Interview with Illustrator and Graphic designer Alexandra Melendez

Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? Where did you go to school, and what classes did you study (if any)? What helped prepare you to become the artist that you are today?

My name is Alexandra Melendez. I first went to the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus. Initially, I was there for around 2 and a half years studying Foreign Languages and Plastic Arts but then I transferred to Atlantic University College where I graduated with a Bachelors degree in Graphic Design & Photography. I wasn’t a perfect student honestly, I would get really bored in class so I barely attended them but I made sure to do just enough to pass. Everything I know about art I mostly learned on my own by watching youtube videos, learning from other artist friends and since the pandemic started, I’ve also taken a A LOT of online art courses that actually interested me.

How do you go about designing a new piece of art, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?

So, if the inspiration hasn’t already hit me randomly, and its a personal piece of art not an art for someone else then first I would choose some concepts that I would connect with. For example, exploration, vision, secrets etc. then id brainstorm words that are related to those concepts,

Ex: Vision – Glasses, Telescope, Crystal Ball, a Seer etc.

Once I have that down, I would look for some references and then sketch visual Interpretations of them. As I’m doing that, I’m coming up with the story that I want to convey in the painting, or character or whatever it is I’m doing and the overall composition of it and how to communicate it visually. My process isn’t strictly like this ALL of the time, but its the foundation of it.

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?

Well I don’t think its the most interesting but right now with the pandemic I don’t go out much like I used to, so I’m mostly at home. I wake up, SOMETIMES I exercise or do yoga then eat. Normally If i have client work or commissions then I’d do that but right now I would get to work on some projects that I’m building that hopefully will turn into some passive income sources. After that, my art goal for this month is to practice drawing more, so I spend some time doing some drawing studies and sketching. Finally, at night I either play video games or watch a movie to wind down. As for who I work with, it ranges from clients to some close friends who have agency that I help at times with their illustrations/design projects, other artist I would collaborate with, and then my girlfriend who’s also an artist/designer.

What are some of the things that you have worked on?

So far, I am freelance Illustrator & Graphic Designer. So a lot of things I’ve worked on are freelance projects ranging from Illustrations, Logos, Merch Design and Character Design for a wide variety of clients from fitness, doctors, twitch streamers, album covers for local bands/musicians, merch design or character design for startup brands, website illustrations, etc.

Is there a character or illustration you have done that you are most happy with?

Yes there are actually, There are two I’m really proud of. The first is actually the first ever post i have on my instagram, its called “celestial encounter”. It was inspired by one of my favorite artist but the reason it means alot of to me is because that was the first art piece that i ever made after having, more or less, a 10 year creative block due to struggling with severe depression and anxiety all those years. Before that piece, I struggled to create anything cause I couldn’t connect with my creativity. So that piece makes me happy for what it represents to me. It may not be the best, technique-wise but I consider it a huge achievement. The second, would be the “Self-Explorer” character that I made. Its also on my instagram. I’m really happy about that piece cause after I was able to connect with creativity again, I was still a little lost as to what direction to take with my art, and finding my style, finding my voice. So when I made that piece, the self explorer, who’s on an endless journey of discovering herself, I felt I was one step closer to the right direction, slowly but surely I would get there. And I’m still in the process of developing my style and finding my voice as an artist, thats a life long process but when i made that piece, I discovered the color palettes I like using mostly, the themes I like to create on, how to visually communicate things better and so on. Of course, It was inspired by another favorite artist of mine, tenhun but by studying him, it helped me and discover and study my art, if that makes sense.

What projects are you working on now? (if you can tell us)

Right now, I do have some potential murals lined up but I can’t say much of that just yet. I’m also working on a art piece for a virtual art exhibit based on Puerto Rican History hosted by a friend on his History Blog. And lastly, working on building my online art shop and website.

Who are some of your favorite artists out there?

Aw man, there’s way too many to choose from! Ok so off the top of my head, my top favorites would be Kerby Rosanes, TenHundred, Mute, Bearbrickjia, varguy, Jillipollo, Pape Ink, Ade Hogue, Ilustronauta, poloverde, deimostype, porfiriojimenez, skech. And the list goes on and on…

Could you talk about your process in creating your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?

My process in creating art is pretty much what I mentioned earlier. However, its not always like that, at times its not such a structured approach, sometimes, I just let myself get in a “Flow State” and see what comes out of it and work on it as I go along. The main types of tools that I use, is my Ipad and apple pencil since I do mostly digital art. However I do want to get into making more paintings and definitely going to do murals so for those two things I usually use arteza and colorbyfeliks acrylic paints, synthetic brushes, gesso, resin, posca paint markers and canvas. Preferably wooden canvases. For murals, all types of brushes plus paint rollers, spraypaints either the Montana brand or NBQ Puerto Rico, or exterior paints from home depot and ladders and all the extra stuff needed to move around and take measurements.

What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most difficult?

Mmm… personally I feel like coloring and rendering is the kinda easiest part, designing and coming up with a bunch of different sketches or ideas is the fun part. The hard part is dealing with revisions when it comes to working with clients. For personal pieces, the hard part would be when the art I made does not match the image that I had in my head, and I would have to continue working on it and trying other techniques.

What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?

Well, to keep myself creative, I would do art challenges, like recently I did the 30 days, 30 characters challenge which was pretty difficult to keep up but I learned so much doing that. Also, I would put some type of creative constraint on myself when Im creating something. If neither of those work, I’ll just take some time off of art, and do other hobbies I enjoy where I can find creativity in another manner.

What are some of your favorite characters from other creators that you enjoy?

Ah, favorite pieces… Honestly I love almost everything my favorite artists make but if I had to choose it would be… lunar parade by kerby rosanes, dragon and tiger from tenhun, he doesn’t really name his pieces but I love all his murals. and the astrology series by mute just to name a few.

What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?

I love painting a variety of subjects, it really depends on my mood at the moment. I don’t feel like I have a particular style just yet. However, usually most of my paintings have a surrealist type of vibe to them. I love painting the cosmos, nature, animals, pop culture stuff, higher realm-like beings or simply put, aliens haha. I don’t know, its a trip. I’m influenced by alot of things like; cartoons, anime, world cultures and their myths, pop culture,rap, the universe, activism, etc. And I just mix all of that up and hope something cool comes out of it.

What inspired you to become an Artist?

I don’t know if something in particular inspired me to become an artist. I just know that since I was little, creating stuff and making art were like second nature to me from the moment I could start holding stuff with my hand. I would always be in my room, making stuff from anything I could get my hands on, Id make these big sculptures of paper, not knowing that what was I doing was called papercraft, I once made a big bike with that, cars, people etc. I just kinda figured it out as I went with it. I was very crafty as a kid, then my mom would give me more art supplies and paints and I would spend the whole day painting and drawing. Deep down I always knew that whatever I ended up doing I wanted it to be creative. It wasn’t until I was deciding what to study in college that I discovered what the Humanities were and all the subjects in entailed to like fine art, literature, philosophy etc. That resonated a lot with me and even though I didn’t knew exactly what I was going to do I knew it had to be through that route at least… and now I’m here.

What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?

Well, everything I know I learned either from youtube artists, or artist friends. So, that could be a long list. Anyhow, recently some techniques I’ve learned would be, apart from new procreate hacks, I’ve learned how to make a doodle grid to measure out the mural better, how to do colorful acrylic pours and experiment with them, and I’m trying to paint more realistic environments and in my everyday life observing how light and color works in everything I see. It’s something I’ve noticed that I’ve become more aware of. Unlike before, where I wouldn’t notice any of those things. But a big tip that’s helped me there is deconstructing the light and shadows into shapes and color blocking it.

What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?

I can only give advice from my own personal experience as an artist so I’m still learning, I can share some advice that I’m still learning myself. I think the best advice and tips I can give are: first and foremost, you gotta believe in yourself and in your art. Your art is your voice. And we artists are programmed to come with low self esteem and are our own worst critic. Instead of being so harsh on yourself, next time just take a look at your art, and just try to be as neutral as you can about it. Because there’s a fine line between a healthy and toxic criticism, its ok to observe on the techniques you can improve, but don’t purposely keep looking for all the bad things that it may not actually have. Don’t say its complete sh*t and throw it out or worse don’t connect it with your self worth. Your art is purely yours to make however you want it and then to put it out into the world, now wether the world likes it or not? it shouldn’t matter, don’t take it to heart. Don’t focus on that. Your job is to keep creating and developing your voice. It takes time, lots of practice and more importantly patience because it will take a while for your art and career to grow into how you envision it. And that will develop in accordance to how you’re growing as a person. So focus on being the best version of yourself that you can and simply enjoy your journey; never compare it to others. Now, technique wise I would say if you wanna get better at drawing something specific, like lets say anatomy, then plan out your week or month, and take a specific anatomy part and draw 10-25 of it, in different angles, positions, like really study it. For this part you need discipline cause motivation isn’t always going to be there. Lastly, make sure to learn about how to market yourself on social media as an artist, foundational business skills and how to network. If you have social anxiety like me, You’re just gonna have to push through and work on that anxiety bit by bit, taking baby steps. DMs and email are great but can only take you to a certain extent. As artist we need to network alot to put our art out there and create those opportunities. Just be friendly, and remember to always be genuinely yourself to whoever you talk to. Start with people you already know, or make it a habit to talk to or compliment one new person that you might see in your everyday life and slowly build from there.

If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?

For now, it can be through my email or my social media:

Instagram @alx_illustrations

Finally, do you have any of your art work for sale (sketchbook, prints, or anything) for people that like your work can know where and when to buy it?

For the moment not yet since I am still currently working on my online shop and website; which will be finished soon. So if anyone is interested just make sure to be following me on my social media where I will soon announced when its up and running. However, if you want a more personal commission, feel free to contact me and we’ll work something out!

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