Alex, tell me a bit’ about yourself; where are you based, what about your background?
I’m based in San Francisco, California where I have been born and raised these past 28 years.It’s an amazing city, ever changing, ever inspiring, people coming and going and constantly evolving.
I was born to incredibly caring parents who moved up to San Francisco from Southern California in the late 1970’s/early 80’s.
They supported my passions in drawing and painting from a very young age, encouraging me to challenge myself and put in the effort and time required to grow.
They always by provided my younger brother and I with supplies and the freedom to make a mess, words of encouragement, and space to be able to explore in freedom.
What were your very first approaches to Art?
Art has always been ever present in my life.
Both of my parents art Architechts, so we would always visit museum’s here in SF and draw, or sketch and look at what was on display. So I was always making. But when I was 11-13 years old is when
I got pretty obsessed with “ the line” and clean images rendered by hand. I would contantly copy, adapt, and try to mimic pieces I saw that had qualities I enjoyed. These were anything from comic book strips, film stills, outlines of motorcycles, or diagrahms I found interesting in form.
To me, it was all about how far I could push myself.
When did you start to work professionally?
That’s a tough question to answer, because I have always taken my practice incredibly seriously. But I would say I began working “professionally” when I was in college at The San Francisco Art Institute and began having my work shown in local galleries like Fecal Face.
Something shifted in the way I made the moment I began showing my work in public spaces, it became my job and life. Coffee began flowing 24 hours a day, I began working 365 days a year to maximize how much I could produce and have available for shows should I be considered to show with them. Nothing is worse than half-assing work because you weren’t prepared. Ive never done it, and I never will.
Can you remember your first artistic influences?
My first influence was undoubtably Peter Paul Reubens.
My Grandmother used to live in Southern California, and on holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving we would stay with her. There was a library about a mile away that would constantly have these insane book sales to clear shelf space. Luckily for me, they would get rid of huge, oversized, beautifully printed monographs of the european old masters.
The first time I saw Peter Paul Reubens my jaw hit the floor. I’d never seen color, light, and flesh painted the way he did. At 28 years old, I still haven’t seen one of his paintings in person.
Which artists do you admire today?
Too many haha. I think artists are drawn to and admire artists who work with similar, yet different technique, and and narrative. For me, it’s artists like Wes Lang, Ed Ruscha, Mark Mulroney, Sigmar Polke, David Mann, and so many others.
David Mann was the first artist and painter I had ever seen thatreally portrayed the American biker lifestyle, and that really fucked me up in the best ways.
Another artist I admire and am incredibly inspired by, is my girlfriend and life partner Sophie Ruiz. Shes a ceramacist, a medium I find incredibly difficult, incredibly inspring and insanely frustrating. She somehow handles the clay with such ease it blows my mind. She creates incredibly natural, organic shapes that just feel right. Which is incredibly hard for any artist to do, no matter the medium.
How did your style evolve and how do you define it today?
All of the work I make has ties to my relationship with graphic imagery, from comic books and advertising images I find eye catching. A lot of the work I produced back in college got incredibly dense technically, with mass amounts of imagery filling a piece of paper visually and conceptually. That work was incredibly fun, challenging and in some ways “safe”. It was easy to hide mistakes, easy to hide narrative behind the visual imagery and in some ways “lose” people because theywere so overwhelming to look at.
I began refining slowly and by the end of my masters program, I was incredibly interested in how much narrative I could convey with as little imagery as possible. Big big big topics, all represented by 3-4 recognizable images maximum. They got very minimal, with tons of whitespace present in the composition, and it eventually lead me to where I am now. Working minimally forces you to create slowly, consciously, and allowed me to really take my time and pack what little imagery was present with as much detail as possible.
Tell me about your artistic process, mediums, technique…
All of my work begins with a light sketch in a sketchbook I always keep with me at all times.
Usually it’s incredibly rough, and includes a lot of writing. I write everything from specific memories, quotes, how a landscape or interaction with a person left me feeling down.
I then think of imagery that best represents those feelings and get to sourcing the images. They are refined on tracing paper or vellum until they ready to be transferred to the watercolor paper I work on.
I outline them in pen, erase the pencil, and begin blocking in color with acrylic based gouache. I begin with the light shades, dark shades second, black outlines third, drop shadows fourth, highlights on all black lines last for imagery and the boarder around the piece in the end. They are all composed of nothing but a brush, gouache, paper and the human hand. Nothing ever finishes the way one intends when it is begun.
I love working on paper because it is immediate, and when pigment reaches papers’ surface, you are commited and theres no removing it unless you cover it.
Your sources of inspiration are many and various, and you make a lot of reference to Moto Culture; what do you love in it, and what is your relationship with the Two Wheels?
All artists produce work that is a reflection of who they are and what they are surrounded by.Products of their surroundings made visual per se.I reference motorycle culture so often because other than making art and spending time with my girlfriend, I am 9 out of 10 times doing something motorcycle related. Whether it is travelling with my friends across the country, or just working on my own bikes.
I began riding about 8 years ago, after graduating to motorcycles from racing bicycles in the SF Bay Area. While there are parts of the culture I might disagree with, it doesn’t make me love the culture any less.
I love the inheret freedom of riding any motorcyle, I love the friends you make, the communities you become a part of, and the changes in experience and the landscape while you are riding a motorcycle. Complete sensory overload that shifts into silence as you wick the throttle open and blast away.
They are “freedom machines” in every sense, and I try and touch on that in a lot of my work, as it is a direct reflection of my own experiences on my bikes, on my trips, and the relationships through experience I’ve have had through them.
In addition to motorcycles you mix tattoos, American culture iconography, vintage and contemporary symbols; what are the elements that stimulate your creativity, how do you choose them and what is the message you want to communicate?
Almost all of my work is and can be a portrait of identity. Typically my own American identity.
I am tattooed, enjoy getting tattooed and love the cultures’ iconographic language, so theres no doubt it makes it’s way into my work. I utilize imagery that jumps out to my eye, holds more than one meaning, or can be interpretted multiple ways by different people. Everyones’ relationship to certain iconography is completely different and that’s why I chose symbols that can be both specific and vague.
I also love typeface because it can set a stage for representational imagery to exist within. Magazine covers are a huge influence to me because an entire story or article within that magazine can be told by one image, and a few words. While all of this work is incredibly personal, I would like my pieces to function as a cross section and exploration of young American identity through cultures I feel I know intimately.
The “Cut Away(s) series, please explain me the idea.
Visual artists, namely painters, printmakers, photographers, and film makers have been restricted historically to the 2-dimensional plane. Usually the rectangle, the square, or the circle.
I got super super tired of working within that format as it became almost formulaic for me to produce work.
I wanted to challenge myself and force myself to use imagery I wasn’t familiar with working with, so I started creating non-conventional shapes to compose images within.
The first two pieces were a success, so I kept rolling with it and created a 12 piece body of work.
The term “Cut Away(s)” came from the actual removal of excess paper to create the shapes the pieces finished as. “Cut Away(s)” also references the early changes american motorycle racing enthusiasts made to their bikes to shed excess weight to be faster. The term eventually evolved into “cutdowns” and then into “choppers”.
Once I thought of the title “Cut Away(s)” I knew there was no turning back.
Is there a place or a moment of the day or maybe a song ideal to create, to work on your art?
For me, everything happens at night.
I am an absolute night owl when I really get to work.
I still have a “day job”, and can’t afford the luxury of working on my art fulltime. Especially living in one of the most expensive cities on the planet. Usually, when I leave my day job, and I jump on my bike to ride to my studio, that is when my day truly begins. My brain wakes up, the coffee gets made, and my hands start moving until I can barely keep my eyes open or have to go home to get a couple hours of sleep before my next work day.
Those moments late at night where you don’t have to put in any effort and your hands do exactly what you tell them to are the fucking best.
Music-wise, I listen to a little bit of everything, From Waylon Jennings, to Electric Wizard, to my friends’ bands, it all takes me into the zone where I can focus.
What are you working on?
Right now I’m catching up on things I abandoned when I got inspired by the “Cut Away(s)” body of work.
One is for a local motorcycle shop and friend, a couple pieces for friends who have been waiting….a long time for their pieces, and I am getting ready to start the next body of work.
Any future projects and plans/dreams you can share with us?
The next body of work is going to revolve around textiles. Namely shirts, graphics, and culture. I’m super super excited about it and can’t wait to see the first couple pieces get finished.
I’m incredibly excited and getting ready to travel the Pacific Northwest with my girlfriend for the full solar eclipse about to occur end of August which I couldn’t be more pumped about.
I have so many dreams, but the one that is the ultimate, would be to make art fulltime, in a studio I share with my lady, behind a home we can afford and live comfortably.
Being able to work full time on my art with no interruptions would blow my mind and open the door to potential projects I’ve only dreamed about making.
Making yourself vulnerable and simultaneously empowered.
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