As I become more and more busy with other things, the rate in which I get these interviews posted will sadly slow down from now on. But I wanted to make sure that before I got bogged down with work and stuff, I got to interview this man and get that interview up on the web.
It is my distinct pleasure to introduce to you an interview with with one of my art heroes, an interview that took a while to do due to his busy work schedule, an interview that is mainly for me, an interview with Alex Pardee.
Influenced by horror movies, graffiti, pop art and gangster rap, Alex Pardee has had his work appear on numerous music CD covers, in comics and soon to be on the silver screen. In 2007, he set up Zerofriends which is his art and clothing label that sells designs on t-shirts, prints, posters and toys by himself and also other artists. He holds shows and movie nights with pizza, he recently appeared on TV on the LAST CALL WITH CARSON DALY Show and he paints and creates constantly.
What is clear is that Alex isn't just an artist, he is an entrepreneur. A great business owner who puts in mountains of work to continually promote and share his work with the world. I like to think that this interview will help promote him and his creations a little bit more so that he maybe able to get some sleep.
Lloyd Harvey: Well, let me start by saying that I am a big fan of yours. Your artwork is one of the reasons why I really got back into painting and doing art after college and, to be honest, this interview has been difficult for me because every time I sat down to do research on you, I’d look at your work and be overcome with inspiration. I’d feel how I did back when I saw your work for the first time and put my laptop away and get drawing and painting.
Who and what has the power to make you feel this way and drop the important things you are doing, be it a commission or the washing up, and just sit and draw what ever comes to mind?
Alex Pardee: Thank you, that’s really nice. There are a lot of artists that hit me with instant inspiration the moment I see some new work from them. Artists like Skinner, Greg “Craola” Simkins, Jon Wayshak, and Ken Taylor to name a few recently. But I also get super inspired by any visual aspect that I come across. Photographs, certain scenes in movies that are composed beautifully, the way a pile of spilled fruit looks on the ground at the grocery store, certain smells that conjure up a visual image, and even music.
Like I said, I am a big fan of yours, much in the same way I am of visionary dark painter Chet Zar. I feel there aren’t many paintings of his that I have not seen and as a fan, I love that. But with you, every time I go online and search for you, I keep finding pieces I haven’t ever seen before which is also something quiet exciting. I guess I would ask, how many pieces that you create never see the light of day, sit in a drawer and not make it online or appear in shows?
For years I just scribbled and piled up stuff that probably won’t ever see the light of day because it’s just that: scribbles. I still scribble and a lot of it is terrible so there probably is a good selection of art that no one has seen. I’m a huge believer in needing to create bad artwork to get it out of your system and make way for the good art to come out, so I do create a lot of sketches and scribbles that are horrible, but nowadays most of my finished work is put up the moment it’s finished because it will be for a certain public project or art show.
Like most of the artists I have interviewed, I have noticed that you have created work that appears on and in many different media outlets such as clothing, toys, comics, calendars and also CD cover jackets. Most recently, an animated movie set in one of your parallel worlds has come to be so you are steadily extending your reach into bigger playgrounds. Would the film industry be something you would like to stay in the loop with or has the animated Chadam film satisfied your thirst for it? Would a live action horror movie be something you’d peruse?
I wanted to make films even before I got into more drawing and painting. I wanted to go to film school right out of high school, but I was very introverted as a teenager. Knowing that it was impossible to make a film by myself coupled with the thought of having to depend and collaborate with other people scared me, so I stayed away and got into more drawing and painting because I could do that privately. Now I am more comfortable and confident with collaborating with other artists and creators and I am definitely trying to do more film work.
With the games industry being a very obvious choice as another outlet for your work, what other arenas would you like to get your art and creations into? I hear that there is always room for more monster cakes in the food industry.
Yah, I’m a video game nerd too, and would LOVE to have some kind of involvement in game creation, but the ultimate dream of mine would be to design a theme park. I love Disneyland. I love old carnival ghost trains and haunted houses. I love physical escapes. I would love to create something that would allow other people to escape temporarily.
Okay, lets talk about the specifics. Looking over and through all the work on your website, I would say there is a strong emphasis on wrinkles in skin and clothing and also a healthy dosage of bold colours (colors to you). Also, my girlfriend Claire noticed that a lot of your work contains beings holding things, as in, the act of holding is a reoccurring theme in your work. I noticed Mickey Mouse style gloves in many pieces of your work and “Smiley Faced” masks too. What personal meaning does all this hold and how do you feel it is significant to your style? What other meanings can we draw from your work? Are the smiles a reference to when you were a drug guinea pig
The re-occurring imagery in my work may come from some kind of subconscious memories, thoughts, or emotions, but none of it is conscious. I do become attracted to certain visual themes, like the nurturing theme, or the mask theme, or tentacles but it’s not usually apparent to me that I am using that imagery over and over until someone else points it out and then I can reflect back on what was going on personally during that time and perhaps make some correlations, but not usually while I am creating the art. I simply draw what I like to see.
It would seem that there is a lot of randomness to some of your work, as in the way you let inks and paints run down the page and how backgrounds look like colourful waterfalls. How do you control that ‘randomness’ in a way that you know you can create over or is it not random at all? Do you have a set plan when creating pieces or do you embrace the erratic nature of ink vs gravity?
I depend on both the randomness AND my ability to control the piece. The natural physics that cause the paint and ink to splatter and drip excites me while I am creating it, and then I can evaluate the piece and see what parts I would like to wrangle and control in order to draw the viewer’s eye there, or bring a certain part of the piece to a specific light. I love the textures and colors that are created when paints drip on top of each other.
You use digital methods for when working on commissioned pieces and traditional approaches for your personal work but, which method brings you the most joy in the creative journey? How does the feel of pushing pixels compare to that of running ink?
I like them both equally for different reasons. The digital stuff allows me to therapeutically just focus on small controlled details and busy-work, which is a good balance to have against the unpredictable and hard to change commitments of throwing paint around. Both of them are liberating in a weird way.
Finally, I would like to ask: do you plan on opening any Zerofriends pop-up stores anywhere else in the world, maybe London or Tokyo?
Would you like to open a retail space permanently at some point in the near future or is that something you haven’t really considered?
Oh yes, we are someday going to take over the world. Hell, we are already looking to have an art show on Mars. We just might have to bring enough water for everyone.
Questions Every Artist Gets Asked
I just got done working on a lot of design work for Zack Snyder’s new movie, “Sucker Punch”, and seeing a 30-foot tall robot with some of my art painted on its face on the big screen was one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me.
What was your big break into the illustration industry?
I think the job that opened my work up to more of a mass audience of young artists and kids was being art director for a band called “The Used” back in 2004. They are a gold-selling rock band that let me go nuts and do whatever I want as I translated their music into the artwork of the albums and merchandise. That job lasted about 5 years and so much cool art and experiences came out of working with those guys.
What was the best piece of artistic advice you have received or can offer?
The best piece of advice that I ever got was “You suck until further notice.” You can interpret that however you want, but to me it was inspirational and to this day it’s still in the back of my head all the time. That sentence pushes me to work harder and keep trying to learn and evolve “until further notice”. The best advice that I can GIVE, is just to be patient. With so much overstimulation in the media and the internet and the world, it takes a lot to get peoples attention and acceptance. But if you are passionate about your work, and willing to work hard and be patient, eventually that passion will shine through and it will translate into success.
What do you think is the most effective way you market yourself and your work?
First thing is by WORKING. Non stop. Without working, you don’t have any work to promote. And I am a firm believer of the internet, especially if you aren’t very comfortable running around in public annoyingly screaming how awesome you are. The Internet is FREE ADVERTISING, it just takes a lot of work to do so, but all of those little social media outlets are the new way to “pound the pavement” so they are ALL worth it. Get a website, get a twitter, a facebook, a tumblr. Then figure out ways to get people to follow you, visit the sites, and tell their friends.
As an artist, what are your biggest challenges that you face?
The biggest challenge is realizing that there should be an equal amount of importance put on the business side of things as well as the creative side. The business end is the boring end, but without sacrificing creative time to handle the business stuff, it’s rare that there will be any “reward” for creating the art in the first place. It’s also rough understanding how much real life is sacrificed as well. Being self-sufficient and successful (not just in art, but in any business) requires more time than working for a company or a person, so that means a lot more time is sacrificed. Relationships, socializing and travelling are all things that may need to be sacrificed to a degree. And being ok with that is tough sometimes.
Alex Pardee’s Randoms
Other than painting, what makes you glad?
Reaping the emotional rewards from painting. Seeing people smile, getting nice messages, etc. I love spending time with family and friends, even though I don’t get to do it nearly as much as I would love to. Luckily realizing that my work allows me to enjoy things like travelling and socializing (even if its just “for work”) makes my life pretty fun. I also LOVE making fun of shitty movies and yelling at bad reality TV.
What was the last thing that made you laugh so hard you cried?
Probably just looking at my friend/photographer Kevin Hayes. He might be the greatest human on earth.
What food can’t you stand/repulses you?
Olives. And specifically, olives drenched in piss.
If your life was a movie, who’d play you?
Gary Coleman. Or Kevin Hayes.
A small meteor is about to hit your house and destroy it, your family are already out and safe, you have time to save one thing, what would it be?
Myself! Or the velocirator DNA that I have saved in an amber test tube so that a meteor doesn’t kill dinosaurs TWICE!
Usually my interviewees only get 5 random questions but I really want to know this one as you are a horror movie geek, so this will be something nice an elaborate:
If your life was a movie, how would your death sequence go?
I am never going to die, so there would be no death sequence. I am immortal.