Featured Artist #1 - Interview with Alga / Angus Long
In an effort to learn more about what makes other visionary artists tick, I have opened up a space where together we can explore what drives and motivates their work, and gain some perspective into how they create their unique works of art.
In this week's feature I throw a few questions at Australian visionary artist Angus Long, referred to by many as Alga. This week's interview unpacks what birthed Alga's career as a professional artist, what has inspired his path and a glance from behind the scenes of his artistic operations.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Alga : "Art and design is something I have always taken joy from producing and some of my earliest memories are that of the pencil in hand. Inspired by the children’s books of my early school years initially I concentrated on illustration, cartoons and character design, dreaming of having my work published and viewed by other children someday.
As the years went on, I did eventually experiment with colour, darker themes and different mediums. My teen years had me painting mushroom clouds, drawing disfigured creatures and running train-lines with my hood rat friends. My 20’s saw the introduction of psychedelic and visionary work in an explosion of crazy line work and colour. Though I still maintained my practice of black and white illustration, what was once contained to a finite space was now well outside of the boundaries and free to go in any direction.
Today, whilst surveying the world from the shoulders of giants, forever taking inspiration from my peers, I'm also incorporating all of the elements from my past into a style that I can now some what call my own. Specialising in a mix of visionary, psychedelic and illustrative cartoon styles. Utilising polarity and entropy together with use of line work, heavy contrast and vivid colour, I'm on a mission to produce aesthetically pleasing art that evokes emotion, portrays intention and strikes the viewer beneath the surface."
Ayjay: "I believe finding a style that is unique to you and your message is one of the hardest feats for an artist to accomplish. It's clear that you have jumped this hurdle and have a barrage of creative flow behind you. I know an Alga artwork when I see one. And yes the "Hood Rat" days. I speak from experience when it comes to jumping fences and dodging train guards. Graffiti was the essential ingredient in my childhood as well. You're on a mission to stir the internal pots of your viewers, I love it brother!"
What factors do you think played a roll in you becoming an artist?
Alga: "It seems the life of an artist tends to lend itself well to the life of an introverted person, I suppose I fit that criteria pretty well. Some of the fondest memories from both my earliest and most formative years are of those spent in solitude, more often than not with a pencil in hand. Born into a family of musicians, I lived with my Grandmother who was the only visual artist in the bunch, so Pearl was always a big influence on my trip down this particular path.
While a lot of friends were playing their various sports, I was busy creating cartoon characters, dreaming up my own landscapes and putting them down-to paper. I was also lucky to be surrounded by some decent teachers, honest guardians and great peers who encouraged my drawing.
Early primary school consisted of story books too of course, and as enjoyable as a good story can be, I was always more interested in the artwork. Before each book our teacher would always state the author and illustrator, in fact, the first time I heard the phrase “illustrated by” and discovered its meaning, I knew what I wanted to be.
Ayjay: "I agree mate, constructing artwork in most cases is somewhat of a solo mission and there is a need to find comfort in countless hours intimately with you and your craft. Your grandmother Pearl sounds like an amazing lady and what a gift to hand down to someone like yourself. Im looking forward to the day I see your artworks illustrated on a book, kids story or not I'll be grabbing a copy"
As an artist, what mediums do you work with and why?
Alga: "Currently, the majority of my work consist’s of either acrylic paint on various mediums or straight digital, though I still try to get around some aerosol from time to time when I can.
From the beginning it was always
pen and paper as most of my work was either cartoon or illustration based. Though I have experimented over the years with brushes, paint, ink, pastels, charcoals, finding some more enjoyable than others, at the end of the day I always find myself reaching back for that pen and pad. In more recent years however, this includes my drawing tablet, which is essentially just a glass textured extension of the same really."
Ayjay: "I took a moment to jump online and really have a dig through your online portfolio. It's clear you have got the mediums you work with locked down, everything I came across was so neat and tidy. There is a flow in your work that almost seems to walk me around when I'm looking at it, especially in your distinct line work. It's hard to trump traditional art making methods like pen on paper but like you said the tablet is rearing it's head and it's making a huge creative impact. The artworks I am seeing assembled digitally are nothing short of mind-blowing"
What has been your motivation for creating art?
Alga: "Firstly and most simply put, it's just what I enjoy doing, the very act of producing art is a cathartic experience for me and that in itself motivates me to practice it regularly. Secondly, for others pleasure really, to garner a reaction or evoke an emotion from someone, that connection is gratifying. Thirdly and to an extent, everything I’m surrounded by. It’s all a push to manifest from my perspective, one can find motivation and inspiration even in the seemingly mundane provided they’re looking from the right perspective. The creative spirit both inside of and around us is immense.
Ayjay: "For the sheer joy of the art making process, what more can be said really? Love it!"
What does your art-making process look like?
Aside from a bipedal monkey with terrible posture, hunched over a desk smashing coffee? ;) Well, that can vary a little in itself but generally it will consist of me receiving a blast of mental visuals or a general vision, sometimes vivid, sometimes a little vague. Either way, an initial image of which I then put to paper in the form of a quick sketch. Though sometimes it can sit in that initial sketch for an extended period of time, it will generally be turned into a more detailed piece sooner than later. So, initial and mental concept, down to quick sketch, then onto more detailed sketching until I'm happy enough for final fill and or outline.
Ayjay: "A bipedal monkey with terrible posture, hunched over a desk smashing coffee? Despite efforts to adjust the way I construct artworks, afraid I have to agree with you there! As a species it is visibly clear how we have evolved well overtime but in relation to art making process it needs some serious developments. You're speaking my language with the time between the initial ideas and their completion. Personally, this can take days, weeks or years for me to complete."
Who or what inspires the work you create?
Alga: "It’s tricky to give any singular answer, I find both our physical and mental states of reality fascinating, to be cognisant at all is inspiring alone and almost every facet of both worlds inspire me in one form or another. With that said, some notable inspirations of mine would of course be other artist's too, both visionary and otherwise.
In all honesty, I would consider you (Ayjay) one those very artist’s and I’m stoked to have now connected. In fact, recently I decided I’d reach out to a few particulars, yourself included, in the hope’s of a forming a crew of like minded, like visioned artist’s and to my pleasure that’s really taking off down the right path. That in itself has a good fire burning beneath me and I’m most definitely inspired at the moment. The graffiti world also inspire’s me as they’re consistently pushing boundaries and taking thing’s to the next level. To see what some are doing with aerosol now is simply mind boggling."
Ayjay: "So pleased to hear that I add fuel to your art flame mate, that's all I am interested in doing really. Making art that tells my truths and lifting others up in the process. To connect with the crew of visionaries Alga has assembled check us out on instagram at @taken_by_aliens"
What piece of artwork do you think is your best work and why?
Alga: "Without sounding too cliche, barring quick doodles and murals, I’d say which ever it is that I’m currently working on. Ideally I’d like every new work of mine to represent the effort involved and some form of growth if possible. In which case we’ll just go with my last completed digital effort, which is almost two sister pieces really, I titled them “Click, Clack” and “Knick, Knack”.
Ayjay: "Impressive work make, I have seen these stripy men in my journeys among the abyss"
If you could travel back to the beginning of your artistic journey and share one piece of advice with yourself, what would it be?
Alga: "Again a hard one to answer, I try my best not to regret anything from my journey thus far, all of it made me who I am today of course, our growth is hindered without the opportunity to learn from our mistakes. But in all honesty I’d likely tell him to either leave school at the first opportunity or perhaps finish for finishings sake, but knuckle down either way once done. That his life will be nothing like the generations that came before him, that the curriculum he's under is a joke and designed in essence to create factory workers. I'd tell him to listen to his own intuition and trust it over the nay sayers, treat his "crazy ideas" more like goals, pursue said thoughts and most importantly don’t become a complacent player. After all it's just a big playground, the game has some rules sure but it's not worth spending your life at a soul crushing yet "safe job", just to get that proverbial picket fence, take the leap sooner. All that good stuff.
Ayjay: Well said, I couldn't agree more. If there are any educators out there reading this, please do everything you can to empower the children you teach. It is your job, but it is their life and future"
Before we wrap this up, is there anything else you would like to add?
Alga: "Firstly to say thank you for both the invite and opportunity to jump on your platform for a feature mate, it’s greatly appreciated. Secondly, that our crew TBA is now taking shape, that between ourselves and all the other incredible artist’s on board (pun actually wasn’t intended but I’ll take it) everyone should be keeping their eyes on TAKEN BY ALIENS. We’re living through some pretty exciting.. somewhat terrifying, yet still exciting times none the less. Look after yourself and each other, peace!"
Ayjay: "Oh we are taking flight alright, next stop hyperspace!! It has been an absolute pleasure to step inside your art world mate, Thank you!"
Lastly, how can people connect with you and view more of your work?
Beside viewing and contacting me through my website you can always find my work on the various social platforms, I’ll list them below. I would say Instagram’s likely the best way to keep up to date with my latest work and any other movement I may make.
Website // www.aglaart.com
Facebook // algaartworks
Twitter // ArtistAngus
TikTok // @algaart
YouTube // Angus Long
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