MEET #3935 ALEX DESPAIN
Illustrator • Portland, OR
WNW Member #3935 Alex DeSpain has worked with a long list of clients that include NBC, GAP, Thinktopia, The Portland Mercury, and Widmer Brothers Brewing. His dazzling illustrations are visible in a wide range of forms from colorful portraits to striking lettering to hypnotic patterns. Alex spoke to WNW about sustaining inspiration both at the studio (thanks to his studio mates) and at home (thanks to his designer wife Vanessa.)
1. How long have you been freelancing?
It’s been about two years that I’ve been working on bigger projects. I’ve had spontaneous projects here and there for quite a while but it has really started to pick up lately.
2. Is there a time or place that you feel most creative/have the best ideas?
The morning, from about 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM, is the best time for me for generating ideas. Keeping a schedule at the Studio and going even when I don’t exactly feel the most creative helps. It usually takes just getting started and any potential case of creative block disappears. Once I have my second cup of coffee and I’ve answered emails, I will get into production mode. I stay in the work-zone until mid-afternoon and then my insides start growling at me and I have to grab a bite. Working in the studio with my studiomates is encouraging to me. When I see them working hard it just makes me want to work hard too. It’s nice to have a studio space that isn’t at my house because it has that familiar feeling of physically going to work. At home, I have video games and pets and laundry that needs to get done. None of that exists at the studio so it helps me to focus on my work.
3. What’s your ideal Working:Not Working ratio?
Illustration is something I just whole-heartedly love to do and if I’m not working on a project for a while, I get really bored which leads to getting restless. When that happens, I will start a personal project or just start making patterns. Sometimes it is good for my process to just put down the tablet and go to see a show or see a movie with my wife, Vanessa. She is a designer so when we aren’t working on our projects, we are usually talking about them with each other. So what is the ratio? Hmm... there are 168 hours in a week and I spend about 65 hours a week working on projects.
4. Do your parents understand what you do?
To an extent they understand. They know I am out here in Portland, Oregon doing my thing and they will see the projects that I am able to post online. They get really stoked about that and I think they like telling their friends about it. Like, “My son did this editorial illustration, check it out!” so I can tell they are proud of my accomplishments. Now, if I told them that I am working on creating .mp4 files for social media purposes, they would probably scratch their heads and say, “Cool!”.
5. What scene from a movie makes you laugh just thinking about it?
The gasoline fight in Zoolander cracks me up everytime I think about it! When they are all driving in the Jeep, sipping on those orange mocha frappacinos all the way to the gas station and Jitterbug is playing... “Brent... NOOOOooooo”
6. If you were stranded on a desert island, with your computer, what 3 websites would you take with you?
7. What do you do when Not Working?
I really enjoy being out in nature, going to art openings, and seeing live music. We started a garden in our back yard this year and it has been pretty exciting to see all of our veggies grow. We can just go in our backyard and pick tomatoes or cucumbers which is satisfying. It feels good to grow your own food and to eat it. It’s hard to explain the feeling.
8. Do you have a hidden talent?
It comes and goes but usually after a couple of drinks I can really free-flow. If the beat is slow enough and the atmosphere is right, I can come up with some pretty funny lyrics. At least, my friends are laughing. Good times!
9. Any tips or advice for fellow freelancers?
Get involved with people who do what you want to do. I don’t think anyone can figure all of this out on their own, I mean, I couldn’t have. In the beginning it is rough but it gets better. It takes getting burned a few times to learn what works and what doesn’t but just sticking to it is the attitude to have. Be nice to people and read books about improving your skills. Advice is one of those things that is really tough for me to give. I only know what works for me because I’ve failed at so much. Process of elimination, right? Just have confidence in yourself so that others can too.
10. What’s your favorite thing on the internet this week?
Brandon Bowen’s YouTube clip “Blocking out the haters”.