Alex DeSpain | USA
Could you tell our audience a little bit about yourself?
Sure! I live in Portland, Oregon with my wife, two dogs,and our cat. I just moved to the west coast from Texas on a whim. Most of my time is spent working on my drawings in my workspace while blasting music through my ipod. Finding new artists and musicians is a passion of mine so I try to go to as many shows as possible. Most of the time I have a few projects going on and I will go back and forth between pieces. Like right now, I’m working on this pretty large drawing and I’ve got a large bird skull sculpture drying in the kitchen. For the most part, I like to keep my eye on the prize and don’t take myself too serious.
How would you best describe your work?
These days, I try to keep a cohesiveness from piece to piece. For a long time I would make a body of work and try to see how different I could make each piece but now I’m more focused on keeping a flow going. A person can look at a piece I did a month before the one I just completed, and see a relationship between them. I couldn’t say that my work is definitively this or that because it’s ever developing. It’s important for me to stay true to the moment I make the work.
Your father was a heavy metal musician, how do you think that has influenced your work?
My Dad and my Mom are both very creative people and seeing them enjoy expressing themselves did rub off on me. My Dad would have these records from Megadeath, Motorhead, Iron Maiden and other albums from a bunch of metal musicians. I remember being a young kid and looking through them and initially being a little scared by them, but that is also what attracted me to them. The artwork was so epic and beautiful. My mom was the one who showed me about the technical side of drawing and showed me tricks about drawing proportionally.They were both very supportive of me pursuing an art career and when I would draw pictures of zombies or skulls, they would just smile and it made me happy to see my parents giving positive feedback to my drawings. During my teen years, I had a group of friends that exposed me to a wide spectrum of music and it had a profound effect on me. At an early age, I saw this relation between the visual and the musical side of art and it’s just always captured me.
What do you find most inspires you?
I find myself always looking at artwork on the internet or in books and magazines. Music is a big inspiration for me too. Sometimes I will hear a song and try to illustrate something that depicts the mood of the song. One of my pieces, “It Struck A Nerve”, was titled after a Bad Religion song. The lyrics inspired me and I could relate to it. Immediately I began sketching out the ideas for it. It usually works that way. I will hear a song and it gets stuck in my head. Often, I will put a song on repeat and clear my head to let the song become the only thing I focus on. Then I begin sketching out ideas, compositions, words, or whatever feels right. I’ve always looked up to artists like Menglef, Pushead, Mucha, so in my own way I like to send some sort of a message back. It’s kind of difficult to explain, but I see art as a visual language and I’m just trying to contribute to the conversation.
How do you think the people closest to you would describe you?
Hmm… They would probably say I am a goofball. Honestly, I don’t know. You would have to ask them. My guess is they would say I am pretty easy to get along with. I’m laid back for the most part. My Christopher Walken impersonation is spot on about half the time. The other half, it is way off. When my wife and I are at a restaurant and I catch people staring at my tattoos, I like to look them in the eye and smile freakishly happily at them. I will stare for a long time too. Staring is fun! Oh yeah, I’m the king of staring contests. I challenge anyone. My eyeballs develop this glaze and I can go a very long time without blinking. It could get to the point where it seems as though I’m awake but I’m asleep and I’m staring. Everything gets drawn on around me. If there is something to draw with and a surface, I’m drawing on it. Oh, and I will never ever take the blame for a fart.
What are some of the things that people most often ask you about your work?
I get asked what type of mediums I work with, which would be primarily watercolor, gouache, and ink. Arches watercolor paper is my favorite! I soak the paper in the bathtub overnight before I begin drawing on it. It stiffens it up and I like the way the watercolor works with it after it’s dry. The other things they ask are pretty much answered by the other questions being asked here.
How do people react to your work?
Mostly I get positive reactions from people. My imagery is considered unsettling by some but that’s because the original idea came from something that was disturbing for me. It’s kind of like a way to reach out to those who feel the same way I do so it doesn’t bother me when people say I make artwork that is dark, because I would have to agree. I’ve been commissioned to do artwork for people and I really enjoy it. It makes me happy to see a person get something back from the hard work I put in.
What’s the smartest thing you ever done and the stupidest thing you ever done?
Going to the Art Institute of Dallas was a good decision. Originally, I started out studying animation but switched my major to graphic design. Traveling to different states and living there for a while has been a good decision for me because I’ve been able to see how people from all over live. As far as the stupid choices I’ve made, there have been too many to list! Ha ha! No really, I have done some fucking dumb shit! It’s undecided if dropping out of college two weeks before I graduated was the stupidest choice though. On a family vacation, when I was in middle school, my sister was sleeping in the back of the car and I thought I could singe a few hairs on her head with a lighter. I’m not really sure why that sounded like a good idea at the time but a rebellious seventh grader with a lighter and bored to tears is not a good combination. Sure enough, her hair caught fire pretty fast and my sister woke up to me smacking the back of her head, trying to put the fire out. My parents pulled over because they thought the funny smell was coming from the minivan. My sister never told on me and she kept it a secret from my parents so I owe her big time! Ha ha ha!
If you could have one superpower what would it be and why?
If I had one superpower, it would probably be the power to explode things with my mind. If I had the ability to fly or time travel, it might be too obvious I had the power and scientists might try to dissect my body to gain access to the secret of my power. By exploding things with my mind, it can’t really get linked back to me. I can just imagine going to see Gallagher perform live and exploding all of the watermelons before he had the chance to. Haha! Wait, is Gallagher still alive?
What is something every artist should always remember?
It would probably be a good idea to remember why any creative person makes artwork in the first place. For me, it goes back to when I was in kindergarten and made those macaroni artworks, it just made me happy to do it. The same feeling of happiness comes to me these days, but perhaps even more so. As we become adults, we get distracted with bullshit that really makes no difference in the grand scheme of things. The only person anyone has to answer to at the end of the day is themselves. If you know you are on the right track, then keep going.