Welcome to Young Ambition, a feature series that highlights the youthful ambitions of young adults, even those from across the globe. In this edition, we meet Alexandra K., a 27-year-old millennial from Germany, who shares her passions, grand plans, and pipe dreams with Wildchild.
A prominent collage artist and certified Swiftie, Alex shares her lyrically inspired creative work on social media platforms such as Instagram and Tumblr under the moniker “cruellesummer”. Masterfully blending digital and “real” elements in her art, her collages have captivated artists and music fans alike. For now, she sees graphic design as a side hustle but wishes to land a full-time position in the industry eventually.
I first discovered your artwork through Tumblr — the one with Lorde’s album cover — and I was completely captivated by the gradient in the lettering. I thought, “Wow that’s really pretty” and kept revisiting it. Then I stumbled upon your Instagram account through Lorde’s tagged photos. How did it feel when you realized you were part of a select few who made it there? And to know she “liked” the post too!
Alex: It felt totally unreal and came as quite a surprise! I’ve been a fan of Lorde for years but don’t follow her super closely on social media so I wasn’t aware that she’s interacting with fans and only allows certain posts to show up on her tagged photos. I didn’t actually notice that she liked a post of mine and added another one to her tagged photos until someone pointed it out to me. It definitely feels very unreal to know that she looked at two of my edits and thought that they look good enough to be in her tagged posts.
Since your username is @cruellesummer — which pays tribute to the most underrated song on Taylor Swift’s Lover album — and your collages feature lyrics by music artists, I have to ask… did you start off as a fan account and would you consider yourself as someone who is currently still running one?
Alex: Interesting question! Before I had this account on Instagram (I started posting on it in April of this year), I used to run another account that was 100% a fan account. I wasn’t really happy with the content I posted on there and also didn’t get a lot of interactions so I decided to essentially start over with content that seems a bit more professional; although I certainly don’t have an issue with fan accounts or think they’re embarrassing!
I guess you could say that my account is currently a hybrid — somewhere between a fan account and a graphic design account. After all, the bulk of my latest edits has been Taylor-related since the release of RED TV.
Well, however you categorize your content, your distinctive style really speaks to me and I especially adore the pieces with your handwriting in acrylic paint.
Alex: I’m so glad that you and others like the pieces that include my actual handwriting because I was always told by my teachers and my parents that it’s ugly!
Walk us through the process of making a typical collage. Since song lyrics are one of the focal points of your collages, do you often begin with a lyric in mind or a mood first? Do you let your intuition take over afterwards?
Alex: So about once a week, I’ll sit down just to write down lyrics that I like using either acrylic paints, a simple pencil, washi tapes, or fabric tapes. Then, I wait for the paint to dry completely before scanning them so that I can digitize them using Photoshop. I don’t always use all of them immediately though, sometimes the file will sit on my desktop for months.
I either start by choosing a lyric I’m inspired by or with a picture that I really like and want to use. Once I’ve made that decision, I open a new file and add my ‘basics’ to it — textures, my watermark, and the small golden stars that have become a staple of mine. Then I add either the written quote or photo I’d like to use and think about which background, colors, or general aesthetic fit with it. I often already have a vague idea in mind, so finding all the elements usually doesn’t take me long.
The next step is probably the hardest and yet the most fun: arranging all of the elements in a way that is aesthetically pleasing to me. This part of the process can take me anywhere between five minutes to several hours. Sometimes I will completely change the concept I had in my head up to the point where I don’t even end up using the text I’ve written down using acrylic paints and just choose to go with the text option of Photoshop. I try not to force my art and to “go with the flow”.
You’ve mentioned that your collages are usually hybrids of digital elements and tangible items that you scan such as tapes, stickers, and your writing. Does that lead to you saving a lot of scraps so that you can use them in your art?
Alex: I have a drawer full of lyrics I’ve written and I plan on using all or most of my items for analog collages eventually! I love the idea of actually being able to hold something in my hands and being able to look back on all the stuff I’ve created but so far, I haven’t found the time to actually sit down and glue everything into a journal.
The truth is that I have a lot of respect for people who create all of their art analogically because I am super afraid of messing up e.g. making a spelling error or gluing down an item at the wrong place. That’s why I love digital collaging so much! I can change everything and even make corrections to lyrics I’ve written down by hand, so it’s more forgiving when it comes to making mistakes.
I do try to use as many ‘personal’ assets as possible just because it’s what truly makes the art pieces unique but it’s not always possible as it has to fit the aesthetic I’d like to achieve.
You made and shared an infographic about users stealing art off Pinterest to sell on Etsy. Some of the designs you listed on RedBubble and TeePublic were also stolen by others and this issue is rampant in the art community. What is the basic etiquette you would recommend users follow when they are scouring the internet for design resources?
Alex: I would always recommend people to ask for permission to repost art first, this is definitely the safest option but I can also see how that’s not always a possibility. If you want to repost an art piece, the first question you should ask yourself is always: Do I know who made this? If you don’t, just don’t repost it. Thanks to Google reverse image search, it’s fairly easy to find the source. If you do know who made it and want to post it, make sure to clearly state that you are not the creator of the piece and put the handle of the artist in the first sentence of the caption.
One thing I, alongside other artists, noticed is that there seem to be two types of “re-posters”: the first type wants to give you a shout-out because they like your art. They may even run a whole repost account to help artists get recognition for their work, which is really cool!
The other type simply wants to use other people’s content to gain followers and get likes for themselves. Those are the type of people who do not or barely give credit (e.g. “credit to the artist”, “found this on Pinterest”, or by tagging the artist without explicitly mentioning them in the caption of the post.)
Those are the type of reposters that I have a problem with because they will act as if artists’ creations are free for everyone to use. This sort of behavior often happens when it comes to fandom-related edits, unfortunately. I know people whose art got stolen and that stolen content was then liked by the person they made the edit of (for example, Taylor on Tumblr); there’s nothing that annoys me more than individuals trying to get their faves attention by stealing other people’s art.
How long have you been making collages and sharing them on the internet? Out of all the social media platforms, which is the most special to you, and what’s your favorite part of being in that community?
Alex: I started making and posting collages in 2021 actually! Since I started my graphic design journey on Tumblr, I was used to making gifs, phone wallpapers, and other graphics that work well on that platform.
I’ve really gotten to love Instagram — especially its art community — this year but I have to admit that Tumblr will always have a special place in my heart just because it feels way smaller and more private even though I have a slightly larger audience on Instagram.
I see Instagram as a place to share my own art and to admire the creations of others while Tumblr feels more like an online scrapbook on which I share personal thoughts, stories, and content about my other interests.
Moving forward, what is the direction you would like to take for your artwork?
Alex: Apart from continuing to make graphics of my favorite musicians, one of my goals for 2022 is to create even more diverse content — using lyrics or quotes from a bigger variety of artists — to speak to even more people. While I do love making collages, I do want to also dive into creating purely digital graphics such as CD covers, posters, etc. It’s what I was doing originally but they were kind of pushed to the background when I focused on collages, so I want to pick up what I left behind to add some variety to my Instagram feed and portfolio.
Feature collage by Alexandra K.; find more of her work here.