Alex Solis is a fantastically talented illustrator and animator who makes art prints, pins, shirts, sculptures, and plush toys. Alex works out of a home studio, where he draws inspiration from his two children and his English Bulldog, Charlie (aka Bean Burrito). He’s a brand-approved Tru artist and to date has worked with Indiewalls to create 10 custom local-themed murals for new properties.
Alex, paint us a picture. Where are you from, and where are you based now?
I was born in Mexico and am currently based in Wisconsin.
You have a huge body of work. How do you begin a piece? Can you walk us through your creative process?
I start with a basic idea, which I write down and loosely draw into my sketchbook. From there, I review the image to choose the parts that I feel are strongest and then begin to recreate them in their ‘final form.’ Sometimes the sketch will be the proper final form of an idea, while other times I can tell a piece should be recreated as an animation or a 3D object.
I go on instinct when deciding what pieces should look like in the end and which pieces are intended for the public vs. my own eyes. I make tons of sketches that I don’t share with anyone. Maybe one day I will!
A feeling we all know too well
What was the first piece of art that you sold? Who purchased it?
I drew a mini comic book in middle school and charged 10 cents to each kid that wanted to read it. I ended up keeping the book and made almost a dollar! The earliest thing I can remember drawing is a stick figure ninja turtle.
Not bad! But you’ve (thankfully) come a long way since then. Any recent projects you’re particularly proud of?
Yes! I just finished a big project - the art cover for Nicki Minaj and Tekashi's new song FEFE. You can see it pretty much everywhere! (Or here, more specifically.)
Impressive. Were you always a professional artist (for a living)? What were you doing before, and what inspired you to make the switch?
I've been drawing all my life and always wanted to make art for a living. I didn’t think I would be able to make a living just drawing, so I went to school for graphic design and web development. I was able to pick up a lot of skills that I still use to this day when creating products for my art or getting the artwork ready to be used for different platforms. I was a Senior Designer for about 15 years before I was brave enough (with the help from my wife) to go 100% full time independent.
There's a lot of humor in your illustrations, sometimes tackling big ideas. Your Global Warming series is a good example of that, showing a polar bear experiencing the gentler tragedies of global warming - melting ice cream, poor skiing conditions, etc. Why do you lean on comedy in your work?
I think it's important to make the viewer feel something with your art… anger, happiness, joy, whatever. If no one feels anything, then the art is just a drawing and doesn’t go past that. It's so much bigger when someone can feel something from just looking at your work. It's important to me that my illustrations not only look good but also have strong concepts backing them.
Three images from Alex’s Global Warming series, which is meant to make the viewer consider the larger implications of climate change.
You must be funny. Can you tell me a joke?
What do you call a Mexican with a rubber toe?
What advice would you give to young, budding illustrators who are trying to make art for a living?
I think it's important for young artists to know that not everything comes immediately, but if you do put your heart in, it truly is possible to be able to do your art full-time and make a living from it. Don’t focus 100% on trying to make everyone happy, and always try to make art that's personal to you. It really helps to form your identity as an artist, and one of the most the important parts of art is being able to stand out.