About the artist
This week we feature the ‘Cultural Mashups’ of Todd Alcott. Todd lived in Illinois as a youngster before moving to New York City as a playwright, and then to Los Angeles as a screenwriter. Todd describes his artwork as “Ephemera set to music“; a combination of song lyrics with repurposed print media. He meticulously matches the texture and colour of the source images to create pulp-fiction style book covers; amongst which you will find classics by David Bowie, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, and more besides.
How did you first get into digital art?
I’ve always been a visual artist, but a few years ago I had the idea to make fake album covers for my cats. Just to amuse myself. I’d take a picture of my cats, and then I’d turn it into a fake album cover. People thought the covers were funny, and eventually they started to ask me to make posters and album covers and things.
Why did you choose digital art as your medium?
I draw and paint and work in collage, but having kids meant that I didn’t have the room to have a separate studio. So I learned to make art without having to leave my desk.
Tell us about the process you use to make your art.
I think of a song, and then I think of a good image from the past that would go with that song. Conversely, I’ll sometimes come across an image and think “Oh, that’s perfect, I need to match that to a song.” Then I’ll start to work, beginning with a blank canvas, I will take elements from all kinds of digital media, photos and scans and textures; I’ll shape, edit and mould all these things until it looks like a ‘real thing’, like it was something that was created a long time ago for a specific song.
What artistic styles are you particularly drawn to?
Mid-century illustration, mid-century modern design, that stuff has never been beat.
What is your artistic motivation?
The idea that an artist can have a feeling, then encode that feeling into a work of art. When a viewer comes along and finds the art, decodes it and experiences the same feelings that the artist had while creating it? That’s an everyday miracle.
Of all your images to date, which is your favourite and why?
I don’t know if it’s my favourite, but the piece I did for “Comfortably Numb” came very quickly, with great clarity, and was really effective. It was one of the few times when I thought “People are really going to get this.” And then that was, of course, the first piece that bootleggers stole to sell on bootleg websites.
What memorable responses to your artwork have you had?
I love it when people think what I’ve made is ‘a real thing’; when they think there’s a real book or a real advertisement or a real movie poster, and they have to look twice to see that, no, I’ve created something. That’s really all I’m trying to do, is to hold the viewer’s eye long enough to see what I’ve done.
How do you think you’ve improved as an artist compared to when you first started?
Most of what I do is match textures. Different books from different eras were printed on different papers, using different printing techniques and different inks, and those all look different in reproduction. So a lot of what I do is figure out how to counterfeit those textures, figure out how to make my piece look more real, more of its time.
What devices/equipment do you use to create your art?
It’s just me and my Mac, and my Wacom tablet.
Which apps/programs do you use to create your art and which are your favourites?
I could not live without Photoshop. I’ve heard of people using other programs with great satisfaction, but it’s too late for me to change now.
And finally, do you use images from stock sites as well as your own photos and if so, which are your favourites and why?
I don’t go to stock sites very often, but I do scroll through Tumblr many times a day. There are people there who post good scans of midcentury ephemera every day, all kinds of stuff, magazine covers, book covers, advertisements, movie posters, anything you can think of. I could look up all those things if I wanted to, but I like the random nature of discovery, it sparks ideas I might not otherwise have.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and artwork with us, Todd!
Find more of Todd’s fabulous work using the links in his Artists’ Directory entry.