Modern illustration is an indomitable beast. Drawing from a rich history and legacy, illustration has transgressed beyond the barriers of ancient papyrus, rich pages of mediaeval Illuminations and zinc plated lithography prints and to emerge into a world of high end inks, pens, markers and, of course, digital software.
Although the technology that enables the modern illustrators world has progressed far beyond those used in times past, the fundamentals has remained constant. Imagination, a good eye for contrast and shadow, and of course, fueled by the mastery of the most simplest of artistic expression – the line. When we look at modern illustration, and the many various ways in which it expresses itself today, we see that mark of history within it – but, with the materials available today, and the influence of the world that we live within, we see an overlay of indulgence for precision. Illustration, like many arts, is like the unfolding of a babushka doll, (or the attempt to by the LHC to unravel further layers of the physical world) – an ongoing voyage deeper and deeper into the artists own journey of discovery, wherein, unlike a Babushka doll, there are no limits to how deeply one can delve.
Alex Lehours, is a thoroughly modern artist, with deep roots in illustration, painting and design. Self acknowledged as having drawn upon erstwhile masters of both ink and paint for technique,and paying homage to the rich wellspring of classical art, his work blends this homage of influence with the vibrant, passionate, and distinct styles made popular by imagery found within tattoos, comics and popular art. Like all artists with an illustrative penchant, each new piece of Lehours progresses his form and technique, and creates something new and unique – not only for himself, but for others. When we talk about the evolution of an artists practice, it is artists like Lehours that we take a keen eye to – having an eye for technically collated pieces that are still able to, oxymoronically, have enough chaos within them that they do not feel staid and boring (as Adobe has a great hand in hopefully feeling much guilt for), we are, admittedly, a little biased in this regards.
As much as we try not to have too much of a personal opinion, it has to be said that if you can’t draw, then you just can’t fucking paint – thankfully, else this article would be sunk and this preamble would go nowhere , Alex Lehours can do both.
In the lead up to his show, Pandemonium Paradise, at Just Another Project Space (in the read of Prahrans Signed & Numbered), we had a chance to throw a few interview questions in regards to his work to Lehours himself – and, thankfully, he took the time out of his pre-exhibition madness-get-shit-done scramble to tell us a bit more about his work, and to let us ruminate, just a little, on the shear grandeur of the painted line …
As with every artist, you must have started out somewhere! What are some of your earliest creative memories and when did you realise that art was a path that had chosen you?
I have always been into drawing and illustration. From a very early age my real passion was art. During school all I cared about was art and from there I knew that it was what I wanted to pursue as a career.
It has only been in the last two years though that I have found my feet in the art world and hopefully I can keep going for a long time.
Your work consists of a large amount of exquisite line work, there’s almost something quite classical in its feel, but there’s a modernity to it that loudly proclaims everything we love about modern illustration. Where would you say you have primarily derived the style that you have developed, and what are some of the key influences you have drawn upon over the years?
I am glad you have made that observation because that is exactly the affect I was after! Yipee I’m doing something right! I have always loved the art of the great classical masters such as Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens and Da Vinci. Although my work doesn’t fall under the “classical art” category, those artists are definitely an inspiration of mine and I think that is where my classical vibe comes from.
I like combining vintage with new in my work and as a result you get a mix between comic, pop and tattoo art. I think this is where my style has derived from. I always try and incorporate a lot of sub culture with different elements that others wouldn’t expect.
I like to describe my work and style as a “chaotic explosion of colour, humour and absolute randomness”.
How do you find the life of a full time freelancer? Having to be a jack-of-all-arts and continually pushing yourself in new directions in order to cover different creative markets and jobs, do you ever find yourself yearning to focus on one thing, or does the continual jumping between different projects and mediums spur you on?
The life of a full time freelancer is is crazy! In both good and bad ways ha! I love the freedom of being my own boss and answering to myself as well as being able to work on projects that I am passionate about. However it means I am my own boss and I have to look after everything else non-art related. All I want to to is draw and paint not worry about remittance forms and chasing invoices for tax purposes blah blah. But hey if that is the only down side, then I have nothing to complain about!.
Becoming a freelancer full time is the best decision I have ever made. Although you don’t know when you next pay day is, the challenge and pressure makes you got off your ass and do things to get work and work that you really want to do. I am also still trying to get into a good habit of shutting off work at a set time each day. It is way to easy to stay up until 3am every morning trying to fine tune a job … stop that, stop that now!!
I don’t mind the continual jumping between different mediums and projects at all. If anything it is helping me develop my skills in all different areas. There are jobs that I do to pay the bills which don’t have a lot of creative freedom but then there are jobs that I can really sink my teeth into and go nuts – like a lot of the mural work I do. So I feel there is a good balance there.
I wouldn’t change being a freelancer for anything. It has allowed me to take part in a lot of great projects as well as meet new clients and I really think i have grown and developed as an artist since becoming a freelancer.
How do you find the wage struggle with being a full time freelancer, and can you give anyone starting out in the freelancing area any wisdom from your experience so far?
To be honest I have been fairly lucky since becoming a full time freelancer. every time it looks like work has dried up I will receive a couple of emails and just like that several new jobs open up. I guess its all about connections and networking. If you do a good job for someone then they will show their mates and from there they may need some work done too.
As far as money goes you just have to be logical when it comes to earning. I mean if you don’t know when your next pay day is then don’t go and spend all your money on new threads. The best advice I could give to people in the same position as me is get involved and take on as much work as you possibly can. At first cash flow may be an issue but from those first jobs that pay small amounts some big pay day work will come through. It is also important to try and get deposits from your clients before you start the work. This should cover you for anything needed for the job as well as wages etc … cash flow is the key!
As a freelancer it is so important to promote yourself and with the new digital age it is so easy to do so. Show your new work on your website and blogs and social platforms like facebook and Instagram. You will be surprised by how many people see it and you never know who needs some work done for them. Don’t be afraid as well. Even if you feel out your league just back yourself and something good usually comes out of it.
Tell us a little about your mural and public art pieces – as someone who does a fair bit of design and illustration work, how do you approach such a large canvas and what are the differences for you between the two?
At the moment mural work is my absolute favourite thing to do! I love working on a large scale and creating pieces for the public eye. Most of my day to day work is illustration based. Whether it be on the computer or on some paper it is obviously a much smaller scale compared to a large wall.
Mural work was a bit of a jump from the usual work I did and it did take me a while to get the hang of it. It is much easier to control the composition and proportions of your piece when it is sitting in front of you on a screen or a bit of paper so it took some practice to be able to do this on a wall.
Other than the scale I approach a mural just the same as any other design I do. I have my concept sketches worked to scale, I use the same sort of materials and love every minute of it. At the end of the day a wall or bench or whatever you are painting on is just another type of canvas.
You have a show coming up pretty soon in Melbourne at Just Another Project Space, titled Pandemonium Paradise. Can you tell us a bit about the theme of the show, and what it entails? What will you be bringing down to Melbourne with you, and how will this show differ from what you have done in the past?
I do have a show coming up on the 12th October. It is my first ever solo exhibition and will consist of watercolour, aerosol and acrylic works. ‘Pandemonium Paradise’ is an exhibition that highlights the cynical, raw and humourous characteristics that play a major role in my work. Bringing together elements of contrasting families, the show explores the subtle harmony, delicate balance and precise equilibrium between good and bad, calm and chaos, beauty and ugly, Pandemonium and Paradise.
Came up with that myself ;) hahhahaha!
Ill be down in Melbourne for that entire week and will be working on a mural at the space for the show. I don’t want to give too much away but it will all be a lot of fun!
All the shows I have done in the past have been group shows, and now that this is a solo show it heaps a lot more pressure on me to get things done in time. I am enjoying every minute of it though and can’t wait for the opening night.
Earlier this year you actually went up to Darwin to do a piece commemorating the 70th anniversary of the bombing of the city by the Japanese, the final piece was incredibility cool – how did you get involved with this, and can you tell us a bit more about the project?
I was actually approached by a good mate of mine, Barry Shackleton, who I went to uni with. He moved up to Darwin a couple of years ago to run his own graphic design business No Hands Design. One of his Clients, Associated Advertising & Promotions, approached him for an illustration and from there he contacted me.
The Darwin Port Corporation commissioned us to create A mural 6m wide by 3m high to be printed on to large ACM panels and bolted to a wall on the Stokes Hill Wharf in Darwin. The mural was unveiled on 16/02/12 to commemorate the 70 year anniversary of the 1942 bombings by the Japanese in World War II. It is permanent fixture and pays tribute to those who were affected and lost their lives on this tragic day.
I was very proud and honoured to be a part of a project that had such a significant impact on Australia’s history.
We saw something mentioned about a label as well – what are your future plans of expansion into the clothing arena, and can you tell us a bit about the work you’ve done in the fashion realm in the past?
I had planned on starting a full apparel label but decided to step back from that and release some limited edition t-shirts. So far I have two designs available for both mens and ladies. Only 30 of each design have been produced never to be done again. They can be found on my web shop. www.alexlehours.com
In the past I have created t-shirt designs for several clients including Buried in Verona, VNA Magazine, Mad Mex and T-Bar. I also won a t-shirt design competition for the hip hop group Thundamentals. This design was then sold on their national tour last year
So what’s next for Alex Lehours? Beyond your upcoming show, where to from here? What does the rest of the year, and 2013, hold for you?
Next for me?? Well after my show a rest! I have been working non stop for a few months now and in desperate need of a break hahaha! From there I have a couple of big mural jobs lined up which will full up the rest of the year for me. I am just hoping to keep going, get more and more work and see where it takes me – for now, I am just enjoying the ride.