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Meet Koreatown Artist: Alex Gomez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alex Gomez.

Alex, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Both my parents are neurologists – which means they are experts on the human brain – but I knew early on that I wasn’t cut out for doctor life. For as long as I can remember I was sketching and drawing – I recall back in 2nd grade losing points on my math homework because I’d filled the margins with doodles – and I spent hours at the library reading illustrated children’s books. Even though I loved art, I figured I’d be a creative writer. When I fell in love with music that became the main focus of my writing, but I also wrote a lot about the awkward tensions of teenage friendships, puberty, and the loneliness of a hyperactive mind.

In my sophomore year of college at Tufts University, two important things happened. First, I sent a letter to my favorite children’s book author/illustrator Mark Teague. His magical, vibrant paintings had a major impact on me, so I wrote him asking for advice on how to become a creative like him and make stuff as wonderful and powerful as his artwork. And he wrote back! He said that the first step was simply identifying as an artist and being able to say that out loud. Mark also suggested I commit to some B.I.C. – Butt In Chair – meaning that the only sure way to artistic improvement would be through the time I spent steadily sitting down and making art. In other words, have patience and determination. I’m still learning these lessons even today.

The second major turning point that year was when wrote “This Bytes,” a short story about being an awkward teen in the distant future. I thought the vivid sci-fi imagery would make for a good comic book, so I decided to send the story to my old buddy Graham to see if he could illustrate it. When we were just creative 13-year olds, Graham and I used to spend our summer days drawing, making goofy videos and talking about music, but a lot of time had passed since those good ol’ days. After secretly working on the illustrated “This Bytes” for about a year, Graham surprised me with a complete comic, which marked a new beginning for our collaborative friendship. I was so proud of this co-created project that I contacted M.T. Anderson, another author who had directly inspired my story, and he miraculously wrote back praising “This Bytes”! This was a very good omen for me, and after college Graham and I both moved to Los Angeles and continued making comics and cartoons together.

I’ve since made great progress as an artist and character designer. Almost all my art is cartoon-inspired and deals with the themes that I used to write about: adolescence, identity, friendship, music. Drawing these intense emotions and ideas feels so much more immediate, raw and therapeutic than using words to describe what I see in my head.

Has it been a smooth road?
One major difficulty came when my family moved from Minnesota to Chicago before my senior year of high school. It felt really weird to be a “new kid” as a senior, and it kind of made me question who I really was. I think this might explain why my work expresses nostalgia for youth and a sort of tragic distance from those friendships, and some confusion about who you are and where you are going.

It’s also been challenging for me to follow my artistic vision and prioritize my creative expression above my intellect. I actually dropped out of two different Ph.D. programs before I finally realized that my art is my true work.

What were you like growing up?
From a very young age I was always drawing, and taking great care to collect my work, even if it meant cutting up old homework assignments that featured some of my best doodles in the margins. Being around such a brainy family I quickly found that my cleverness was a highly effective way of getting people’s attention, so I often used schoolwork as an excuse to get creative. If a book report or research project could be presented in video form, my friends and I would eagerly get together to make an amazing (and very silly) movie inspired by the assignment. That’s sort of how I got interested in digital art – using iMovie and Adobe Photoshop to create school-related projects. I also remember being 6 or 7 and loving a software program called “KidPix,” which was truly my first introduction to computer creativity.

I loved playing baseball and I used to dream of going pro. I was very athletic and confident in my physical ability. I could run really fast.

The special place where my imagination and my physicality combined was my action figure collection. A motley crew of monsters and supermen, these toys were some of my earliest inspirations for drawing bodies with grotesque proportions. I can still feel the textures of their plastic scales and painted spikes on my fingertips.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
I went to an after school daycare in Minnesota that had plenty of art supplies and by about halfway through 2nd grade, I had amassed an incredible collection of the drawings I’d made while waiting for my parents to pick me up. My creative self-expression was really developing at that time, and my ability to project my visions onto the page was deeply satisfying. One drawing I recall really reflected my profound engagement with the work of making art: a broom, portrayed with a pathetic droopiness, drawn upon recycled paper covered in random specks. The paper’s texture itself resembled the overwhelming mess the “Poor Broom” was obligated to sweep up.

I decided to place all these drawings into a book, bound with cardboard and yellow masking tape. Even though it would look unimpressive to our eyes today, this self-made monograph gave me a strong sense of accomplishment and of my individual identity, reflected and consolidated in this visual diary.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I want to become a character designer for cartoons, video games, and feature-length animation. I look forward to working with friends and collaborating on animated shorts, with my character illustrations helping to develop the tone and aesthetic identity of the story. I have a few of these projects in the works…

I also plan to create a graphic novel in some form that depicts the bygone days of youth in Minnesota. It will be semi-autobiographical and draw from real experiences and real people in my life.


  • Freelance Character Design: $40.00 per hour

Contact Info:

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