of the Jersey Heritage and Société Jersiaise’s Festival of Archaeology, in collaboration with Ramparts between the 17 July to 1 August.
“There are lots of great people that I have met online and projects to be involved with, there would have been nothing otherwise."
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