“No tiny hands or thin waists”: Illustrator Alva Skog on her playful, powerful women
With their expressive, oversized hands and feet, illustrator Alva Skog’s figures are strong and energetic. Almost all of the characters are women but, browsing through her portfolio, it’s not immediately obvious given their pleasing lack of gendering.
“I’m exploring mostly female identity at the moment,” says Alva, who is currently studying graphic design at Central Saint Martins and is due to graduate in June. “I am very conscious of not making female characters sexualised. It is so common in the way women are depicted today in the media and everywhere really, so that is something I am actively avoiding.”
For Alva, her illustrations are also a way of questioning narrow body ideals. “No tiny hands or feet, and no thin waists,” she says. “I see illustration as a powerful political tool. It matters who I represent and how it is done. I want people to feel addressed and included.”
Her interest in depictions of female and non-binary bodies has partly been influenced by Feminist science fiction writers Margaret Atwood, Urusla K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ and Marge Piercy, whom Alva has been devouring of late. “I find it very inspiring how they deal with questions of identity,” she says. For one university project Alva, has created a series of abstract, typographic scarves inspired by these much-loved writers.
Seeing her time at university as a period of play, Alva has just made her first venture into animation in the shape of short film About Morfar. It’s a heartfelt accompaniment to a recorded conversation between her mum and grandma chatting about her now deceased grandad. Touching and thoughtfully abstract, making the animation has been a steep learning curve. “I like to work fast and animation is time consuming. This might also be because I’m new to it and still learning,” laughs Alva. “At the moment I am trying to explore and experiment a lot because I know when I have graduated there won’t be a lot of time for that.”
Text: Laura Snoad Via It's Nice That