Alex Ekman-Lawn is a young illustrator from Philadelphia, where he graduated from The University of the Arts. He has done work for a number of local bands and his work is published in Awakening, a gruesome graphic novel. And he is currently showing at Phantom Hand Gallery on South Street. His biting illustrations and dense apocalyptic city scapes are a sharp and tangled look on some of our organic and artificial surroundings. The human body in degrees of disintegration. At the feet of our concrete humanity or the throes of time and our mortal coil. Here I talk with Alex about his take on the awesome stuff he does. Click on his fantastic images.
Where did your journey with art start?
I liked drawing since i was a little kid, I was real into comic books, and then I kinda got out of that for a long time. Like 8 years, and it wasn’t until, well it was an accident basically, but this dude kinda had to beg me. Which makes me sound like an egotistical asshole. But he had to convince me to do sequential pages, and now I’m back in it, comics are my career.
What is it like to go to school for art?
First its like turning a hobby into something you have to do, you know. So there is like a small part of that, that really sucks, and you don’t know what to
do any more. That thing you used to love doing in your personal time is what you have to do all the time. There was definitely a year or so where I was struggling with how to make myself still like it and not get all burnt out on art.
How does Philadelphia affect your art?
Well it literally affects my art, because I use a lot of photos in my stuff, so there are pictures of Philadelphia in most of what I do. And that’s actually a big part of my art in general. I want the place that I live and the space that I occupy to be a part of what I do. Not metaphorically, but literally.
Would you call your art dark?
Yeah, I think i have to. Its weird, I remember the first time I got that question. “Why is your art so dark”. It’s not really intentional. Its sort of a cop out answer, but its sort of just how I see shit. . .Even when I’m trying to be kinda cheerful it doesn’t really work out that way. As for why. . . it’s probably going to take years of therapy to figure out.
Do you ever listen to music while you create?
Totally. Well, a lot of my jobs are for bands. So in that case I have to listen, I want to listen to the music that the band makes, so I can get a feel for it. I listen to a lot of metal, and I think you can totally tell. Actually in school, when I was learning how I wanted to work, the project that got me really excited about, or where I found the voice I wanted to use, If that’s not too art speak. Was this project where you draw a song. I just listened to 30 songs I liked, and made a piece about what I thought it would look like.
When you do the human form, you seem drawn to a certain type of poses or expressions. Where does that come from?
I don’t know a hundred percent, but some of it is just influences you know, the dudes that I’m just into. Like I was really into Derek Hess freshman year of college. He did all those show posters, I know you’ve seen them. And he did that Converge album with the angel head getting gripped by a hand. I like Ashley Wood, and Phil Hale and Jacob Bannon. Like conflicted poses. Phil Hale painted a lot of dudes punching robots, which sounds stupid but, just figures in motion. Some of it’s coming from that. But beyond that I think I just wanted. . . and we’re bordering on the embarrassing here, but its like, I want figures to look like they’re fighting through something. The figure at rest is totally boring to me. So I want somebody who is in the middle of some shit.
What does digital art do for you?
There are no mistakes.You can always undo something. In that way its exciting and you have all the control you want, but its also like, you can do anything. So its like hard to make decisions. But the nice part of it is I can just throw as much stuff together as I want. Its an infinite database. . .Who doesn’t like 100 things to look at. I’m just trying to make art that my own eyes are interested in.
When you look for buildings what do you look for?
I don’t know shit about architecture. But I think I like Gothic architecture. Its like the most metal architecture. It’s all over the top, crazy spires, and flying buttresses and stuff. Its ornate, pointy, kind of evil looking. I wasn’t raised with religion at all, so churches to me just look like the craziest evil building. But beyond that I’m just looking for shapes I like. And Philly has tons of old architecture. Arches and pillars. Actual legit old architecture that looks nice. I do like modern architecture, but I think its just less exciting to me.
What is your masterpiece?
I don’t know man. It’s hard for me to even choose even a kind of thing. I have album artwork I do, and comic book stuff, and weird collages of old documents and stuff. For me that’s like asking someone what your favorite color when your older. There’s too much. I like them all! Hopefully my masterpiece is the thing I’m working on right now. I’ll wait til I’m dead and someone else can tell me.
Check out some more of Alex Ekman Lawn’s work at Alexekmanlawn.com