"WHAT INSPIRES YOU?"
I fucking hate that question.
But I’ll get back to that in a moment.
Up until I was 21 years old, I didn’t care about the Internet. But now, 15 years later, I can pretty much credit the Internet with everything leading up to this article.
I tried traditional routes of applying for art jobs back in the mid 90’s. I sent out portfolios and made multiple attempts at getting my comics published, but those only led to rejection. Around that time I started blindly experimenting with the Internet out of boredom and realized immediately that I could anonymously spread around my art on every message board and social networking site without having to face the fear of rejection because I wasn’t trying to really DO anything with my art. I just wanted people to see it in hopes of getting some feedback, even if that feedback was critical and hateful…which it was. But it was helpful.
Continuing to jump on as many social networking sites as they appeared, and disciplining myself to actually UTILIZE them was, for me, the most important thing I did in establishing the art career that I have now.
So when I got asked by Juxtapoz Magazine to curate a Halloween issue, and to additionally be featured and interviewed for it, I immediately responded with “I want the Internet to interview me”. Juxtapoz approved and so I opened up questioning. In 48 hours I got 168 questions. And out of 168 total questions, 113 of them asked “What inspires you?” And I fucking hate that question.
I don’t hate it because it’s a bad question. I don’t hate it because I don’t understand it. I hate it because I’ve never known how to answer it. It’s too personal of a question. There’s too many variables. What’s inspiring to one person may be viewed as criminal by another. So my responses have always been vague, muttering words like “everything” or “friends” or “books” because I never know how detailed I’m expected to be. So in turn, the answer to what inspires me always sounds, ironically, uninspired.
But perhaps maybe I’ve just never given it too much thought. So, in attempt to answer those 113 questions, here is what I am inspired by:
I’m inspired by old cartoons. By the way guys in nice suits would painstakingly draw thousands of frames of a frog wiggling back and forth without any actual assurance that it would work. I’m inspired by people without expectation to succeed but with enough passion to excel on their own, and by artists who somehow find a way to make a living by creating entire universes that didn’t exist before they made them, but now will never be forgotten. I’m inspired by George Lucas. By Jim Henson. By Rod Serling. By Tim Burton. By Terry Gilliam. By Ub Iwerks. By Walt Disney. By Skinner. By Craola. By Robert Bowen. By Don Bluth. By Ralph Bakshi. By Tatooine, by Mordor, by The Tardis. By GLaDOS. By Fat Albert cartoons and the way every character moved like a human slinky. I’m inspired by Scooby Doo and the notion that a cartoon about a teenage LSD addict who thinks his dog can talk and that everyone he meets is a silly monster can actually get made into an iconic television show for kids. I’m inspired by new kids shows like Adventure Time, Yo Gabba Gabba, and The Aquabats for helping adults remember that its ok to act like a kid. I’m inspired by imagination. I’ve recently been inspired by “Cabin In The Woods”, and by “Ready Player One”, and by anything that I see, read or hear that makes me run home and want to add more elements to someone else’s world in hopes of holding on to that experience by selfishly expanding it. I’m inspired by costumes and rubber masks and how they are SUPPOSED to make you feel silly and out of place instead of actually feeling silly and out of place because you’re getting judged when you’re not wearing one. I’m inspired by trying to read aloud because I notice different sounds that I don’t normally make when I don’t talk like a book. By horror movies from the 80’s and the creation of boogeymen and how one person can inject nightmares into someone for their whole life just by putting sharp teeth on a clown or finger-knives on a burn-victim.
I’m inspired by driving and looking at the way the trees, houses and cars pass at different speeds because it helps me understand “planes” and perspective and how to someday incorporate those into my drawings if I wasn’t too scared to actually draw backgrounds once in a while. I’m inspired by trying new materials, especially when they alter the way I draw. I was inspired by Paul Pope when I read in an interview that he only uses Windsor Newton Series 7 brushes when he creates ink drawings, and so even though they were expensive and I was doubtful, I admired Paul so I took a chance on a 40 dollar brush, and since then I have never gone back and I enjoy using a brush to draw more than any pen. I’m inspired by my girlfriend, Chloe Rice, who showed me how to look at the world a little differently than I ever had before, and since then I’ve been inspired by re-experiencing a lot of aspects of life as if they were brand new again. I’m inspired by icons and minimal information to get the point across. By 140 characters. By Olly Moss. By Twitter. By Instagram. I’m inspired by Owen Wilson but I have no idea why. I’m inspired by fog because I can’t help imagine what might be roaming around in it that I will never get to see. For that same reason I’m inspired by Loch Ness, and the Bermuda triangle, and haunted prisons. I’m inspired by Wikipedia because when I was younger there was no way to find out if Pikachu was based off of a real animal or not. I got inspired by working on art and design work for Zack Snyder’s “Sucker Punch” because until that point, I had never worked on a project as grand as that and I thought I worked hard, but I was surrounded by artists and technicians that worked harder than I ever had and it challenged me. I’m inspired by the experiences I chalk up as failures because it gives me incentive to approach them again and Rocky Balboa the shit out of them. I am inspired by the time I spent 3 years creating an animated web series from start to finish and had to literally fight to keep any kind of control on it, only to finally lose everything at the end and not even get informed when it came out, because regardless, it DID come out, and for the first time ever, I saw something I drew on paper come to life through animation. I’m inspired by making up dumb jokes and then running them into the ground so much that it looks intentional. I’m inspired by shapes. By clouds. By the way liquid moves and the way miso separates in the broth if you just sit and stare at it. I’m inspired by people-watching. I’m inspired by the mall and the KB Toys store where I worked for 9 years because it gave me a good reason to stand behind a counter and stare at how amazing and different every person is, even while they were yelling at me about broken Super Nintendos or telling me their kid shit on the floor next to the Holiday Barbies. I’m inspired by David Choe and by his book “SLOW JAMS”, which I read in 1999 and have since never read a graphic novel as personal and honest. I’m inspired by changing elevations, because every time the pressure pops in my ears I think about the ear-worm scene in Wrath Of Khan. I’m inspired by people smiling, and what it does to their eyes. I’m inspired by Garfield, not because he’s a lazy asshole, but because he seemed easy enough to replicate when I was in third grade, leading me to re-drawing other cartoons, comic book heroes and eventually my own original characters. I’m inspired by new media, by the Internet, and the ability to find an audience online, letting my work speak for itself without having to physically shove it in everyone’s face. I’m inspired by message boards and “Guest books” back in the 90’s because that’s how I was able to finally get some feedback from other artists. I’m inspired by the introduction of artist websites, including my own Geocities site because that’s how I first met Dave Correia and how I got one of my first major art directing jobs for the band “The Used” back in 2002 and for “Cage” a couple years later. I’m inspired by looking at new digital art tools as ways to extend the imagination and abilities of myself and others, rather than looking at them like a plague that’s replacing creativity. I’m inspired by the notion that someone in the middle of a small town in Wyoming can easily develop video games and phone apps out of their house and make an impact on our culture. I’m inspired by oversaturated markets and the overabundance of similar products and art because it pushes me to NOT create what’s already been done a thousand times. I’m inspired by cynicism and criticism and optimism and sarcasm. I’m inspired by technology and how it has affected me a lot better than how it affected John Connor in The Terminator. By the ability to scan my drawings, allowing me to edit them beyond what I would be able to do if I had to start over every time I had a change I wanted to make. I’m inspired by artists that spend a year on a painting because I know that I’ll never have much interest in spending that much time on one piece, but seeing something that incredible gives me ideas for a thousand small paintings. I’m inspired by other artists like Sam Kieth, Jhonen Vasquez, Trey Parker & Matt Stone, Harmony Korine & Jim Phillips, for pushing the boundaries before me because it continues to encourage me that I don’t have to conform to expectations. I’m inspired by Bernie Wrightson’s “Creepshow” comic adaptation because it led me to discover “Tales From the Crypt” and other EC Comics that inspired Creepshow. By Wayne Barlow’s Guide To Extraterrestrials because it taught me that a goofy monster with 7 eyes and tight work-out pants can all of a sudden become frightening if you add a paragraph about its eating and murder habits. I’m inspired by the expressiveness of a line. By how you can create depth and dimension simply by changing the width of a line in certain parts. I’m inspired by gangster rap from the 80’s and 90’s. By the stories that were told in the songs about hiding cocaine inside fake breasts, getting chased by helicopters through the LA River after holding up a liquor store, and moving to St Louis to revolutionize crime and drug peddling; not because it was something that I fantasized about, but because it was rebellious and cinematic and it allowed me to escape from the small uncultured town that I was raised in. I’m inspired by my parents, and by them encouraging me to read and imagine. By them taking me to Disneyland when I was little and allowing me to believe that it was real. By my whole family for encouraging me with my art even if they didn’t quite understand the passion I had for it. By my Mom for being supportive even though I knew that she was worried that I might not ever be able to make a living off of my art, because that only made me promise myself that I would never let her down.
Inspired by my Dad for letting me sneak down and watch Poltergeist at my sister’s slumber party, for suggesting Stephen King novels to me when I was 12, and for introducing me to The Watchmen, Hard Boiled and The Killing Joke when I was 14. I’m inspired when I stumble across something that catches me off guard and opens my eyes to new possibilities. At 2 it was Star Wars. At 4 it was Disneyland. At 6 it was my parents. At 9 it was Garbage Pail Kids. At 14 it was Robocop. At 15 it was The Maxx. At 16 it was Street Fighter. At 17 it was graffiti. At 20 it was the discovering of zines and self-publishing. At 21 it was Photoshop. At 22 it was Half-Life. At 23 it was painting. At 25 it was screen-printing. At 26 it was Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Adult Swim. At 30 it was Zerofriends. At 35 it was Chloe. I’m inspired by small details in stories that my friends tell me, whether it’s a story about a Rastafarian vomiting into his dreadlocks and wringing out the vomit from his hair like a sponge, or a story about helping a poodle learn how to get into her harness by teaching her to high-five so that she knew how to lift her arm. I’m inspired by all of my artistic friends that I surround myself with now, but I was equally inspired to be creative when I felt like I was alone because I found inspiration in my ability to imagine. I’m inspired by documentaries about eccentric people who live with bears, spend their life in jail, play video games or make horror movies with their friends in the middle of Wisconsin. I’m inspired by Brad Anderson’s ability to actually scare me the first time I saw Session 9. I’m inspired by watercolors, because of how messy they are and by the new colors they create just by integrating themselves. I’m inspired by the ease I felt at pretending to know how to paint just by drawing a silly character over a pretty mess of colors. When I used to print my own zines, I was inspired by Kinko’s and the hundreds of dollars I saved due to the cheaply made copy-keys that I could conveniently drop, break, and pretend I was clueless as to how many copies I made. I’m inspired by my friends who helped me get off the ground, and by my Zerofriends who continue to keep me afloat. By artists that have built a universe by rhyming words. By Dr Seuess. By Aesop rock. By Ice Cube and Kimya Dawson. I’m inspired by monsters, and by people who believe that those monsters live underground. In fact I’m inspired so much by that thought I’m going to make a documentary about it. I’m inspired by scissors and how you can squeeze their blades around something and forever change the shape of it. I’m inspired by every goofy but unnatural face that I see formed by the tail lights on the back of every car in traffic. I’m inspired by the detail that Jon Wayshak puts in his drawings and by the lack of detail that Hitchcock put in his own caricature.
I’m inspired by the anger that I felt from the anxiety that I felt from the depression that I felt from the imbalance that I felt because the time I spent in the mental hospital when I was 14 left me no choice other than to draw to make myself feel better. And that still hasn’t changed. Nor will it ever.
But in the end, I think you're crazy to make me write an essay telling you what I think inspires me. Because you see me as you want to see me... In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions….
as an athlete...
...as a basket case...
...and a criminal...
Does that answer your question?...
Alex Pardee & the Breakfast Club.