Today we’re joined by Alex Pernau. Alex is a phenomenal visual artist who works with traditional mediums and also does digital art. Originally from Brazil, Alex now lives in New Zealand. She is a character designer and illustrator with an impressive portfolio. Alex enjoys mixing styles and draws inspiration from a number of sources. Her work is absolutely beautiful and the pictures she sent to go with her interview show a remarkable amount of detail. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I work both digitally and traditionally (mainly drawing, ink and watercolours), and particularly enjoy exploring organic forms and themes such as metamorphosis and hybridism. I feel my art has a bit of Art Nouveau, Classical Art and, sometimes, can look a bit morbid. I like fantasy art but I feel it’s hard creating something that’s not cliché. I like to mix influences and styles, but what I do as personal work might look a lot different when I work for a client, for example.
What inspires you?
Art History and many art movements. My degree in Art was heavily focused on history and theory, and I suppose it shaped my vision and the way I create art. Also, books. Reading and picturing colors, light and forms in my head inspires me immensely. I will often have to stop reading a book just to sketch something and get it outta my head so I can keep reading. Besides that, other artists’ work also give me this feeling, specially fantasy art. Alan Lee and John Howe are heroes to me. Zdzislaw Beksinski is another incredible artist, and I can just wish one day I could be as good as he was. Besides this, some political subjects interest me and influence my work – feminism being the most influential of them.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
As most kids I was all about drawing and creating stuff with my hands. Up until I was 12 or 13, my family supported me and even put me in an atelier to learn how to paint properly. I drew on every bit of my childhood bedroom walls – when there was no more room left I started carving into the furniture and jumping on my bed to paint the ceiling. I had this insane urge to express myself visually. At the time, I was sure I wanted to be an artist. But then adolescence came, things changed and I ended up in Business school by family pressure. After a couple of years there, and working in International Trade, I got depressed and dropped out to finally pursue a career in Art and enter Art school. There were many times where I doubted myself and my career choice, but I guess it was more than wanting to be an artist, but needing to be one.
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?
Not really. I like symbolism, though, and will often add elements with meanings pertaining to the theme or idea I want to portray.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Keep creating. Even if you stop for a while, don’t give up, just pick up your pencil again and start – think later. Once you get the work flowing, it gets much easier. If you’re laying down and have an idea, just get up and sketch it, don’t let them go. There are days when it’s easier to keep motivated if you can just pick up a drawing that’s halfway done and finish it than staring at a blank paper. You have to face and address your shortcomings, not feel embarrassed about them. Practice is the best way to improve, and it’s always good to try something new. Studying some Art history and the work of great masters is also incredibly useful!
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I’d say I’m demiromantic/demisexual. I have experienced years of lack of any sexual or romantic feelings, but now and again something might slide towards the sexual/romantic spectrum. I suppose, for me, sexuality or the lack of is fluid as well as sexual orientation.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
Not specifically in my field, as professionally I don’t talk about it. But I have been often questioned why I’m “not with someone”, why I haven’t “acted on” someone else’s interest in me or been given “advice” on how to pick up women and men. Probably because other people suppose I’m shy or lack ability to seduce someone, as for them that’s the only reason not to engage in a romantic or sexual relationship. When I was younger I’d get embarrassed to say I wasn’t interested in it, but eventually I understood that I was probably demisexual and could finally just go “don’t feel like it” and end the conversation right there. Knowing that you can name what you are empowers you and enables you respect yourself and what you really want. I think it helps that most of my friends are very open-minded people when it comes to sexuality (although probably in the very opposite spectrum of it), so most of them just went “oh, okay”.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
Well, many. I’ve been in therapy, and have heard that this is an “issue”, or that it could have had something to do with medication or depression. It took me years to realize that, actually, I had engaged in sexual relationships mostly to please the other person or to “rise up to the challenge” that my friends and society as a whole put for me. For a decade I made a huge effort to become someone else, and still felt completely at loss when my friends asked me why I had “refused” that girl or guy in a party, or if I had had sex with someone I was interested in. It seemed completely alien for them that I would be interested in someone, even find them attractive, and still not want to get into their pants. Sexual people tend to see things through their own point of view, which usually leads them to think we’re either shy, inexperienced or have to “cure” something – cause that’s the only reason someone would avoid sex, in their opinion.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
It’s hard to come to terms with it sometimes. My experience involved a lot of sadness and struggle. We live in an extremely sexualized society – in Brazil, even more so. The pressure to “get lucky” is enormous. For women is particularly hard, for we are fed by the media the idea that our lives will only be fulfilled by finding love – and this “love” means to engage in sexual and romantic relationships. It’s bullshit. I was 26 when I first found out that what I’ve been feeling all my life was “a thing”, and had a name, and I wasn’t broken. Sometimes it takes years of being lost, questioning yourself and even forcing yourself to fit some roles, and this takes a toll. But whenever you go through the process of accepting yourself (it’s not an immediate switch for everyone) as you are, a weight is lifted from your shoulders. As long as you remain true to what you feel, what you DON’T feel and what you want, everything gets easier on the long run. And, personally, as demisexual, I have come to realize that these are things that can change, can slide from one side to another as time goes by and you and your life change. Or it can be continuous, and it doesn’t really matter, as long as you respect yourself. Some people will doubt you, but you shouldn’t doubt yourself because of it. Just leave them be, it’s just not worth it.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
Thank you, Alex, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.