Featured Artist Interview: Alex Cesarz
I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed interviewing artist Alex Cesarz. He is young, inspiring and adventurous! We caught him as he was waiting to be processed to join the Navy – he accidentally double booked his time that day and fortunately we caught him while he was still in the lobby.
Alex creates by drawing from his imagination and then manipulating the images digitally in Photoshop. A Toledo native, I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that he is from the same very creative family that I work with on other content creation needs: his mother, Lorrie Cesarz is one of our videographers and his father Kevin with Thread Communications , has assisted us on social media strategy. Creativity is in his blood.
Laura Jajko: Hi Alex, thank you for taking the time to talk with us. Let’s start at the beginning. When did you start producing your art? How old were you?
Alex Cesarz: I started producing art since I was really little. Like, 3 years old. As early as I could pick up a crayon.
And do you remember being obsessed with it, or was art was kind of secondary?
No, it was pretty much my obsession as a kid.
Did you study art through grade school and high school? Did you pay attention in class or were you just drawing through school?
Well I did take the required art classes through elementary and high school. I also did a lot of sketching. I drew comics for my friends during the other classes.
Like comics that you would make up? Or comics that already existed, like Bugs Bunny?
I made up stuff and I’d include my friends as characters and just weird silly stuff.
Oh that’s hilarious! My brother used to do that. He used to make books that you could flip through and it looks like it’s a motion picture like cartoons. Did you do that?
I didn’t do any flip books; it was just frame by frame cartoons. "I think both of them kind of influence each other. My art and music, it’s hard to say which is more important."
In what stage of your education are you?
I went to college, starting out at Ball State and then graduated from Bowling Green in 2010.
- Alex Cesarz
Did you study art there at BG? They have an amazing program.
No, I was actually a Music major. Electronic music. It was actually music with a specialty in recording technology.
Okay! So are you related to the other Cesarz in town?
Yeah, Adam Cesarz is my brother. And yeah he’s in Indiana.
He’s your brother?
Yeah, he got a job at Sweet Water
Oh my gosh! So he would work with me and your mother in doing some of our videos here at American frame. So you probably knew all that?
I thought Adam was an only child.
-laughs- I was actually born before him, he’s my littler brother.
The things you learn! You think you know a family and then really don’t! Again – back to your art. How is it that you use your art? Have you worked as a full time artist? Or do you just create as a hobby and then try to sell online? Or do you give art as gifts? Tell me…
Oh it’s mostly a hobby. I’ve been trying to get started in that career recently - trying to make money off of it. As far as I’ve gotten with that is entering into the American Frame contest and I tried to set up a stand at the Point Place Art Walk this fall and that didn’t really go well. I didn’t sell anything…it was really bad weather at the time; it rained all day so that probably had something to do with it.
It’s hard! It’s a hard occupation and there’s a lot of competition. But it’s a matter of persistence, as I understand it, from artists who are actually thriving and supporting themselves. It can take a lot of years to build up to that point where you have a following that seeks you out and collects your work.
Yeah, if I’m not shipped out (by then) I’m going to try the Art Walk that’s coming up in the Spring and hopefully the weather will be better then. It should be a bigger crowd of people that’ll probably be more appreciative of art. So maybe it will be better there.
And also having this be your second year should be helpful. People will have seen you and will remember your work…. it just takes time to build recognition. Like with anything else, with any kind of advertising you have to have exposure at least 7 times before your brand is even recognized to just one individual. That is just one of the tenants of advertising. So I hope you keep at it because your work is really interesting. Your winning piece looks, to me, like a cloth. Like an African weaving; the composition, the coloring, the pattern and the repetition just work beautifully together. It’s very well designed and thought- out work of art.
Seriously! When you sit down to make a piece, what’s your process?
It’s not really planned or anything. When I sit down, I have a basic idea of what kind of shapes or basic angles I’m going to be working in the piece and then I just sort of channel it in different variations. I start off with squares and then I vary them slightly while sticking to the central theme that I started with
And how do you work once you start digitizing your work? Is it a process of layering?
No, nothing too elaborate. I open it up in Photoshop and then I color things in, and I might do something more complicated later but its just simple coloring in the blank spots. Everything starts out as black and white sharpie drawings.
It looks a little bit more sophisticated than a Sharpie drawing.
That’s pretty much all I did with the winning piece. It started out as Sharpie and then I added a color palette, and then I went area by area through all the white spaces and filled those in.
So you said you were a Music major. When you were at Bowling Green were you tempted at all to take any art? What was your instrument?
I played trombone and piano. Trombone was my main instrument and piano was secondary. I enjoyed piano more but there’s a lot more competition with that. There’s lots of foreign virtuoso kids, not too many people compete with the trombone.
I played the piano as a kid and I dropped it and I took it back up and I’m sorry, it is hard to play classical piano. It’s just a lot of repetition… I personally find it very challenging. But when a piece comes together, it’s beautiful and it’s so nice to connect with that instrument.
Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. I mean I still play classical piano sometimes, what I’ve been doing recently is playing open mic night. Take popular songs or folk songs and figure them out by ear and then I play and sing with my friends.
I can see now, understanding your training as a musician, when I look at the winning piece; there is the repetition and the nuance of the design that kind of mirrors what a lot of classic music can be, which is a theme, a variation of the theme and then something else kind of in the middle and then you come back to the theme but it’s a little bit different, and that’s what I see in your work.
I guess there is sort of a connection there of absolute music. All the stuff I’ve been showing off at the gallery and the art walk is all abstract and is not trying to represent anything specific or any specific objects, it’s just abstract shapes and lines. What I sort of had in mind was like, in school, the difference between absolute and programmatic music. Programmatic is something that is referred to as the composer has something in mind where as absolute is similar to abstract art.
Would you say that music has been your biggest inspiration for your work? Or is it not that defined?
I think both of them kind of influence each other. My art and music, it’s hard to say which is more important.
To my next question: How do you keep a fresh perspective, meaning when you’re working, do you ever have to deal with creative blocks?
Oh it does happen pretty often. I haven’t produced anything in couple of months actually; of course I’ve had other stuff going on in my life. I just have my, I’m working in a lot of different directions. So if I run out of inspiration for one particular thing then I can start working on something else until it comes back.
That seems to be a pretty common approach for artists; to simply walk away and do something else, and then come back with hopefully more inspiration. When you’re working with your kind of imagery, how do you know when you’re ‘finished’ with a certain piece or series, when it’s time to move on?
I guess I have a preference for making use of all the space with my work. So I guess I feel like there’s a certain, once there’s enough space taken up, I don’t know, you know, a lot of the art isn’t even finished I guess. I just show it to somebody and they like it and it might be unfinished but I just go with that. Some of them are finished, some of them aren’t. I could keep going until maybe I had too much detail and then screw it up sometimes.
I think that’s the risk – overdeveloping the work. It’s hard to know when you’re ‘finished’, when it’s time to move on.
It helps when someone else is around and I can show them my progress and get an idea of whether I should keep going or if they like it. I might like it more in its current state.
If it feels balanced or well designed?
That sounds about right.
So Alex, what would you say is your biggest accomplishment so far? Is it our contest?
That’s a pretty big one! Well, there was…I’ve been organizing…well helping with… I tried to start a Victorian tea house in the north of Toledo. It was a business idea, me and a couple of friends started. And we had a couple successful tea events; of course it didn’t really pan out – we had issues with the property owner.
Was it like an English High Tea?
Yes, that’s exactly what we were going for. I would put on a tuxedo and we had fancy china and teapots and everything and we were going to serve tea for people.
I had heard of a group doing that downtown a few years ago. Was that you?
It was slightly north of downtown on Summit Street, called ‘History House’. Yes, that was me. In the long term we were hoping to have people rent it out for events. The property is in bad shape now. The guy who owned the site shut down the business, and kicked us out, and he scrapped the wrought iron fence and everything historical on the inside, and now it’s a wreck.
Well, you should be proud. That’s such an innovative idea! Next question: How do you see your art evolving? Or have you just decided to put it on hold for a while so you can serve our country?
Once I’m all settled in and I know I’m not going to be busy all the time, I’d like to still fit in some creative stuff in whatever free time I might have. I was hoping that doing something exciting like this I would give me a little more fuel and inspiration to produce artwork.
Isn’t that the truth? Some life experience to inspire and to give you a different perspective. I would imagine with everything going on in the world, you’re going to have a lot of really interesting experiences to bring back.
I’ll be traveling, it’s either going to be the Mediterranean or Asia. So both of those I’ll probably stop in all these foreign ports and there will be a lot of art and culture to absorb there.
I have a friend whose son went to the navy last year and he LOVES it. Absolutely loves it. I hope you have that kind of great experience too.
I hope so.
I have a couple more questions for you -- it looks like were going to get through the interview. How do you decide what to charge for your work?
What I did was, I went to a couple of art walks and sought out people who I thought were at a similar skill level, or art similar to mine and looked how they were pricing it and so my stuff was around $50 to $80 dollar range from the Art Walk.
That’s smart. So, you don’t really think about the cost of producing at this point? Are you making prints yet or are you just selling your originals?
All I was selling at the art walk was prints. I already had them set up in mats and in the plastic sleeves.
Next question: When you sign up for this Featured Artist Contest, you agree that if you win, we can print up to 5 pieces of your work. As a winner, have you thought about how you would like to see your 5 pieces used?
Obviously I’d like them to go to someone who appreciates it, but I’m sorry, I haven’t really thought about it. They could be in a nice coffee shop in town or yeah, a charity would work too.
What I would like to do is some social media giveaways to raise awareness and promote your gallery. Then if you think of any particular charities that you’d like us to support with your work, you can email us later.
I haven’t really thought about what charities I’d donate to, so I’d have to consider that.
Last but not least, and I think I know how you’re going to answer this question because I was reading your profile. Any framing tips that you’d like to share with other artists?
I let other people take care of the framing, you know, when I made prints of my work for the Art Walk, I bought from your company and decided to let the customer choose the frame.
Thank you so much for taking this time with us today.
Oh it’s no problem!
I wish you the best of luck and hope to still see you posting on the site. I think you’re going in a great direction!