Interview with surreal artist Stacey Alexander

Stacey Alexander makes drawings about an imagined world cohabiting with a more realistic world. Her work uses simple materials of graphite and ink on paper to make drawings of people interacting with fantasies - often organic, abstract shapes filled with tiny obsessive patterns. Her figures exist in a quiet negative space, individually discovering the imagined object around them.
Hello dear Stacey, please, tell us how did you find the artist inside you? How long have you been doing art? Is art something that you always wanted to do?
Like most artists, I have been making art since I can remember. I have always felt most satisfied in life by making things. Art making was something I definitely always wanted to do,  I was really fortunate in high school to have a couple of great art teachers who taught me that art was something I could do for life and I would figure out how to make a living at it. Luckily I have only been surrounded by a wonderful amount of support for my dream.

What was / is your major influences? Other artists, books, movies, music or any other media....What inspires you to create your artworks?
I am inspired by lots of things, movies would have to be a big one for me. I love that you can really believe in the imaginary worlds/situations movies create- some of my favorites- Harry Potter, Big Fish, and basically any Disney/Pixar movie ever made.
Some artists I love in no particular order are James Jean, Frida Kahlo, Nathan Oliveira, Mary Cassatt (my grandma always tells me we are somehow related), Philip Guston, Kiki Smith, Alice Neel, Joe Biel, Langdon Graves, Jenny Morgan, and Marina Abramovic.
The content of my work is often inspired by  life philosophies I have gathered
-we shouldn’t rush through life
-imagination and playing are just as important as working hard
-there is an entire world to explore in reality as well as in your own mind
-do what you love and love who you are with
A lot of my work right now explores ideas of finding something inside you through aloneness.  I think about the depths of deep ocean and the vastness of space- their presumed quietness and the mystery they both hold.

How does "a normal day of artist" in your life look like?
At this point I still have a “day job”- only part time at an office so I start my art working around 3 in the afternoon and try to wrap everything up before 10. I am very lucky that my fiancĂ© works from home which is also my studio, so I always have a break buddy. I work through a non-sequential routine of working on drawings at my drafting table, photographing and framing work, working on the computer (artist statement editing, looking for opportunities online, editing photos, looking for new references, etc) Throw in some exercise, dinner and an evening cocktail, and thats basically a regular day for me.
What’s your background? Are you self-taught artist or did you study art? Do you think an art education is important or imperitive for anybody wishing to be an artist? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages that you have encountered throughout your career with/without the formal training of the Art Academy?
I have a BFA from California State University Fullerton. I certainly can’t say that art school is a necessity for everyone but I feel like I learned a lot of technical skills as well as grew as an artist and professional person while in school. I think that art school will definitely give you an advantage because the rate at which you can progress under the instruction of some great professors as well as the complete immersion in your practice surrounded by other artists for a concentrated amount of time will boost anyones artwork forward. Talking about your work to people who care and are willing to give you honest opinions for your benefit is a great experience. That being said I have also  learned a lot from working alone in my studio everyday. I think professionally there are more opportunities for people who have degrees, at least in Los Angeles it seems that way. I plan to continue my art education by applying to graduate school next year.
What fascinates you the most about surrealism / pop surrealism / contemporary art / lowbrow art? How would you describe your style? What themes do you pursue, what surrealism mean to you and what do you hope the viewer will take away from your art?
I am drawn to lowbrow/surreal art because of my interest in fantasy. I also like art that is somehow fun, there is a lot of that in lowbrow work. There is an accessibility about this kind of work that everyone seems to enjoy, I like that.
I would say my style is a mix of representational, abstract, and minimal all existing together. My work is about an inner imaginary world cohabiting the real world we can all see. The themes I touch on are meditation, freedom, quietness, joy, fun, adventure. I hope that the viewer will take pleasure in my work and think about the speed at which they live their lives.

What do you love most about creating and being an artist? What does “being creative” mean to you?
Being an artist has made me a very open person. Making artwork we are basically taking our private thoughts and feelings, making it into something visual and putting it out there for the world to see and judge. What I have found is that most people are very receptive to honesty and openness and often in turn they let you into their own world. I think its part of human nature to desire to be understood. Being an artist makes me feel whole.
Can you describe your typical workflow when you’re working on your art? What are your tools of trade? What medium do you most often use and why?
I have several types of working mindsets- my two basic ones are creative exploration and physical production. My creative exploration time is set aside with no pressure to make something good, just experiment in my sketchbook with ideas until I start to form something. This stage is not always drawings, a lot of it is sitting, thinking and writing notes. For physical production I go in knowing what I am going to do on the drawing and try to spend an allotted amount of time working on one thing. For this I start with references, my own photos and sketches and lay out my drawing and then take it from there. Sometimes the drawings will stay the same from idea to fruition but they often change. My favorite things to work with right now are graphite pencils- I love the simplicity of the medium and the clarity it brings to the drawing, micron pens- I get the smallest pens possible and adore the perfect lines they create. I have some serious affection for my drafting table too.
Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
I would love to explore sculpture. I worked for a sculptor for a while and the creative problem solving is incredibly satisfying. In drawings you can really do anything you want because it exists on paper but in sculpture you have to deal with things like gravity which creates some interesting problems. I think some of my ideas could translate well into sculpture or installation in the future.
Tell us more about your workspace. What was the most funny or weird thing that happened to you in your studio? What is / was the most strange thing hidding in your studio?
My workspace is in my apartment. It’s an open concept studio so I’m basically in the bedroom, living room and kitchen all at the same time. Every once in a while it can be distracting but for the most part I love that I can bounce around from one thing to the next without much effort.
I guess anything funny or weird comes from my interactions with my fiancé, never know what we are going to get into and after so long of locking ourselves inside working we tend to try and make the other one laugh. Some classics are making up songs about the other person, some terrible accents and weird dancing. The strangest thing in my studio would probably be the Jurassic Park velociraptor koosh-ball on my shelf.
What toughest challenges have you faced as an artist during your art career? What is the biggest lesson you have learned so far?
An art career does not follow one path, nor is the standard of success the same from person to person. The biggest challenge is figuring out what to do for work that is both satisfying and feasible. The answer may change so I have learned to just keep going in the direction I feel I am being pulled toward.
What’s the best and worst advice you ever received in your art career?
The best advice I have received is to make artwork you want to see.
What do you dislike about the art world? What is the hardest thing on being an artist? Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
The artistic life can be lonely. I have gone through phases of working alone, in my old studio, not speaking to anyone all day. I have found that if I work for a shorter amount of time everyday rather than a longer amount of time a few days a week that I can retain a normal social standing. There are times I fight the urge to be an artist hermit for the bigger picture of having a full life. Having good friends around helps too, also there are plenty of art related events that involve being social so that helps.
Where do you see yourself in the future? Professionally, what’s your goal?
In the future I see myself continuing to make and show work. Hopefully I will have an MFA in the future. I love Los Angeles and don’t plan on leaving, plus there are lots of artistic opportunities here. One of my goals is to show my work internationally and hopefully be able to travel wherever that may be. I would like to curate more shows, its cool to see what artists can do when given opportunities. Also gives me a chance to see artists work I may have not ever come across.
Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others? Maybe advice for beginning artists out there?
My advice for beginning artists is to keep creating. Seek out opportunities, with the popularity of social media there are opportunities for new artists that are very accessible.
Your favorite art or life quote is ...
I love this from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,
“For what it’s worth … it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
What are you doing when you’re not creating? What (other) hobbies do you have?
I like to travel, I do lots of weekend trips around southern California and take advantage of opportunities to go further- I have been to Europe twice now, I would love to do a cross country road trip across the US.  I like hiking, camping, bowling, cooking, anything with dogs and recently I have been teaching myself to play ukulele.
Do you have an online portfolio, blog or social medias where we can view your work? / Facebook

My instagram is staceyalexander, it’s not exclusively my artwork but I post sometimes.
Is there anything else you’d like to say? Is there any project you are working on right now or any ongoing event or exhibition you would like to share with our readers?
As a curator for White Matter, we are just wrapping up a show, but follow us on Facebook for future events.
For those in Los Angeles I am involved in several group shows in the area coming up- April 25th is the opening of “Creature Comfort” at the ArtShare in Koreatown, downtown LA. In May I will be a featured artist at The Hive in downtown LA for “Line Attack” and also in May I will be showing at a new gallery in Highland Park called Co-Lab those dates are TBD but I suspect the first week of May. I’ll be sure to post the specific dates on my website and Facebook page.
Thank you dear Stacey, it was a honor to interview you, I wish you only the best for you and your art and already looking forward to see your new art works :)
By contributor Linda. Mar 2015. Find Oh, So Surreal on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google + or RSS.