This interview is an absolute pleasure. From drag queens to pop culture icons, Daniel Alexander mixes fashion, gender expression, and comic book illustration in a skillful and utterly fabulous manner. Sit for a spell and read about his influences, inspiration, stories about his present work, and where it's all going.
Daniel, thank you so much for the interview! Let's start from the top: What got you into illustration?
Illustration is something I have always been interested in for as long as I can remember. The initial interaction I had with it would be through comic books and the animated cartoons of the late 80's, leading into the 90's (predominantly X-Men). I would say exposure to these became intrinsic to the style of my work and the subject matter or muse upon which it is sometimes based. In conjunction with comic characters, classic illustrated movie posters (such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones) were always sources of inspiration, as well as the films and merchandise itself.
Who or what inspires your work?
I would credit Jim Lee, Alan Davis, Salvador Larroca, Marc Silvestri, Patrick Nagel, Thierry Perez and Richard Gray as being influential illustrators for me.
My work is a derivative mix of Bronze to Modern Age comic book characters, sci-fi vixens and no-nonsense power dressers. The subject matter depicted within my work is drawn from the international Drag/Club Kid scene, "Divas" (icons of television, music, pop culture) and generally anything else that takes my fancy; from the Queen of the country to the Queens of nightlife! I like to add a comic book or a sci-fi edge where possible with the appearance of blank eyes and occasional drips or otherworldly features.
Are you formally trained?
I have pursued Art and Design through various forms throughout my education and I was awarded 1:1 BA (Hons) in Illustration last year.
What is your creative process like?
My creative process is mostly organic, beginning with initial sketches and sometimes just the jotting down of ideas. Then, drafting the image and refining it until I am happy with it. Sometimes the final outcome will literally be from the efforts of a spontaneous splurge.
I tend to swap between sketchbooking and loose sheets depending on the final process required for the image, such as digital coloring, hand rendering, etc. If I can, I like to get one job done at a time and work my way through each one. Unless I am doing a set of images for the same collection or client.
Typically, what's your artistic weapon of choice?
My choice of stationery would be pencil, ball-point pen (biro), fine liners, felt-tips or markers, and ink. I sometimes use less conventional media such as bleach and nail varnish. Everything is hand-drawn regardless of digital coloring; if I am coloring digitally then I do so using Adobe Photoshop.
For how long have you worked as an illustrator, and is it your day job?
Not for very long. I have been putting work out for a while but I would technically only count myself as an illustrator for the last year and a bit or so. Illustration can be great as a day job but in practice can come with some instability (financial, frequency of work).
I haven't worked in-house or contractually yet. It's not something I would rule out. It's just things haven't gone that way so far.
Have you participated in gallery shows (or do you want to)?
Aside from my graduate showcase, I have yet to participate in any gallery shows. This is something I would love to do, but in the future when I would consider myself to have a greater breadth of work to showcase and be in a better position to really put on a show.
A great deal of your artwork explores gender expression. What led you to tackling the subject artistically?
Gender and the expression of it is something that has always been of interest to me. From a sociological point of view, the inherent view that there is a masculine and feminine identity that is transcribed and reinforced from birth, with any decidedly deviant behavior/expression being labelled as "other" and marginalized from mainstream society.
Of course, this has changed, is changing, is perhaps in a constant state of flux all over the world. Visually recording and creating representations based around the idea of gender allows me to express uncapped creativity; this can be from the makeup, hair and fashion to even the mood of the image.
I love your exploration of high, fabulous fashion in your work. What designers' lines have you got your eye on lately?
I have my eye on everyone. However, I would mention the following: Christian Cowan-Sanluis, Elliot Joseph Rentz and Jay Briggs for their fabulous fashions. Also, always excited to see what Versace, The Blonds, Pam Hogg and Moschino are doing.
Have you ever met any of the subjects of your illustrations (whether pop stars or drag queens)? If so, have they seen your illustrative work?
Yes! I have met a number of those depicted within my work (currently, mainly Drag Queens) and they have seen my work either prior or post meeting.
The likenesses of your artwork are spot-on. Are faces, poses and such heavily referenced, or do you use light reference and focus more on designing a new figure for your purposes?
References are something I try to use directly less and less. They have their use but my aim now is to capture a moment and look of my own.
What are your current or future goals as an illustrator?
To continue with the type of projects I work on currently, like events and portraiture, as well as build up a solid base of published editorial work. In the future, I would love to be involved in a major campaign with a leading cosmetics brand across packaging and advertising, as well as to debut textile prints in a collaboration with a fashion label.
Any advice or words of wisdom for readers who wish to engage in the art world as you have?
Go for it! If it doesn't work out then at least you tried.
Things to remember: confidence in what you are doing rubs off on others, have a slightly thick skin as sometimes you just can't please everyone, and enjoy it!
Many thanks to Daniel sharing his work and experiences with us. I really look forward to seeing where his work goes in the near future and beyond. For more of Daniel's art, check out the links below: