The Others

Meet the Others: Alex Selkowitz

The Game Changers. The Rule Breakers. The Innovators. Discover some of the fantastic emerging talent showcasing their work at The Other Art Fair.

Alex Selkowitz is a contemporary painter living in Los Angeles. He is inspired by the cities juxtaposition of urban sprawl and green spaces. His process begins with snapshots of his surroundings, which are sketched, and used as studies for his paintings.

By the time the image makes its way to canvas, it has undergone various stages of fragmentation to disrupt the linear elements in a composition. The result is a striking image negotiating the balance between physical encounter and a faded memory.

Q&A with the Artist

Tell us about who you are and what you do. What is your background?

My name is Alex Selkowitz.  I currently live in Los Angeles with my wife and son.  For the past 20 years or so I have worked in the film industry working on lighting crews for television and movies.  I have always loved visual mediums such as drawing, film, comics and even video games.  I did not get the fine art bug until later on in my life, but once I did all these of these passions coalesced together on top of that.   The compositional elements of cinema, the extreme perspective lines contained in a panel of a comic book, or the bright surreal palette of a computer game combined with my love of light and shadow from years in the film industry, and have helped me form a style where I am able to express myself fully.  

What are the major themes your pursue in your work?

If I had to pick a theme it would be stillness.  Some people find my paintings calm while others get a sense of isolation.  I would like to think if someone has my painting hanging in their house or sees it at a fair or gallery that they just stop for one minute in their busy life and simply reflect.

How did you first get interested in your medium and what draws you to it specifically?

I started painting at first through watercolor.  For me it was incredibly difficult to learn.  Despite the difficulty I was infatuated with the idea of pushing paint around on canvas or paper or whatever!  I moved to acrylic, which was a little more my style, but dried too quick.  I eventually took the leap to oil paint.  There are two things I like about oil paint in particular.  The first is that you can paint as thick and buttery as you want or thin it down to an almost watercolor like consistency.  The second is the drying time.  I often will work on three or four paintings at once so this suits my style.  

How has your style and practice changed over the years?

Over time my style has become more refined to suit my tastes.  I attempt to not paint anything too specific because I like the viewer to lend their own interpretation to the piece.  People have told me that my artwork has invoked memories of childhood or that a painting has reminded them of a place they have been but can’t quite remember.  I love that.  The main thing that I focus on while painting these days is to occasionally stop, put my brush down and step back and actually look at what I am doing.

Can you walk us through your process? How long do you spend on one work? How do you know when it’s finished?

Usually it starts with a number of photos that I will pull from to make some thumbnail sketches, drawings etc on my iPad.  I enjoy the digital sketchbook because it allows an undo ability and I am more free to try different approaches.  I also like to crudely make 3d models on my computer sometimes and light it.  This allows me to see what the shape of a shadow might be on a chair for instance.  Once I have some notes to pull from I make a grid and transfer it onto my canvas or board.   From there the painting changes as I keep drawing and building and then scraping and removing until I get a painting I like. 

It’s hard to say an exact time, some paintings seem to come together quick and others seem to take forever.  Often the ones I end up not liking I will sand down and paint over them.  It’s hard to say when I think a painting is done.  Sometimes I will ask my wife what she thinks or I might just “feel” that I can’t add anything else to it.  I have to force myself to just leave the studio occasionally and come back to it later and see what I think.

What series or project are you working on next?

I do not have a specific project coming up next, but I am always working on something!  I would like to start a series of nocturne paintings.  

What is the best advice given to you as an artist?

“Nothing is precious.” Unfortunately, I do not know who coined this phrase, but I heard it a long time ago and I always liked it.  My interpretation of it is simply to take chances, don’t get caught up in one part of the composition.  Be okay with making mistakes, learning from them and then fixing it.  Make the painting work as a whole.  Some of my favorite paintings have come from following this mindset.


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