Ladon Alex is an Arkansas-based (by way of Texas) visual artist whose paintings and illustrations blend hallucinatory surrealism with schizophrenic emotions and thought-provoking narratives. Every canvas seems open for interpretation. His work includes pieces on surveillance, paranoia, miscommunication, struggle, and redemption. Pieces where nude devils argue in suburbia, where past memories and future fantasies bring a mixture of tear drops and intimacy. I spoke with the prolific artist (who creates every day) and asked about his creative process, his people watching skills, and his interests in philosophy and psychology.
How would you describe your style to a stranger on the street?
Ever-changing. Intense and provoking.
How long have you been taking your craft seriously?
Since 2014. I’ve been drawing every day since the age of 7 or so, but 2014 was the year I truly started believing in my vision of who I wanted to be as an artist.
Do you create every day or does it come in waves?
I create something everyday. It’s a necessity at this point. It’s usually the first thing I do when I wake up and the last thing I do before I go to sleep.
What are some studio essentials?
Music is the most essential thing aside from the actual materials [laughs]. Music is so important to my process, especially when I’m painting. When I’m drawing, though, I just need some sort of audio stimulation, as long as it’s constant. Podcasts, a friend on the phone, a YouTube video, etc.
How long do you typically spend on a piece of art?
The time spent varies but I usually have a piece done within a day. My pieces are getting bigger so I’m starting to get used to spending more than a day on a piece, with 2-3 days becoming the norm now. I plan (by ‘plan’ I mean sketch out and come up with titles) paintings a few weeks to months in advance usually, so once I get the canvas I’m already on it. I get fatigued if I work on a piece for too long so I guess I’ve just adapted to that part of my personality as an artist.
Your pieces often seem tragic, emotional, and oftentimes with split personalities. Are these issues you deal with? Is your art a form of therapy?
My art definitely serves as a form of therapy for me, a way to vent and communicate without the struggle of searching for the right words. But I wouldn’t say what’s depicted is a reflection of me, per say, a lot of the time. I’m very interested in philosophy and psychology, and I also pay a lot of attention to other’s conversations while in public. Not out of a need to eavesdrop and know everything but as a way to better understand (or at least recognize) the mindset of those around me. Then I make stories based off of the small inside-look. Think of it like someone reading you one page of a book and then letting you come up with a beginning and/or end to it.
Outside of visual art, do you have any other hobbies or interests?
I write songs and poetry, and I read quite a lot.
What city are you based out of? What's the art scene like in your city?
I ‘live’ in Denton, Texas, but I attend University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Luckily for me, both cities have pretty well-established art scenes, though I am more involved in the one in Little Rock.
Who/what has been inspiring you as of late?
I’m inspired by photography/film more than paintings, ironically. Vintage and early 2000s magazine ads as well as more modern fashion, with high-end designer runway shows being my favorite (despite the figures in my work usually being naked).
As of who has been inspiring me lately, just younger artists who’s work has a type of confidence to it, a clear understanding of what they’re trying to communicate, such as Zach Thompson and Spencer McMullen, along with a few others I talk to on a near-daily basis.
What do you have in store for 2018?
A lot more work for sure (I only started painting last summer, I had always planned on being an illustrator as opposed to a painter but things change). I’m fortunate to have had my first ever group show towards the end of 2017, so I’m pushing for more shows and such. I have to remember the quality of my work matters more than just getting shows though. Summer 2018 I want to be able to have a (possibly solo) show in Denton or the Dallas area, but if I don’t think I’m ready as an artist I’ll move that goal back some months. Also, I might have some apparel in the works with another artist I respect but that’s hush-hush for now [laughs]. Regardless, 2018 is going to be a year of growth as every year that’s preceded it has been.
Any advice for visual artists working on their craft?
Actually work on your craft. Don’t sacrifice your health but please work on your craft. Make time when you feel uninspired don’t let that be an excuse to not create. This is not the field you want to be in if you are afraid of making mistakes and not fitting in. Don’t be cocky, but be confident. Appreciate the paths of artists before you but make your own.
Do you have any final thoughts / words of wisdom?
Read, learn, share. Every conversation you have is an opportunity to turn what may seem like nothing into inspiration, if not for yourself then for someone else. Love yourselves and make this year special.
I would also like to thank those who support me as an artist and person. I’m extremely grateful for my supporters.