Alex D. Araiza is an illustrator and cartoonist. He grew up in San Antonio, TX, but moved up to Minneapolis, MN, for college. Though, financially, school was a bust, he has found he very much enjoys the comic and art scene the city has to offer. You can find his portfolio and comic online. He provided art for this week's story, "Sweet Marrow" by Vajra Chandrasekera.
This interview was conducted by email in June 2016.
Tory Hoke: As an illustrator, how did you get where you are today?
Alex Araiza: I went to Minneapolis College of Art and Design for film. I started off as someone who wanted to be a screenwriter, funny enough. Though I still love to write, I find myself drawing way more than writing. I made a poor choice in my major, obviously, but fortunately I was able to get into plenty of wonderful illustration and cartooning classes along the way to my diploma.
Tory Hoke: Your horror illustrations achieve a potent effect with seemingly simple gestures. What attracts you to these ideas? What goes into planning them?
Alex Araiza: I have a deep fear of the dark and death overall. I guess I could say my horror drawings are an exercise in trying to tackle what I fear, but sometimes drawing the monsters I draw is more a form of distraction. My thoughts are constantly dashing about from one worry to another, and suddenly with a trick of a shadow I wonder if monsters can be real—then maybe so can heaven?
Usually an illustration starts merely as a thought. What if there was something out my window watching me? What if there really was something down the hallway right now? What would I do if something dark and long suddenly appeared in the sky above me? It’s terrifying, but also a bit comforting to still be scared by what seems impossible.
Tory Hoke: Your comics are charming and painfully honest at the same time. What drives you to make comics? What effect do you hope they have with your readers?
Alex Araiza: Creating the comics I do, it’s definitely a way to cope with stress and mourning. Usually it’s a way for me to say things I’m too embarrassed to say out loud or outright tell someone about. The thing is, I’m not really looking for people’s sympathy, and I usually just want people to know what is happening. Whether it’s a journal comic or fiction, I just want people to learn something from my haphazard explanation about who I am, the people I love, or the world we live in.
Tory Hoke: What is the art community like where you are?
Alex Araiza: The art community in Minneapolis, MN, is brilliant!
Because I went to Minneapolis College of Art and Design, I ended up with a bunch of incredible and encouraging artists as friends. We started a collective. It’s called Plus Dog Collective and we use it as a tool to encourage each other not to give up on making art, no matter where we are stuck financially or emotionally. It’s been hard for each of us, but good friends can be a strong enough distraction to keep you from letting go and leaving everything behind.
Tory Hoke: What other artists inspire or interest you?
Alex Araiza: I visit a lot of artists over and over, but I definitely have some main ones. I’m attracted to Francisco Goya’s tackling of fear, Stephanie Hans's seamless ability to paint beautiful commercial work, KC Green’s funny, dark, and surreal comics, and Junji Ito’s ability to create horror that stays in your thoughts for days and days.
Other than that, my headphones are a nonstop delivery of atmospheric music and comedy podcasts.
Tory Hoke: What would you like to see more of in contemporary F/SF art?
Alex Araiza: I’m really looking forward to more people of color in main character roles. As a kid, I had always assumed people to be dark-skinned unless forced by the story to believe otherwise. As an adult I would really appreciate the normalization of what already exists normally in the world outside of fiction. Representation is important, it helps to normalize people you didn’t happen to grow up with.
I also appreciate a book with a bit of humor. As life, as dark and hard as it is, seems always to have room for some level of mirth, no matter how bitter.
Tory Hoke: What's your dream project?
Alex Araiza: My dream project . . . That’s a hard one to pin down as I have a wandering, wanting mind. I’m never short on ideas, but I really would love the chance to work on a set of large wood panels. I have this idea of painting each member of my immediate family. I want to capture each of them in these archetype roles life seems to have led them into—visit the idea of representation in media and discuss this weird feeling of actually growing up and getting to see the humanity of your parents and siblings.
Tory Hoke: What's next for you?
Alex Araiza: Besides continually updating my weekly comic, "The Autobiography of a Ghost," I’m also starting a new science fiction comic.
It’s about three young friends who are growing up on an earth long abandoned by those who could escape its environmentally damaged surface. Every main character is a person of color, but that’s kind of a common habit I have in everything I create. The comic is still in the storyboarding stage, so it’ll be a while before it’s available online anywhere, but definitely look out for it next year if not in the next few months.
Tory Hoke: Thank you for your time, Alex! It's been a pleasure.