Project 1612: How would you describe the art you make?
Alec: Initially I would describe my art as a combination of abstract and surreal figurative; however, as many artists would say it tends to be more than that. More often than not my work is very intuitive even to the point that I don't always know what I’m going to paint, nor what it will become. I try to just turn off and clear my mind when I paint and let the subject flow through me. It’s very meditative in that way. My figures and the objects around them tend to include a lot of hidden symbolism as of late, so the longer you look at my work the more you are rewarded. The subjects themselves all display a sort of pride and power through struggle; which is something myself and many others relate to.
Project 1612: What drives your practice?
Alec: In short: A view of a better life. I started to use art at an early age as a way to escape a rough upbringing and in doing so I was granted this fulfillment that I couldn't get anywhere else, and that's a feeling that's always stuck with me. In the good times along with the bad, art is something I've always been able to turn to. I’ve never had things easy so I built up this “fiery” sort of ambition and luckily that has been key in helping me take this escape and turn it into my “better” life.
Project 1612: You recently moved your studio to your apartment, which has a very bohemian feel I must say, and are painting in the kitchen. Was this an easy transition for you?
Alec: It’s definitely a move someone should REALLY consider if they have a studio and are wanting to fully immerse themselves in their art by means of bringing their creative workspace into their home. I tend to work big so at times it can be a struggle to fit in all the ideas into a smaller space, but at the same time, it creates a lot more opportunity to paint without having to commute. While I have drastically reduced my space I have been able to eliminate a lot of the excuses and distractions that would keep me from making the trek to my former studio. This works for me, but I know for some it’s almost like going to the gym in the sense of needing a designated space away from home in order to “work out”.
Project 1612: Can you talk a little about the meaning behind your work? I notice that imagery of children show up often and am curious if there a reason for this?
Alec: Something I mentioned previously is using art to escape a rough childhood, and it certainly has shown in my adult work. In a way lately, I have been reclaiming my childhood through my paintings by using a childlike figure to show a power in youth who strive for great things. I had to grow up really fast and wasn't able to enjoy being a kid for very long. This in a manner of speaking allows me to revisit the wonder of being a kid and celebrate the importance of allowing creativity to flourish at a young age. Another common theme in my work is showing figures who have an air of strength and pride. Souls that have had to work hard and have had to really earn their place in life through overcoming their obstacles and persevering have always seemed to hold more meaning to me and I try to relay my appreciation for that strength in my paintings. It’s something I can relate to, and I really think that those things are important to take a long look at.
Project 1612: I know you just completed a public art project with a few other Peoria artists. Tell me about that project and how has public art has influenced your work?
Alec: I won't speak for everyone in the group, but I know for me it was chock-full of learning experiences. It was different from working on my previous murals because I was working with other artists, and not students. We all have our pros and cons which is important to consider when joining a group project, along with all of us having different skills and styles. It really pushed me to think more as a whole and less as an individual. When I’m working on public art I have noticed how in small ways my method and style has changed. When you're in a studio painting away, the piece doesn't have to look “good” until it gets hung on a gallery wall. When you’re creating something that's out in the open world you almost have to put on a show and try to leave it aesthetically pleasing by the end of each session, because the general public will look at it every day and you want to give them eye candy and not an eyesore.
Project 1612: What problems do you face in the studio? How do you overcome them?
Alec: My biggest problem is getting a good block of time to work on paintings. With having a full-time job, being heavily involved with multiple art organizations and life in general; my life is hectic, to say the least. Sometimes I have to edit my plans or meetings just to try to get time to work on my own practice. Something that I am currently working on is balancing my community efforts with my own personal ventures and making it so I prioritize my own art career more often. I tend to try to take on most projects that get sent my way, but more and more I am learning to not spread myself too thin and be ok with turning down opportunities that might push me away from my personal goals.
Project 1612: What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
Alec: At all times you need to feed the fire that drives your passion. You really have to love what you do and remind yourself why you do it in the first place. Those things can be forgotten and neglected way easier than one may think, and you can fall out of love with your chosen path and be driven to give it up. I’ve been there, and it's incredibly hard to come back from. If even in those low moments you push through, you can reignite that drive and accomplish way more than your doubtful mind may lead you to believe.
Project 1612: Do you have anything coming up you would like everyone to know about?
Alec: Currently I am working on what will be my last local show in Peoria; which will be at Ear In the Envelope for their September First Friday. I am really trying to throw myself into this one so I encourage everyone who can make it to come out.
Project 1612: My last question is typically “What are your thoughts on the art community in Central IL?” But it is my understanding that you are moving to Texas in the next few months. So I’ll ask instead, what do you think you miss most about the art community in Central IL?
Alec: I think what I will miss the most will be some of the people I have met through this journey as an artist. This is where I decided to become an artist and will always be a defining chapter in my life. This ride hasn’t always been good or easy, but I owe everything I am to the experiences I have had here and to walk away from a community that I put so much of myself into will be a big yet necessary move in order to further my career as an artist.
Alec DeJesus is an artist working in Peoria, IL. More of his work can be found on here.