In our third installment of our Live Art Wednesdays artist interview series, we chat with Alex Rosmarin, the pragmatic penciler. In asking the same questions to each artist, it is interesting to see how each artist got their start just doodling very young and progressed from there.
Give us a short rundown of who you are. How long have you lived in Oakland? Did you go to school for art or are you self taught? How has your upbringing and life experience worked it’s way into your art?
While I’ve live in the Bay Area for most of my life, I first moved to Oakland when I started at CCAC in the the 90’s, and, give or take a few years, have never left.
I think the most influential element of my upbringing was the lack of a television in the house. In the absence of TV, I went to comic books for my visual pop culture fix, which led to keeping sketchbooks by age 10, which led me to where I am now.
Describe the piece hanging in the Oaklandish Store. What did you make it from? Where did you make it? Does it represent any larger themes?
The piece in the Oaklandish store is called “Nest.” It’s pencil on paper. I like to keep my material process simple, my art is about the image more than the medium. I made it at home; I’ve never had a separate studio.
“Nest” came to me as a vague abstract image. All I knew at the beginning was that I wanted to do a dark cluster with branching and dangling forms in the middle of a white field. I also wanted the title integrated with the cluster. I made a few studies in my sketchbook, working out the titles and images simultaneously, jumped up to larger sheets of paper, and when the time came to push one of them to completion for the show, “Nest” was closest to being ready.
The themes of my work really only become clear in retrospect. That is, I usually start with a a visual idea, and some feeling I associate with it, and fill in the rest as I make the piece. “Nest” has a conflicting feelings of protection and threat. The characters are supported, but clambering away from a potentially deadly drop. The giant bird swooping down is more abstracted than the rest of the elements, so it seems to be less real than the nest and the characters, but it still is overwhelming and threatening.
How did you get started with Live Art Wednesdays? Is this your first experience with producing live art?
I was at Live Art Wednesdays from the first week onwards, at Obi Kauffmann’s invitation, and was there whenever I could make it, whether I was on the schedule or not. It reminds me of art school, sitting around a picnic table with my friends between classes, passing sketchbooks around. There’s a fun, collaborative vibe, and I end up making things I didn’t expect.
Is your process for live art any different than your process done from home/in your studio? Do you enjoy one style over the other?
I like to be completely alone with my work, in a bustling cafe, doing Live Art Wednesdays, and so on… Because they’re all different, they all stay fresh and inspiring. One thing I especially liked about drawing at Oaklandish was getting feedback from people who wouldn’t end up at one of my shows
Do you have a favorite current visual artist in Oakland?
Mmmm… I don’t have a single favorite Oakland artist, but I just saw Scott Hove’s most recent show and it knocked me out, so he’s my favorite for the moment.
What does it mean to you to be Oaklandish? Is it a style? A mindset? An attitude? Or something completely different all together?
My experience of Oaklandish is drawing goofy cartoons while a hip hop show is happening all around me, nipping out to an awesome food cart, handing out cards to totally strangers, drawing animals for little kids, and on and on for hours