I featured Alex a while ago here on Abduzeedo; since then, he has improved quite impressively. He’s got a couple of new artworks that are surreal and intriguing. I sat down with him for a quick chat about everything he’s been up to.

Alex, tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to get involved with graphic manipulations.

I am 21 years old and attending Bryant, a business school, in New England on the East Coast of the United States. I started becoming interested with digital art on a text-gaming site in the spring of 2005. Creating simple avatars was my focus; some members would make their own in Adobe Photoshop. I started borrowing some off the internet at first, and then started making my own… That lead to signatures for a year or so, and after that I started some manipulations in which I would knowingly use some copyrighted images, though was not familiar with the repercussions. I was motivated by competition of friends and other artists, striving to be one of the best, even though I was far from it. I began with manipulations because it was the only artwork I was capable of. I started applying to slashTHREE since its second pack, and would apply every few months but continued to get rejected. In June of 2008, I was accepted into IntrinsicNature. After creating a few works at IN, I continued to improve. I finally passed the application process for slashTHREE after eight applications; I created two works for their following pack, and have continued submitting.

Moving onto your artwork, what sort of time and creativity goes into the designing process and how do you go about creating your artwork?

I'm not sure how I get the ideas and concepts contained in my work. Sometimes I'm about to fall asleep and some idea pops into my head; it just depends if I have enough motivation to write it down. Like other artists, the ideas don’t end up as planned; I never sketch my ideas, I can picture them clearly. I strive to create original and surreal concepts in order to differentiate myself from other manipulators. I never create trendy manipulations, such as a woman in a pretty dress, in a pretty background, or scenes with castles, waterfalls, many abstract effects with a dancer; there are plenty of other common manipulations as well. I always try to use stocks of the highest quality, and freshness. Freshness: meaning they haven't been seen or used before. There are plenty of manipulations that are instantly dismissed by most viewers because they contain stocks which have been used countless times.

My advice is to learn how to handle critique, accept it, and make the necessary changes and know why you make those changes. Because next time you may encounter the same problem and you will know how to deal with it. If you could take one advice from this interview, it’s that exchanging critique and being able to accept negative comments will start to improve your works or improve them faster.

My “Recreating Love” piece is a good example of my concept/ideas, as well as the creation process. The entire process of this piece probably took about 60-70 hours of total work time, excluding the time looking for stocks.

You obviously enjoy what you do, are you looking for manipulation to be a hobby or a profession?

For now it's just a hobby, and it will probably stay that way, I do them for fun. I’m going into finance, but I have thought of creating some type of business which incorporates digital art. I am graduating in May this year, and I am looking to do financial analysis or project management for any advertising agency. During slow working weeks, I’m sure I could talk to the artists at some agency, show them my work, and have their artists amazed by what some finance guy can create.

I’m sure they’ll be quite impressed! How has college helped you to excel in the art industry?

Well college hasn’t helped me much, considering there is not one art class here except for one class. But college gives me more free time than over the summer when I’m working, and certainly freer time than what I had in high school.

Very interesting, I see that you work in a bunch of collectives, how's that going for you?

The art collectives have helped me to stay motivated, and become a much better artist. The critique I receive accelerates an “ordinary” artist’s improvement. I also have many contacts on MSN which allows for a better understanding of the critique provided, because you can always ask questions if you’re unsure about what the other artist is talking about. I highly recommend anyone who practices manipulation, matte, painting, drawing, 3D, illustration, photography, music, or video to join one of these groups or collectives. I think it’s more that many artists aren’t aware of these groups and the benefits they provide, such as exposure and improvement.

I produce work for IN and slashTHREE which I’ve mentioned earlier. These art collectives have standards for joining; if they let everyone who applies join the group, the art works produced would have a high variance in quality. Viewers wouldn’t get the same euphoria or inspiration after looking at an art pack; they would feel inspired by one art piece and the next could totally ruin that effect.

Within the groups, there are standards for the work produced for these packs and exhibitions. This is determined by a consensus vote of the artists’ work in a particular group. These standards continue to push my art further every time, because both of these group’s standards have been going up as well. For the most part, if you look at each pack it progressively gets better and better, and shows how a team of artists can learn and grow with one another.

A team is always important, great to have people who know where you’re coming from. Are there any artists in those collectives that motivate or inspire you?

I wouldn’t say any inspire me; I don’t really get inspired by art anymore, although I guess some movies give me inspiration.

Here’s a prompting question, what's in store for you in the future?

My future work dream is to get out of college and start making $50-60k a year. After 3-5 years get a boost up to $150-200, if possible, then, if I like the particular job a lot I will stick with it, but if not, then drop to a state or local job, and start a business as an entrepreneur. That way I’m still earning some money from the easier job, and by then I will have built up some assets, credit, and savings to the point where I’d know how to invest it and earn higher returns on what I’ve earned. But who knows if I will still hold the same interest in art ten years from now.

What advice do you have for any aspiring artists or readers?

Like I said earlier, make use of critique. Don’t annoy other artists, but get what you can. Don’t follow the trends if you want to stand out from the crowd, and yes sometimes that is difficult, but obviously don’t do it to the extent that you don’t enjoy producing art anymore.

Another word of advice which pertains to manipulations; don’t let other people tell you manipulations are stupid, easy, or just art that everyone does starting out. Manipulation is becoming ever so popular because of the growing commercialization of that type of work. I’ve been told many times to paint my entire work, and that it isn’t good enough unless it’s painted; or doesn’t have a unique style. Don’t allow opinions like that to get through to you and impact your motivation to keep producing work. If you can, use them to stay motivated and prove those people wrong. Everyone wants others to appreciate their work; don’t deny it, we all do. Manipulated works are unique when you execute ideas in a way that haven’t been done before, such as my “Adrenaline Rush” and “Sleep Deprivation” pieces.

This last piece of advice is mostly for artists who have recently started digital art; the most important attribute for an art piece is the creativity. You can always learn technical skills, but some artists just never have enough, or don’t develop enough of an imagination or creativity to produce some unique art on their own. Your imagination is a powerful tool, express it! There are many artists that create works just because they want to be popular, and love the satisfaction from the popularity, even if that means doing what everyone else does.

Any last words for our readers?

Try your best to never give up on a unique idea or concept, even if that means putting it off to a later date.

Thanks Alex!

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