Pop Art, Robber’s Masks, and Skate Culture with Alex Scher

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Being a self-proclaimed movie buff, I know all too well how pretentious the film world can be, but the “art world” can be even more overbearing and stuffy. So, it’s always refreshing to encounter those who work against that “pretentious artist” stereotype. I typically gravitate to filmmakers who turn art cinema (whatever that really is) on its head. And, I suppose, there’s really no difference when it comes to other artists I admire.

I just relocated to Chicago for a stint, where I happened to meet up-and-coming artist, Alex Scher. His tongue-in-cheek, skate culture spin on pop art is a refreshing recourse to the darker, more “serious” art I often come across.

After seeing some of his work, I sat down with him to discuss art, skate culture, and whatever the hell is up with his robber’s mask obsession.

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MG: So, why don’t we start with the always boring, but equally important question, “how did you get started?”

Alex Scher: Like most artists, I started creating when I was a kid. I took some drawing classes in high school. It was always a definite hobby of mine, but I didn’t actively pursue it until my dad recommended that I start taking graphic design courses in college. So I started going down that road and as I was getting deeper into the art major, I began trying out different mediums such as painting and drawing.

When I graduated, I didn’t have a job lined up or anything. In my free time, when I wasn’t working for a tree service, I’d go home and I’d paint and draw and try to refine my craft.

MG: Is painting your go-to medium now or will you continue doing graphic design?

AS: Painting is a lot of fun. It’s the easiest for me to get the most creative with. Working digitally is a lot more limiting. I feel like my skills don’t translate as well digitally as they do on canvas.

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MG: Your work is very light hearted and tongue-in-cheek with a pop art/skate culture influence. Can you elaborate on that a bit?

AS: Yeah, I mean, I’m a lighthearted person to begin with. I like to make people laugh and smile and that brings joy to me. So I like to bring that into my art. Not everything has to be taken so seriously. You know, I try to be taken a little seriously as an artist, but at the same time, I’m not Rembrandt or Van Gogh. I’m not trying to make it into museums. I just want to make people laugh and give them something amusing.

MG: Since it’s obviously not Van Gogh or Rembrandt, who are some of your inspirations? Or rather some artists you admire?

AS: Robert Williams is one. There’s this Swedish artist, Jacob Ovgren, who’s heavily involved in the skate culture. He’s a graphic artist for Polar Skate Company. I think art and the skateboarding community are very interlinked. I like to skateboard, so I’m obviously influenced by that. When you go to a local skate shop, all you see is art. All the graphics for different companies, apparel, decks, everything. That’s always been a huge source of inspiration.

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MG: Let’s talk about wood vs. canvas. Most of your artwork I’ve seen has been on wood as opposed to canvas. Why do you prefer to work on wood?

AS: Well I started on canvas. But when I came out to Chicago, I found some wood canvases at an art store. I’d never seen them before and thought they would look pretty badass. I bought some and started using tape to create a border, so you could actually see the wood. It creates a frame without actually having to get it framed. I’ve just been using wood ever since. I haven’t gone back.

MG: What’s been your biggest challenge?

AS: My biggest challenge? I guess one would be constantly trying to come up with new ideas. Another would be gaining exposure, trying to get my name out there. Get my career started.

MG: What’s your favorite piece?

AS: I’d say the woman with the mask or maybe the dripping hippie van.

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MG: Yeah, what’s with the mask motif?

AS: I saw a robber’s mask that was a singular color and I thought that was interesting. You have this robber’s mask, which kind of has a dark association, but then when you add a lot of colors, it becomes kind of fun and adds a sense of humor to it. They look a little less menacing.

MG: How do you feel about Instagram’s art culture?

AS: Honestly, Instagram is a huge source of motivation and inspiration. There’s a large art community on there and I’ll come across a lot of images that inspire me. I’ll find a lot of new artists, like Jacob Ovgren who I discovered through Instagram. It’s not even just in the art community, I follow a lot of skateboarding associated accounts that will turn you on to different artists that they have working for them in the graphics department. I’m constantly discovering new people.

MG: If you could design for one skateboarder, who would it be?

AS: Probably Ben Raybourn.

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MG: Why don’t you name your pieces?

AS: I never really like naming anything. I’ve actually been trying to think of a name for an apparel brand because I’d like to eventually get into that. It’s definitely a struggle.

MG: So is that next for you? Getting some t-shirt designs together?

AS: Yeah, it’s something I’m starting to develop. I’d like to, in some capacity, have my graphics on apparel or even skate decks. Whether it’s for myself or for some other company. I have a few branding ideas, but nothing that’s ready to be presented…yet.

Follow Alex on Instagram.