My first contact with illustrators and t-shirt designs were Alex Solis and then Terry Fan. I admit I haven’t yet immersed myself in everything t-shirt design related, not to mention the whole graphic design industry. I love seeing and discovering talented and promising designers and illustrators, but I’m just at the beginning, so be kind to me. I love this industry maybe because I first ran into Alex Solis’s drawings and loved them instantly. So you can imagine how happy a fan I was when he “sat down” for an interview. Here it is:
Oana: Tell our readers a little about yourself: where are you from, where do you reside and what is your main profession?
Alex Solis: I’m originally from Milwaukee Wisconsin, but now live and work in Chicago, for Threadless. I’m a designer and Illustrator.
O: Why did you decide to become an illustrator?
A: I love to draw, been doing it ever since I can remember, so it was only natural to pursue something I loved so much.
O: What was your first professional design and who did you do it for?
A: In middle school I got paid to work on a big Mickey Mouse painting to be displayed at Disney On Ice, I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to draw something at the time.
O: How do you approach a project? Do you work 100% digital or is there paper involved?
A: I doodle a lot of ideas first, then move on to digital, ever since I got a Cintiq I’ve been doing a lot more just digital work, since I can sketch easier and it’s more natural.
O: How would you describe your style?
A: I feel it has a strong graffiti style background but along the lines of the lowbrow art movement.
O: What do you think makes your style of illustration distinctive?
A: I think a lot of it has to do with the volume of the illustrations, and line work I do. I work a lot of line weight and quick strokes.
O: What’s one source of inspiration that never failed you?
A: Inspiration comes from all over the place, every time I need to be inspired, I go to the Threadless at the moment and check out other artists work.
O: Have you experience any bad cases of designer’s block? How did you surpass it?
A: All the time, the only way to surpass it, is to just work on projects even though I might not think they’re the best idea ever, sometimes just getting passed something will inspire you and push you to create something new and get you outta that artist’s block.
O: What was the hardest job you’ve ever got?
A: The projects are only hard when it’s something I really really don’t want to work on ha ha.
O: Have you ever turned down a project? If yes, why?
A: If an awesome opportunity shows up I’m always willing to jump on it, but at the moment I’m turning down most of it, and trying to focus a lot on creating my own ideas and art.
O: Is there anything that you’ve never quite been able to depict?
A: Ummm… I use a lot of reference photos etc. when it comes to illustrating something I’m not 100% sure how it looks. A teacher once made me do an exercise of drawing of drawing a frog without using any reference and then drawing a frog using a reference photo, apparently I don’t have a clue how a frog looks like without a reference photo.
O: Do you think much of your success is the result of luck or is it solely the product of hard work, research and study?
A: I think it’s hard work, I try to stay active and keep creating work, the more and more I create, I feel like eventually I will create something that catches someone’s eye that maybe I didn’t catch before.
O: As far as your work is concerned, which would you say is your favorite design and why?
A: This design is one of my favorites, it’s a dedication to my daughter. I was able to work on something without guidelines and have it printed.
O: How much of popular culture do you absorb in your works? Can you give us some examples?
A: I do a lot of pop culture, I usually try and put my twist into it, and create something people can relate to, or just make someone laugh.
O: What are you working on right now?
A: Nothing specific, but I have been drawing a lot lately, drawing as much as I can, actually just getting outta of an artist block.
O: Since you are a seasoned designer, what would you say are some of the most important lessons you have learned concerning designing?
A: I think just practice makes perfect, and you can’t give up so easy, the more and more you create the better you get.
O: Any advice for young designers on how to get their work out there and promote it?
A: I would start with Threadless, it’s a great outlet to have others check out your work even if it doesn’t get printed, you get to be part of an artist community and learn a lot from all the veterans.
O: Artists you admire?
A: Way too many to name, being a part of Threadless, I admire a ton of different artists.
O: Other passions other than designing?
A: I’m a boy, been doing for about 15 years, and performing for various artists and events. Here is a quick clip of some of it 😀
Thank you, Alex!!