Alice Rapcencu’s blossoming illustration career all started with a little white lie as a high schooler from a tiny town in Romania. Her friend was working at an advertising agency in Bucharest and commissioned her to design and illustrate an ad campaign for a major Romanian company. The only catch was that the young and professionally inexperienced Alice had to pass herself off to her friend’s boss as an invented illustrator from Germany with an established career and important clientele. Her illustrations did the convincing for her, however, and the ad agency was so pleased with her work that they used it for their client’s ad campaign and highly recommended her work. “It was my first my big feat,” she says, laughing. Now a 23-year-old art school graduate, Alice has branched out on her own to run a growing freelance illustration business for clients not only in her native Romania, but all over the world.
Tell me about your work—what made you start illustrating?
It’s been a long process. I’ve drawn ever since I was a little girl, and I did illustration when I was in high school… I was studying math and physics and all that really scientific stuff at a very academically competitive school, but at the same time, I really wanted to keep the artistic part of my life active. I was the only one from my high school who chose to go to art school. Everyone said, “Go and learn economics—we’re all doing that!” I was good at math, but I chose to do what I like. Illustration is who I am and what I most like to do. I’ve found my own voice, and it’s through illustration.
So you’ve graduated from art school. What have you been doing since then?
I finished school and have been working ever since. I’ve been doing a lot of freelance work, and I’ve found that it’s the type of work for me. Freelancing is really working for me—I have clients from New York, Atlanta, California, Dubai, all over. The benefit of being an illustrator is that I can take my tablet and my laptop and illustrate anywhere, for clients from anywhere in the world. This is the biggest advantage of my work.
What kind of freelancing illustration jobs do you do?
There are a lot of different projects. I illustrated a gaming platform for children; I design logos; I illustrate for a California ad agency’s clients; and I even get to illustrate for a New York beauty blog.
That sounds so great. It’s must be like a dream come true to do what you love and successfully be your own boss.
It’s awesome. You know, I could have chosen to get a steady job. And at first, it was the classic story. I felt panic—how can I cope with all these bills?! But I was really confident in myself and in my ability to freelance, and I’m always working hard.
Have you ever thought about illustrating for books or stories?
Yes, I love to do that kind of work. I recently worked on illustrations for the magazine Marie Claire Romania.
What are some of your favorite pieces, and how would you describe your illustrative style?
My personal illustration projects best show the style that defines me. I like to keep it very feminine.
This illustration, called Bang, was a personal project, and it’s one of my favorites.
Also, Cherchez les Femmes is another one of my favorites. I wove symbols and meanings into the girls’ tattoos and the little looks they exchange. There are subtle glances of envy and little intrigues going on in the piece, and you have to look closely at the details to see it.
Gossip Girls goes along with Cherchez les Femmes. They’re a set of illustrations of women talking. Through the illustrations alone, I try to give a sense of the story and the secrets that they’re talking about.
Do you ever draw men? From what I’ve seen, your portfolio is full of ladies.
No, I don’t really like drawing men. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but they lack a certain quality… I think it’s because I like drawing curves.
What other art forms inspire you when you illustrate?
I like retro photographs. Whenever I start a new project, I’m really inspired by fifties photographs. I’m also inspired by music—the classics, like Frank Sinatra and Julie London. In the past, women were really feminine, and I like drawing figures of beautiful women. That’s what really inspires me.
And what about you? Would you draw a self-portrait for Daily BR!NK that shows who Alice Rapcencu, the artist, is?
I identify with retro, feminine beauty. I’m a hopeless romantic.
What’s next for you? Do you have ideas of what you’d like to happen for your career in the future?
I’m trying to do this on my own, as a freelancer, and to attract as many clients from abroad as possible, using my system that’s worked for me so far. Also, I want to do more fashion illustration. My dream come true would be to illustrate for a big fashion magazine like Vogue.
How savvy—you have a system for attracting and finding work with clients from abroad. Can you tell me more about it?
It’s an entire marketing plan that I’ve made myself. I’ve read marketing books and used them to inspire my strategy… I’ve joined as many illustrators’ associations and organizations as possible. I’m sending as many email offers as possible to potential clients. And I’m putting my work on the internet, which connects me to everyone and helps new people discover my work.
It sounds like you’ve already achieved some success on your own, but what can BR!NK readers do to help you succeed?
I would love to be hired by new clients, especially for fashion illustration projects. I also need more exposure and representation. I’m an artist, and I’m out here, but at the same time, I’ve available anytime you might need me for a project.