With work for brand giants like Disney, Sony, and Marvel under his belt, artist Alex Solis is no doubt a rising talent making serious waves within the art world. Following a natural illustration talent discovered in childhood, the Milwaukee, Wisconsin native has since seen his work featured in galleries and published via two successful Kickstarter projects. Next up? His very own Threadless Artist Shop, which showcases his increasingly popular Famous Chunkies designs for purchase on t-shirts. Read on to learn more about Alex, his background, and his work, and be sure to check out his Artist Shop here!
Hi, Alex! Welcome to Threadless Artist Shops. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m 31 years old, have been drawing for 32 years, and dancing for 17. I’m originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and now live in Chicago. I’m married with two kids (who also act as unofficial Creative Directors), and I work at Threadless!
What are your first memories of art? Do you recall how you initially got into it?
I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. As a kid, instead of toys, I would ask my mom to buy me a stack of white print papers. I didn’t really draw anything complete; I would more so draw stories, drawing them out as fast as I could without caring how it looked as the story went on. In the end, it looked like a bunch of doodles on paper. I don’t think my mom saved any; she thought I was just scribbling all over papers. She honestly thought I was crazy at times, ha!Did you have any formal training along the way, or is most of your talent instinctive?
Most of it has been instinctive, and trying new stuff on my own. However, I took as many classes as I could during college, and I’m always trying to attend figure drawing classes or other courses, many of which have helped a lot with my art.
Tell us a little bit about your typical process: do you usually hand-draw ideas first? Create in Photoshop? etc.
I’ve created a lot of my recent work digitally using both a Cintiq and Photoshop, which makes drawing feel a lot more natural. Usually If I get a good idea, I’ll doodle it down quick and then work on it later on. I try to do as much traditional work as possible. Check out my video below that gives a glimpse into my process!
What inspired the “Famous Chunkies” collection, and why is this project important to you?
While watching a Ninja Turtles cartoon with my daughter, we kept making fun of them and wondering they were so fast and in shape when their diet consists mainly of pizza. I felt like it was sending the wrong message to kids, and I noticed a lot of others cartoons did the same thing. At first I started the project with the intention of creating only one Ninja Turtle illustration, but it was too much fun to stop there! The project has been getting a ton of attention, but I don’t just focus on this one particular project; I’m currently working on about six other on-going series. I always trying to stay busy! :D
In what ways do you believe art can be a vessel for teaching kids meaningful messages?
Kids pick up on things so quickly, even just by sight, and especially if it interests them. I try to keep my kids away from watching specific TV shows that I feel are bad and send out wrong messages, and instead involve them in the art I create. That’s why a lot of the stuff I do tends to have a message behind it. I worked on another on-going project called Signs and Doodles, featuring the American sign language alphabet with illustrations interacting with each of the letter hand gestures. My daughter helped with the project, and picked up the alphabet pretty quickly on her own along the way.
How is your Threadless Artist Shop different from any other ways you’ve sold your work thus far?
It really helps strengthen my personal brand, especially because it’s only my brand present, so I don’t have to worry about diluting it through association with other brand names within the shop. I was even able to assign my own domain name which redirects to my shop (famouschunkies.com), so it really helps me maintain a strong brand identity. It’s also great for easily managing my work without limitations or worrying out logistics like printing and shipping, which is a huge help to any artist trying to start up their own brand.
We gotta know: who’s your favorite Famous Chunkie?
I love the first one I created, which was Raphael, since he started the series and set the tone of how they’d all look, even though I didn’t initially plan to make these illustrations a series when I created him. However, I created Batman next (“Chunky Knight”), and visually it has been one of my favorites. I used the Ninja Turtle as a base template of the shape when I created Batman.
In your free time you’re a badass b-boy. How does this creative outlet in turn inspire your illustrations?
I used to be a ton more active with dancing, but I do still compete and try to practice at least once a week. It goes hand in hand with my art, since I’m able to create my own movements and sets. Plus, it’s a huge stress reliever, and rewards me a few hours to forget the million projects I have going on. Ha!
Any other shout-outs?
A big shout-out to all the artists and friends I continue to meet and be inspired by on a daily basis through Threadless. It’s more than just a website, and it has become a huge part of my life. I hope others are able to benefit through Threadless as much as I have, especially with Artist Shops, which is a huge opportunity for all artists everywhere. I can’t wait to see what comes from it!