Alva Skog’s energetic practice is rooted in female empowerment. Across illustration, sculpture and animation, she questions ideas and ideals such as inequality, power and gender identity. Skog’s distinctive style is characterised by bold, vibrant colours, sculptural bodies and a dramatic play on scale and perspective. Her work is profoundly personal opening up an honest dialogue with her audience through characters that feel instantly relatable.
In her short career (Skog graduated in 2018), her expressive work has captured the imagination of brands and magazines around the world.
On Starting Out
I grew up in Stockholm. My dad worked in advertising and inspired me a lot. I use to go with him to work, and it always seemed like a cool place to be. That’s where I got a real taste for the creative industry.
I studied at St Martin’s in London. It was exceptionally challenging, but I loved it. It was one of the best times of my life. It was incredible to be around so many people from around the world. I thrived in the independent nature of the course.
On Shaping a Style
I experimented with lots of different styles, from ink work to comic books. I even had a period of using watercolours. The real genesis of my style took place during my final year of university.
We were encouraged to enter a lot of competitions, which I did, and the experiences ended up informing my aesthetic, as well as giving me greater confidence in my practice.
The two competitions that had the most impact were the D&AD New Blood and the V&A Illustration Awards. The New Blood competition brief was to design three posters which advised someone. I chose my younger sister as the subject and gave her advice about growing up as a woman. I was very conscious about how I approached my characters because I didn’t want to perpetuate the sexualised images you see of women in the media.
For the V&A competition, I entered a personal project where I reimagined female characters through the lens of traditional male archetypes, the explorer, the leader and the thinker. This work was more than an aesthetic, it resonated deeply for me, and female empowerment became the foundation of my practice. Through both of these experiences, I discovered the importance of putting my personal experiences into my work.
Many different types of women inspire me, especially non-binary folk who are pushing the boundaries of identity. I’m still very inspired by my sister and how she tackles the world. My mum has also been a huge influence; she introduced me to feminism when I was growing up.
Feminist science fiction is also a significant influence, I love the work of Margaret Atwood, and I’m fascinated to imagine when gender might look like in the future.
On Her Creative Process
I always start with small sketches, noting down lots of ideas that come to mind. I like to get everything down on paper. If relevant, I do additional research, but for me, it is all about drawing.
Once I have an angle I like, I draw it out on the iPad. I usually do a lot of rough versions; I want to have a lot of options. This allows me to review them alongside each other to understand which one is the strongest. Playing with scale and perspective is a big part of my style, I was inspired by how photographers use perspective. I use it as a tool to empower my characters or create a sense of unease.
New York’s Unique Board got in touch while I was in my final year of college. They were interested in collaborating on some sculptures of my illustrations. It was a fantastic process and something I would like to continue developing. I showed the sculptures as part of my degree show, and the response was great. Seeing the characters come to life in 3D added another dimension to my practice.
On Staying Sane
It’s essential for me to channel creative energy in all areas of my life, so I started taking dance classes. I do lindy hop, the charleston and swing. I’m addicted to it, I go three times a week, and it gives me complete escapism from my work, and it’s a lot of fun.