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Universal Nightmares: Alex Pardee

Q: Did you study art?
Not anything official past high school. I always knew I wanted to do SOMETHING creative for a living. I wanted to go to film school actually, but I was really introverted toward the end of high school. With filmmaking I knew it was completely a collaborative effort and that interaction with others scared me a little so I gravitated back more towards art since I was a huge comic book, cartoon, and graffiti fan.

Q: Three things you couldn’t be without?
A brain, a heart, and a chai tea latte.

Q: What/who are your major influences and inspirations?
I’m pretty much influenced by almost everything. I’m a sensory overload addict. I’m constantly trying to absorb every form of media, even if it’s just to make fun of it and complain. Whether it shows up in my work or not, I am heavily influenced by 80’s horror films and some of the more offbeat 80’s pop culture like Garbage Pail Kids, skateboard art, old Tales from the Crypt reprint comics and so forth. Jim Phillips, Graham Ingles, Berkeley Breathed, Todd McFarlane, John Pound, Pushead were all early art-inspirations because they were amazing examples of how you can create demented artwork and flip it into being accepted on the mass media level. I was aware of that happening even in third grade. Those things were SO much different then a lot of other stuff out there at the time, but some of them were getting just as much attention as things like Strawberry Shortcake and Barbie. It was great. The most consistent art influence that I have had since I was 15 is Sam Kieth, creator of that comic & cartoon The Maxx. That is the greatest comic of all time and had such a huge influence on me in so many ways when I was at a pivotal creative age. Up until I saw The Maxx, I thought comics were all superhero-based and didn’t deal with much else. I mean, I read the Watchmen and was pretty taken aback because of the sad realism of the story, but it was still a superhero book. The Maxx was like a fucked up teenage girls diary uncovered and marketed under the guise of a superhero book. And it wasn’t just the weird story, it was the loose, scribble-filled and expressive art style. I mean that art was A MESS. But in the most beautiful way I had ever seen, and Sam was making a LIVING from this! From that moment on, I thought, hey, I’m not going to try to conform to other art styles any more, I’m just going to scribble and hopefully one day I can make a living doing it, if not, who cares, I like scribbling.

Q: Do you have a dark side?
On one half of my moon I do! Sure, I definitely have a dark side. Luckily I think that I am able to have it being expressed through scribbling bloody things or writing some random tales about revenge and depression and mutants. Maybe if I didn’t have that outlet I might be a little darker of a person, but I think I’m pretty upbeat and lighthearted. A little cynical maybe.

Q: The paintings for your upcoming show are quite different from previous shows, is there a reason?
I have been lucky enough to have projects going on NON-STOP these past two years. My whole career these past years has been playing catch up with deadlines and juggling. The good thing about that is that I’m busy working doing what I love for a living. The bad thing is that there is no room for experimentation and learning from failures because even my failures would get turned in somewhere and published. Because of that, I started noticing that I was sort of “playing it safe” in regards to my process of creating pieces of art. I wasn’t stagnant, and I wasn’t being repetitive, but I was starting to feel that if I didn’t discipline myself to start trying new things, I might fall into a stagnant state, which scares me tremendously. So Corey Helford and I decided that this was a good time for me to set everything aside and start something new. I had never painted with acrylics before, and although I was scared, I gave myself that challenge and forced myself to learn and create these last few months to debut a new different body of work and I am very proud of what came out of it.

Q: Can you talk briefly about the process of creating one of your paintings?
This “VERTIGO” show at Corey Helford is actually completely opposite of how I had created work in the past. For years, it would go like this: I would get a LOOSE idea, if any idea at all, and scribble something that might resemble what I want to do, but most likely would morph into something completely different by the time I was done sketching, because I have always been an aesthetics person, so that composition was always the most important thing. I would have confidence in my imagination that I can make something visually appealing out of a cool shape. Then I would just go from there and figure out the best way to translate that drawing to canvas. This “VERTIGO” show was a complete different challenge because I did everything completely opposite. I treated each painting like an art-directed commercial job that I gave myself because I wanted all of the paintings to be something that I hadn’t done in the past. So I wrote down descriptions of what I wanted to paint and forced myself that even if I got stuck on the concept drawing or anything. I would still just FIGURE out how to make it work. I think that discipline helped me learn quite a bit with this new collection.

Q: Why do you paint on wood?
I actually haven’t for a LONG time until this new collection. I had been doing a lot of watercolor and ink paintings on paper and then got obsessed with clayboard because I could make thousands of cuts with a knife that simulated line work, so that was fun. But yah, it’s been years since I have painted on wood. I felt that it was a good surface to try to learn acrylics on. A couple of my huge inspirations and friends, Greg “Craola” Simkins and SKINNER, had both convinced me to start on wood panels actually.

Q: I notice nightmares in the new work, is that a favorite for you?
The most current work I do is usually my favorite because I put so much of myself into anything and everything that I create, that at that moment it seems like that is all that exists in my life, and plus I love what I do for a living, so yah, right now these Nightmare paintings are my favorite. I also love the narrative that I built around the paintings, as I think nightmares are so universal and the idea of these nightmares coming out into the real world and having a superstar “nightmare-hunter” is a great vehicle for a fun visual ride.

Q: Have you ever considered using other mediums or doing 3D work?
Of course. However, I am TERRIBLE at anything 3-Dimensional. Seriously. I tried taking a 3-D art class in high school making like bowls and jewelry and sculptures and I straight up FAILED the class. Plus it is HARD to fail an art class, especially if you show up every day. I would like to explore more 3-D animation though. I got a chance to develop and work on a 3-D animated web series for Warner Bros last year called CHADAM and that was an amazing experience. Such a different art form but just as amazing.

Q: What makes a good day in the studio?
Turning my phone off! I co-own a clothing and art company called Zerofriends, so that, on top of me handling a majority of my own clients and scheduling, my phone and emails are the biggest distractions. Also, I think I’m addicted to Twitter.

Q: How do you spend your time when taking a break from painting?
I will let you know as soon as that happens!

Q: If you didn't paint for a living what would you do?
Be a professional Depressed Teenager. Realistically, if it wasn’t painting, I would find something else creative to do. Writing, movies, etc. But if I wasn’t doing anything creative at all, I don’t know. I don’t think I would ever be satisfied with falling into something out of necessity.

Q: Greatest Joy? Reaping any small reward for working my ass off and being able to share that celebration time with friends and family that have helped me achieve it.

Packed show at Corey Helford (Photo by Sam Graham)

Q: Greatest sadness? Knowing there is not enough time in my life to create everything I want to create.


Q: Hopes for 2011?
Hoping to continue learning, whether its new mediums, new techniques, new media, etc. I want to take these worlds I’m creating and make them in bigger & broader form. Movies, roller coasters, animated films, video games, etc. Who knows, but regardless I’m going to continue to move forward as hard as I can.

Q: Advice for young or not so young emerging artists?
Patience and persistence and the realization that getting people to see your artwork, accept your artwork, and then demand your artwork, takes a LOT of time if you are doing it on your own. But the things that people notice when looking at artwork is the passion and heart behind it. So If you are passionate about it, and it’s original, and you keep doing it, eventually someone is going to notice it and be like, “hey, I like this piece, I want more”. Patience is key. It’s frustrating for sure, but it is important.

Q: What can we look forward to with this show?
A completely refined version of everything I have done in the past 3 years. The concept is tighter, more thought out. The drawings themselves are a lot more refined, the color use is more conscious, and the subject matter ranges. I mean, I still just got to paint monsters! But there was a little more thought put into it! Also, we set up the show like a natural history museum so that there are some actual artifacts and taxidermy from this “Nightmare-hunting” world. So much fun.

Q: Favorite medium? (for an artist who works in so many)
I grew up as such a fan of comic books, skateboard art, graffiti, and cartoons that I will ALWAYS just love the expressiveness and technical look of pen and ink. I love it. I try to abandon it sometimes but then I get really sad, so I think I will always incorporate line into my work.

Q: What kind of art interests you?
Anything and everything. I simply like the fact that people can create something that can get someone else to look at it and hold their attention for more than 1 second in a world with so many over-stimulants.

Q: What do you think about when you first wake up?
Wait, to wake up that means you have to sleep first, right? Next question!


Q: What kind of legacy would you like to leave behind?

Hopefully I can leave enough weird characters and worlds and random ideas behind that someone in a hundred years can dust off the old Internet and see something of mine that sparks an idea and they can create something new from it.

Q: Surprise us something we don't know about you?
I have six nipples, and all of them shoot rainbows whenever I get punched in the left eye.

Click here to find out more about Alex Pardee

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