"People we love" is a column where we interview artists that we love, and get an exclusive sneak peek at them, their art, and their view on the world. In this installment, we meet Alex Proba, a well established visual artist that has worked with brands such as Louis Vuitton.
From a European artist based in The United States, what are, in your perspective, the main differences in the art industry between Europe vs. America?
I’ve moved to the USA almost 12 years ago now after coming from studying in the Netherlands (Design Academy Eindhoven) and I was actually very clueless about contemporary American design and what it means. I’ve learned that and experienced that American design takes itself less seriously than European design (or the design I grew up with) and lets you be a bit more playful and have a wink.
As an artist who has worked with some big brands such as Louis Vuitton and Google, how is the creative process of working with these household names? Is it intimidating?
Honestly, not really, because the worst thing that can happen is to fail and failing is a form of learning and not maligning the same errors again. Without failing, you can’t grow – it makes you better and stronger. So yes, I try to approach every project the same way, no matter how small or big.
Some of these big brands, for example, Louis Vuitton, have very well-defined traits that are obvious to the customer. Do you sometimes feel pressured to adapt your art to a certain brand?
I don't, as I don't adapt my art to a brand. I am always true to my art and design language and beliefs. I truly think if a brand approaches me, they approach me for my work and not as an extension of theirs. I am pretty clear and upfront about it. It may be my nature of being German. :) For me, it is the same as purchasing an art piece in a gallery.
Your work is an absolute mastery of color and shapes. Have you always felt comfortable mixing this many colors and shapes, or was it something you grew into with time as you developed your artistic style?
That is a great question and I’ve been asked that a lot, but I honestly think it is trial and error and, most of the time, a natural inclination for me to choose one color or pattern over another and I often do not overthink it. I trust my gut and 99% of the time, I go with the first chosen pattern or color.
The times that I actually question myself and go back and change color and patterns in my designs is when the design actually fails. I apply spatial thinking and knowledge when translating a design from one medium to another —there are certain things I’ve learned through time what to do and not to do, but all in all, it really comes naturally to me. I know it sounds crazy, but I think some people are just good at math and some are not. I am definitely not, but I think I am alright when it comes to color. :)
I am, first and foremost, a visual designer/artist and all my creations are supposed to evoke an emotion. My work is a celebration of color and pattern, which I would see as a positive stimulation of the senses.
That said, I do try to not be inspired by other visuals than what the every day gives us. It can be sound, smells as well as memories.
Sometimes all I need is a phone call with my grandmother to get my creative flow going. There is no process that I use, to be honest, I am a maker at heart, and when I create, I’m extremely happy. I try to create every single day, even if it’s only sketches of my ideas, at least it’s something. Sometimes there are moments where I use my creativity as personal therapy, sometimes when I am stuck with a project or an assignment, I try to switch gears and create something off-topic for a little while. A process would break me.
In regard to your partnership with Dulis, was this your first time venturing into the realm of footwear?
Yes, with the first collaboration – even though I worked for Nike for a couple of years, I never got to make a shoe.
What was the main inspiration for this project?
Mainly I wanted to stay true to my artwork and have them be super colorful and unexpected with layer differences in material and height. A shoe that is more a sculpture then a shoe but then again just a shoe to wear and have fun with (and be a kid and not treat it like precious and jump into the mud or puddles).
Considering your amazing repertoire of partnerships, why did you choose to work with a more lowkey brand like Dulis?
I love anything handmade and for kids and Dulis' collections and materials are just beautiful.
Does the creative process of children inspire your own art? Is it a learning experience for both sides?
I wish I could think like a kid when making my designs as they just do and not overthink and the outcomes are better than mine ;). It's so freeing to watch that and see the excitement when they do it.
Photographs by Imagenfotografi
Photographs by Imagenfotografi
It's time for some quick-fire questions:
Lasagna from my grandmother.
A single Man.
If you were not an artist, what would you like to be?
Probably marine biologist (anything with whales).
What would be your superpower, if you could have one?
Which fictional character would be the most exciting to meet in real life?
Alice in Wonderland.
Any advice for aspiring artists?
Fail, fail, fail and keep on creating.
The collab is available online.
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