Welcome to the Wonderful, Whimsical World of Minnesota artist, Alex J. Irizarri
Alex is a versatile, very talented illustrator/cartoonist who often uses Procreate to draw his illustrations that capture subtle moments perfectly.
With a tasty swallow of Blue Moon, to wash down tonight's dinner - I sit here and pen this article. It is a hot, rather humid evening in Oklahoma and I am counting the days to the cooler temps of fall.
The Savvy Artist here with another intriguing artist interview. This time, I find myself discussing art via messenger with one of my old roommates from my art college days in Arizona.
How did I ever survive the desert heat for four years?
I first met Alex J. Irizarri in the summer of 2001 when we were young and perhaps a little naïve, but filled with idealistic dreams of making it big in the arts.
We were both assigned to share a school sponsored apartment together with two other students from the same school. Spiderman with Tobey Maguire and Fast and Furious with Vin Diesel were the two hot eagerly anticipated movies hitting the theaters that summer.
I remember vividly when Alex arrived driving up in his compact car, towing a small U-Haul trailer with all his belongings. God it seems like yesterday, but it has been nineteen years since that hot afternoon. We ended up shooting hoops in the apartment complex court that evening and drinking ice-cold Kool-Aid.
As I reminisce, I remember it well. I believe beef flavored Top Ramen was on the menu that night as well, which is not all that surprising as that tends to be a college art student staple.
At that time, I was enrolled in the Animation and Design program and I believe Alex was signed up for Game Arts. Man, I have not actually crossed paths with Alex in person, who by most first accounts would be pegged as a introvert, but a very savvy video game enthusiast.
We both left Arizona back in 2004 and have kept up with each other over the years via Facebook. Alex like most went on and got married and had a son named, Ian, but I should probably wrap up this prelude and Segway into the interview. I have a tendency to ramble especially when I am venturing down memory lane...
So, Alex, where are you from?
I was born and raised in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Currently living in rural Minnesota.
Please describe for the Palette viewers what your work aims to say?
Generally speaking, the subject matter in my work depicts people, places, events, and things that are important to me (be they real or imaginary). That said, I believe a work of art doesn’t always have to say something. There is great value in the act and process of art creation, you know? Art for art’s sake.
What is your art background?
I attended the Escuela de Bellas Artes de Ponce (Ponce Fine Arts School) while in High School. I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Studio Art and Art History from the University of Minnesota, Morris, and a second Bachelor’s degree in Video Game Art and Design from the Art Institute of Phoenix.
I have also worked as an art teacher at C.O. Greenfield School in South Phoenix, and Ramalynn Academy in Minnesota. In addition to several personal projects, I’m currently illustrating Claw-Catcher and Happy Saur, created and written by my son Ian.
Well as we both know, Alex, political, and social issues are a hot topic - does your work comment on these?
Not necessarily. At least not until recently. Before the 2016 elections, I felt no need to be political, or even involve myself in politics.
The election of the 45th president of the United States changed my views in such a drastic way that I felt like I could no longer stand by, oblivious to the change that was happening around me. I have drawn a couple of political cartoons, but a couple of months ago, my mom advised me to not be too political, lest the government put a bag over my head and I mysteriously disappear.
I too shy away from political agenda art. I personally get too much of it shoved down my throat via Facebook feed, but I must digress...
Who are your biggest influences in the art world?
I’d have to say I am influenced by the Japanese printmaker Katsushika Hokusai and his bold use of color and his genre illustrations, Henri Rousseau and his raw, unpolished works of art (he was, after all, self-taught), and Marcel Duchamp, who humorously pushed the boundaries of what art can be.
How do you personally navigate the art world?
I attend several comic/fine art related activities throughout the year to exhibit my art, touch base with colleagues, and even meet new fellow artists. I have done some guest art teaching and speaking at summer camps and youth conferences.
On the home front, I try to keep busy working on a few of my own projects, along with helping my son on a few projects of his own. Soon, after things go back to normal, I’d like to exhibit my work at a local art gallery.
If there was something you could change about the art world/market what would that be?
Speaking as an artist, and an art teacher, I would like to see schools teach Studio Art and the Business of Art in tandem. There are many incredibly talented artists that lack the business know-how to become successful, financially independent artists. By neglecting to teach art students how to build and run an art business of their own, schools inadvertently perpetuate the stereotype of the starving artist.
I absolutely agree with this statement, Alex and is why I have formed this site, www.savvypalette.com. It's my desire to encourage, foster and be an advocate for the arts by helping young and new artists navigate the often turbulent waters of the rather daunting and perhaps ugly side of this business.
How do you price your work?
I discuss the work with the client to get a better idea of what the client wants. We go over media, dimensions, subject matter, etc., and, based on our conversation, I reach a price point that takes into account the client’s needs, materials, time and effort spent creating the work of art, and sales tax. Cannot forget sales tax.
Sounds like a very savvy approach to me! Two thumbs up!
Any art trends you are intrigued by?
I’ve always been fascinated by the colorful, geometric, non-representational works of Piet Mondrian and Mark Rothko.
What is your big art dream, or wish?
I would love to own a mid-size studio in which I could work on my many creative endeavors. Well, that’s the dream, I guess.
What role do you believe the artist has in society?
If I had to sum it up, I’d say the role of the artist in our society is to be the recorder of what is, and explorer of what could be.
I like that, a documentarian as such. I must admit that when I am long gone, I do hope that my work remains behind and tells my story.
Why is art important?
I cannot possibly overstate the importance of art, as it has been with us since the beginning of time, and so it will also be with us until the end of time. To experience art, and to create art in its many forms is an essential part of human experience.
Art is a means for us to communicate a wealth of information with others. We have always relied on art to record our surroundings, our history, and accomplishments.
Early humans painted animals along cave walls in Lascaux, France, used art to create legally binding contracts, as is the case of the 15th Century painting The Arnolfini Wedding by the painter Jan Van Eyck from the Netherlands, or even townsfolk on their daily routines, as represented in 17th Century Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints.
Art is an indispensable tool in the brainstorming and creative problem solving process. We’ve all faced complex problems we can’t immediately solve. Not immediately. Not without assistance. Complex problems require complex solutions.
Art helps us communicate our ideas with others, and, in turn, it allows others to share their ideas with us. It is this sharing of ideas that make it possible for a team of architects, designers, and builders to erect tall skyscrapers in New York City, build structures like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, fight the rising sea levels in Venice, Italy, or even send astronauts to space.
On a more personal, and less utilitarian way, art serves as the conduit of our truest, purest form of self-expression. As artists, it is through our visual work that we can more easily express the depths of our inner character. Through our art, we can explore our more abstract, raw emotional selves in ways we probably wouldn’t be able to express with mere words. A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say.
I defiantly agree, Alex! Profound in nature art in general is a necessity to our society and should not be overlooked. I also believe as artists we are the purest form of expression there is.
Do you have a favorite famous artist and if so, who might that be?
My all-time favorite artist is the 15th Century German painter and engraver Albrecht Dürer. I am inspired by his superb artistic and technical skills and intricately detailed works of art. Even my artist signature is inspired by, and an homage to, Albrecht Dürer.
What are your thoughts on art movements?
In my opinion, art movements have always been about close-knit groups of like-minded artists expressing their collective selves in ways that allow for their art to garner attention and stand out from the mainstream. A lot of these artists were contemporaries, worked in close contact, and shared concepts and ideas. These artists undoubtedly influenced each other, which accounts for similar choices in style, colors, subject matter, etc. Art movements have always been about artists expressing themselves and collectively standing up to, and rebelling against the status quo.
Fauvism and Die Brücke are great examples of art movements and what they stood for; cadres of rebellious artists defying academic norms of realistic representation in favor of freer, more expressive use of media and color. To art critics of the time, these artists may have seemed like talentless hacks (Fauvism, after all, comes from the French word fauve, which means wild beast). These artists were in fact were quite talented, choosing to focus on forging their own path, their own way. That, to me, is what art movements are all about.
I personally feel our lack of a art movement in our society today is a determent to our growing art culture. Art movements in my savvy opinion establish a grounding necessary for our culture to sustain. In fact check back in a few days as I will have a new article on the importance of art movements.
Wrapping Things Up
I want to send a special thanks out to Alex for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions and taking part in this interview for Savvy Palette. You can view more of Alex's work on his site at www.artbyalexj.com
If you're an artist and interested in being interviewed and featured here on this site - please email me at email@example.com.