AN Art Deco-style poster of a palm-tree-lined promenade whimsically welcomes visitors to ‘Sotogrande Cadizfornia’. Scarlet Alexandra’s art is a reflection of her wit as well as her grit.
One day the 27-year-old was living the dream in Dubai working for a digital start-up company.
The next day she was on the plane home to Sotogrande with her career in the shredder, collateral damage of the pandemic.
She did, however, have a plan …
“I saw a gap in the market for bespoke posters of Spain that went beyond the traditional” she tells the Olive Press when we catch up with her at her Sotogrande studio.
“Most images seem to show bullfighting or flamenco dancing, but nothing about the towns and villages, which is why I went for something different.”
In under a year this can-do e-entrepreneur has built up a thriving online start-up selling limited editions of her enchanting, Belle Epoque-inspired travel posters – quite some achievement for the times we live in.
With a vintage vibe that evokes the glamour of a bygone era, Scarlet’s ‘Saxdoodles’ are a fusion of Scarlet and Alexandra tacked on to ‘doodle’, although these intimate portraits of her own home turf and beyond are far from casual scribbles: café society at Ke Sotogrande, chiringuito life at El Chambao beach bar, Guadiaro Feria, Tarifa’s giant Valdevaqueros sand dune, the Costa del Sol coastline …every poster tells a story.
“Travel is a real passion of mine, from spending a few years in Buenos Aires through to studying art design at the University of Florence,” enthuses Scarlet who looks far more artist than IT whizz with her multi-coloured bandana and purple-washed hair.
“I looked to combine that with my design experience to create posters that typify an area.”
Scarlet started up saxdoodle.com last April with six initial offerings, one of which was a map of the Sotogrande area in San Roque.
“Nobody had done anything like this before and I started to get inquiries and orders from people with holiday homes wanting something to remind them of where they stay in Spain,” she says.
Ten months down the line, 350 posters have been sold, much to this modest artist’s surprise. “We had no advertising or publicity with ‘word of mouth’ and our website the only way we got customers. I’m quite surprised at the level of interest.”
Indeed, wall posters are a highly collectible art form. Vintage versions range in styles from Art Nouveau and Cubism to Art Deco and Bahuaus.
Dating from the invention of mass production lithographic printing in the mid-19th century, they gave aspiring painters in garrets a new source of income (at one time, the streets of Paris were known as the ‘poor man’s picture gallery’) and allowed ordinary people to own artwork by famous artists at lower prices.
Although maybe not today. Christie’s sold Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s 1891 Moulin Rouge – La Goulue lithograph for £314,500 in 2014, making it the highest-grossing travel poster in history.
Posters were used to celebrate unique cultural institutions – in France, the cafe and cabaret: in Italy the opera; in Spain the feria and the bullfight; in Britain, the circus and the seaside holiday.
With their head-turning colours, large scale and ability to inspire adventure, they also became a cheap and powerful advertising tool that had their heyday during the Golden Age of Travel, enticing passers-by to book holidays by train, boat and new-fangled jet plane.
Most OP readers will be too young to remember the old Fly TWA (Trans World Airline) buillboards; or the Jolly Fisherman, a 1908 poster for Great Northern Railways depicting a chubby mariner dancing a hornpipe on the sand captioned ‘Skegness is so bracing. It’s quicker by rail’.
Luckily for Andalucia tourism, which badly needs the publicity to attract visitors back post Covid, Scarlet’s collection has a strong local bias.
More lately, she has expanded beyond her own regional borders to encompass Gibraltar and other places outside Spain. “Some friends of mine live in Marrakech in Morocco, so I created some posters for them, as well as for places that I know like Buenos Aires and Dubai,” she says.
A key aspect of Saxdoodle is the way her limited edition posters are made.
“Every A3 size poster is produced on sustainably-sourced hand-lined bamboo paper in our 100% carbon neutral printing studio,” she explains. Every print comes with a certificate of authenticity and is personally signed, adds Scarlet, who also takes on individual private commissions.
As for the future, Scarlet’s career journey is clearly mapped out. “I want to expand my poster range up the coast through the Costa Blanca and all the way through to Barcelona,” she declares.
Today she’s conquering Spain; tomorrow, maybe, the world.