Slowly but surely, she became the talk of the Instagram town, her painted women taking over the social media world as well as the hearts of many. There’s something special about them, long flowing hair, big eyes that seem to stare right at you and see right through you, massive strokes of the brush adding layers of colours. Alja Horvat‘s social media famous Plant Lady print is gracing the homes of many, proven by the pictures posted on social media – her women coming to life on walls of tastefully decorated living rooms or bedrooms, surrounded by macramé and plants and vintage furniture. It’s like a scene imported directly from Urban Outfitters – which, incidentally, is where some of her prints are now being sold. It’s safe to say that the young illustrator from Maribor, Slovenia, has made it and yet she’s only getting started.
»I studied graphic design at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Engineering in Ljubljana and before that I was enrolled in the High School of Design in Maribor. Designing has been with me for quite some time now, « says the young artist, adding that her love for creativity stems from her childhood. “I always loved to create and draw. My favourite class in middle school was art – not because we didn’t have to do anything in this class but simply because I felt comfortable and relaxed. The two hours of drawing passed super quickly for me. It was like an escape from the real world.”
She prefers to create on her graphic tablet, saying “if anything goes wrong, if I make a mistake, I can easily fix it. You can achieve the traditional look of paintings with different digital techniques using different brushes – it gives me a lot of creative freedom as well. As far as traditional techniques go, I prefer acrylics and gouache.”
Alja opened her Etsy shop roughly around a year ago, kick-starting her independent business. “I simply decided that I wanted to create my own prints in the comfort of my own home. After a long search online, I found a quality printer and the best paper. I didn’t want to order my prints online because until you get them in your hands you don’t know what the quality of them is going to be.” Owning a small business comes with its own trials and obstacles, she adds. “The biggest problem for me was all the bureaucracy and paying all the bills and so on, so I decided to find an accountant that keeps track of everything and lets me know what I need to pay and do each month. I simply don’t have the time for it – it would take me up to a week to figure everything out, and she’s got it all covered and ready.”
Most of her orders come from the States but she’s always surprised when she gets a customer from a completely unexpected country, such as Cyprus, Japan or China. Recently, she’s been on a business trip to LA, flown over by the company she collaborated with, Causebox, for which she designed their most recent subscription box. Alja definitely considers that and the Urban Outfitters gig as big breakthroughs in her career. On top of that she’s more recently done a collaboration with the Slovenian socks brand Zulu Zion, now available for purchase on the zuluzion.com website.
She’d describe her style as minimal on one hand and colourful on the other with added patterns and bright hues. “I love a good mixture of both, but my style mainly depends on how I’m feeling. I find a lot of inspiration on Pinterest or Instagram and I’m really inspired by stuff from the sixties, seventies – the music, the clothes, the décor… I also love the works of Josef Frank, they’re so wonderful, full of colours and life!”
As far as her future plans, she tends to not think too much ahead but is rather surprised with where life takes her. “It usually happens when you least expect it. But I would like to go back to more traditional techniques when I’m creating. I’m mostly excited about all the projects that I’ve been working super hard on in these past few months. I can’t wait to see them come to life and to be able to share them with everyone.”
As a young artist who’s already made it quite big, Alja does have some words of wisdom for other young people that want to create and wish to pursue art as a career. “I think if something makes you happy you should never let other people take that joy from you, either with comments such as ‘oh you can’t possibly make a living out of that’ or simply by telling you you’re not good enough. I personally believe that if something you do genuinely makes you happy and if you truly love to do it, you should use all the time that you have available to do this thing. A lot of people are afraid to start in the first place because when you do, you’re at the very beginning – it’s then that you need to remember that every person that is successful now, had to start somewhere. We’ve all been there!”