by Mad Elephant in New Illustration on Tuesday 29 July 2008

Alex Purdee is a superbly talented illustrator who has collaborated recently with The Used, amongst others. We asked him a few questions about his work. Describe yourself, your artwork: who is Alex Pardee? ‘I’m a really overweight skinny illustrator who thinks up is down and bad is good, and I have rare disease where I uncontrollably just work and eat. I’m always changing, so I think my art kind of changes a lot too. The best way to describe my art is that it is undeniably just my insides. My guts’.

When did you begin to develop your unique style and what are some experiences that might have helped?
‘Sam Kieth (who created THE MAXX) helped shape my outlook on art, not necessarily my style or my technical skill, which I am still trying so hard to improve!, but I was exposed to his art at a pivotal point I think, around the age of 15, right when I was discovering that I wanted to do art for a living, and more specifically, illustration or comic book art. Before that I was so held to relatively safe and standard comic art and cartooning. But when I saw Sam’s comic THE MAXX, it blew me away because here was this real comic book that you could buy everywhere on the same shelves as Spiderman and Batman and X-men, but the art was so expressive and weird and ugly and beautiful and emotional, and the stories revolved around actual fucked up human issues and flaws. I realized how attracted to flaws I was at this point and I think that was the beginning of it’.

To elaborate on this last question; the themes in your work are relatively dark. What inspires you to conjure this imagery and why do you think people relate to it?
‘I don’t think I will ever fully understand what interests me visually about dark themes and imagery, the general taboo of it maybe? I just pretty much accept it and let it do what it wants, like George Stark in that book “The Dark Half”. The funny thing is that I constantly get this weird reaction like “Your work is so gory and dark and horrific” which confuses me sometimes because I rarely see that, and even if I try to look into my pieces with the exception of a few, there’s almost NEVER blood or guts or a lot of violence, I think it’s just almost like a weird Rorschach ink blot that somehow looks like it SHOULD be fucked up, so people see that in it. When taking recognizable imagery, like human nature and body parts, appendages, fingers, simple facial expressions, relationships like mother / daughter or captor/prisoner or something like that, and apply those themes to any shape or form it becomes relate-able. And at the same time it kind of becomes vague and open for interpretation. I like that in other art, so I guess I do that too’.

Who or what are these different characters that you draw? Do they have names or stories? Are they rooted in people that you know? Inner demons? Crack heads you see walking down the street?
‘A lot of the characters that I draw are simply just aesthetically weird things. I mean, the look of them or their actions probably stem from some random memories or something, I worked in a MALL at a toy store for 9 years! So there’s definitely some repressed visuals in there. Also, I draw what I want to see, and what I wish was lumbering out in the world. I wish when we went to the store, we had to drive around a giant 8 legged blob of hair and said hi to the bright blue blind guy with tentacle legs at the store. I think that would be interesting. I might get out more if that were the case’.

What is it in your day to day life that motivates you?
‘The satisfaction in accomplishing something. Doesn’t really matter what it is, even if it’s a failure’.

What is Cardboard City and how did you get involved?
‘Cardboard City is simply a collected group of like-minded creative friends that, over the years, have all crossed paths and respected each other’s work, and we’ve collaborated on a bunch of things. The group is mostly musicians & DJ’s (Like Daryl Palumbo, Cage, Yak Ballz, Aesop, Dj Glue,), but there are a few artists, and now even an actor (Shia LaBaouf). I got linked up through working with hip hop artist CAGE a few years ago. We hooked up and kinda worked on some stuff together, and become close friends even though we lived on different coasts, and through him I met a lot of the other guys and we just have always clicked’.

What is an average day like for you? First you wake up …
‘And freak out that I think I’m already behind schedule. I try to answer emails in the morning, and pick up any pieces from whatever I was juggling with the night before. Meet friends for coffee, which is like the only social life I have right now besides my girlfriend. Paint / draw and watch shitty movies and think “Why do I keep renting these direct to DVD movies EVERY day!?” Then realize I’m behind on Dexter season 2 and watch some of those and get happy. Stay up really late at my studio and do interviews in the middle of the night’.

alex pardee