Interview by Kati Driscoll
For our latest interview, we talked with Steven Alawishus about the movies, method and madness behind his 2013 Fun-A-Day project.
Are you a Delaware artist? Have you always lived in Delaware? If not, what brought you here?
I am a Delaware Artist. I currently live in Wilmington. I have lived in Delaware all of my life other than a few years in the city of Baltimore for college.
How long have you been making art?
I guess here and there I have been making art since I was around 10. My brother came home with a sticky note comic he made with characters that resembled the Simpsons. I guess in a way it started as a competition to draw better sticky note comics than him.
What medium and/or themes do you typically focus on with your work?
I tend to have medium ADD. I get excited from doing new things so I often I tend to switch things up. I have been pretty consistent with doing woodcuts but I also do vector art, photoshop work and the occasional painting.
As far as themes, the last few years I have been centering my artwork around music and movies. A far stretch from the conceptual work I did in college. After a long day at work I try and pretend I’m in middle school again. 1980’s and 90’s flicks are my favorite, even though most are just playing as background noise.
Do you work in other areas, aside from your preferred medium?
I do graphic design full time, both print and web. They give me a different sense of satisfaction. With the right project I’ll do a logo, print brochure, ect.
And now to delve more specifically into your Delaware Fun-A-Day feats: describe the project you submitted last year.
I had a project where I had to frame two hundred pieces of art in store bought frames. I kept the factory inserts. A week before I heard about the Delaware Fun-A-Day on DCAD’s twitter I started to do a sketch ever other day or so on my lunch break. So the Fun-A-Day show really just came in and fit perfectly with where I was in life. I have a bunch of old markers, pens, white-out so I decided to use them with the free paper from the frames. I would pick the movie the night before if I was lucky. Decide on the character. Get some reference photos from Google or Pinterest. Then the next day on my lunch I would watch part of the movie and sketch out basic proportions sometime throwing the white-out or pant maker down to create a base for the markers. Then go home and work from dinner 'til bed time. I watched that movie, or another movie with the same character, laying down colors and smearing them with my fingers. They were raw and colorful every morning. I got caught up in the anxiety of it all.
Your pieces in previous Fun-A-Day show(s) featured a lot of famous faces. How do movies influence your work? Will your work this year feature famous portraits again, in some way?
I find it is easier to connect to the audience with something they already know. A lot of people related to the movies they watched when they were kids. I watch them while I work because some of the emotion of the movie actively effects how I paint them. I found through my work that I often have to limit myself somehow. It can be through medium, subject matter, or time. When I locked down that I would: do characters from movies (80’s 90’s), I’m going to use markers pens white out, on old factory photo inserts. All that is left for me to do is pick a movie and create. This takes some of the stress out of the conceptual and lets me focus on the portrait.
What did you enjoy about last year's project? What challenged you?
I enjoyed all the people at the event and the social media aspect around it. I would take process photos while I worked and posted the results. The amount of daily feedback was awesome. Some of the other people and I on instagram used a #DEfunAday so I was able to keep up on other artists projects.
I think perhaps I set an unrealistic bar when it came to the quality of these portraits. I stayed up most nights till 12 or 1 to get them done. I stopped going to the gym and had to give up some Friday and Saturday nights. Through pushing myself over those 30 days I really got threw what I would call a creative slump. Taking my time getting one piece done a month. It got me refocused so I am grateful.
What made you want to participate in Delaware Fun-A-Day again?
It’s probably time I pushed myself again to see what happens. I had a great time last year. The show was awesome, too. I got to have a few drinks and, surprisingly, a lot of my friends came out that I didn’t expect. I saw some of DCAD staff I knew, and made new friends.
Any thoughts on what your Fun-A-Day project idea(s) is(are) for this year?
I’m not sure and my ADD for something different is kicking in. I am batting around some ideas, perhaps mono prints with the theme of musicians. Really I will decide last minute and hopefully I can clear my plate of other projects so I can have time to fail, adjust and still have some good work to show. You will have to wait and see and hopefully follow the social medias for my process.
As someone who has been through this experience before, how will you change your approach this year?
I think I am going to switch up scale and do thirty 24”x36” posters…kidding. I might have my 30 subjects picked before hand so I don't have to spend anytime researching and getting references.
Are there any other projects or events that you are working on in 2014?
I would like to have enough prints to do a craft/art sale but we will see. I might have to wait till it warms up a bit. I have a few places I am looking at displaying work but nothing concrete at the moment.
For more of Steven's work, visit him online at his website & facebook or follow him via instagram & twitter.