Known for his terrifyingly dark, yet incredibly bright and colorful creations, artist Alex Pardee has made quite the name for himself, with his “Brightmares.” Grotesque, yet gorgeous, Pardee’s work can be seen in films like Adam Green’s Digging Up the Marrow and Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, as well as art galleries and clothing. Teaming up with Loot Crate for the relaunch of their Loot Fright subscription boxes, Pardee has now designed his take on various holiday icons, with Mr. Kramp, being his first demented creation.
We were lucky enough to chat with Pardee about how the pandemic has affected the convention experience, his collaboration with Loot Crate, and the juxtaposition between dark imagery with bright colors. Read on!
WICKED HORROR: How has not only the pandemic, but the world literally being on fire right now affected your art and the whole convention circuit for you?
ALEX PARDEE: It mostly affects me mentally. I’m a recluse by nature. Working from home has been my job for as long as I can remember, with the exception of outside studios and stuff. It has affected me a little bit mentally, but as far as like the convention thing and I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to make it negative into a positive, because there’s definitely nothing positive about this, but it’s a little bit of light as far as having switched over to doing virtual conventions. A lot of people are doing that, creating our own virtual events in this time is kind of like a weird Wild West, where we can kind of do whatever we want and figure it out along with everybody else. It’s actually been really refreshing. People are at home, looking for something to kind of distract them as well, so they’re way more willing to participate in something like this, from a distance. Instead of San Diego Comic-Con, which I’ve gone to for 20 years, I put on my own event with a friend of mine and we called it No-Con, because there was literally no convention and we did it, a 10-day event. We did it through on Twitch and had different events and different streaming art demos, and guest stars everyday. It was amazing to have people from around the world being able to participate in something when they could never go to Comic-Con.
WICKED HORROR: Can you speak on the experience of doing that really awesome mural for Pow! Wow Hawaii? How it came about and how the experience was. It seems like it was something really awesome for you.
ALEX PARDEE: Oh yeah, it was great. I have a graffiti background from years and years ago, but when I was doing it, in the nineties and early 2000’s, nothing was really on the scale of what it is now. I was asked to participate in Pow!Wow! Hawaii, which is a thing they have in multiple cities, but started in Hawaii and it’s a mural festival that focuses on smaller, lower end communities. Kind of brightening them up and working with the local businesses, working with the local community on securing spaces to paint big murals. When I was invited to do that, an opportunity to paint a 40 foot by 30 foot wall, I was extremely excited, but also very overwhelmed. It’s one of those things where I just have to be like, “Yes, I can do that,” and then seriously type on Google “How do I do this?!” It was definitely a learning experience, but I went down there with my girlfriend and another friend of mine, which just helped and kind of morally supported me through it. It was awesome.
WICKED HORROR: In horror, there’s this odd belief that everything has to be dark and gloomy. Heavy on the black, devoid of any color. What I’ve always appreciated about your work is how f*cking bright it is! The colors are just beautiful. Was your background in graffiti, maybe an inspiration for that aesthetic that you’re so well known for, these “Brightmares,” as you call them?
ALEX PARDEE: I’m not sure. Ironically, my graffiti was really dark. Dark backgrounds, dark colors and I did a lot of bones. It really was a little bit more horrific actually. I think that my aesthetic that I’m known for now comes from the reaction I got when I started playing around with color. I’ve always been as equally in love with terribly frightening, dark, disgusting horror movies as I am with 1930s happy, weird colors, so I’m kind of mixing those two elements. When I first doing that, the reaction that I got was just confusing. People didm’t know how to feel and would say, “There are bright colors, but it’s gross, I don’t get it.” I liked that reaction. So I kept doing it because I liked it, it made me happy.
So that just kind of like, you know, became what I did. I like bright dark subject matters, and bright colors.
WICKED HORROR: I think “Brightmares” is the perfect way to describe that aesthetic.
ALEX PARDEE: It was really hard for me to encapsulate, when people would say, “What do you do? What kind of art do you do?” I never really had a word for it before, until I came up with brightmares, it’s a bright nightmare.
WICKED HORROR: Most definitely. You know, Krampus is such a great, folkloric figure. It lends itself to such interesting interpretations. You recently designed a new figure for Loot Crate. How did that collaboration come about?
ALEX PARDEE: Working with Loot Crate was great. I always admire Loot Crate for the fact that they basically created this brand new business model years ago that nobody had done before. It was like, Whoa, you can just make a subscription, it was a really cool, new thing. Since then, it’s been replicated a million times and it’s great, but I had this admiration of them for a long time. I realized that I had some mutual friends that worked there, with mutual respect for each other, so when they reached out to me recently and was like, “Hey, we’re relaunching our loot fright boxes and we wanted to get you involved somehow, do you have any ideas of how you could be involved, if you want to look at the properties or anything?”I’m always kind of pushing my own lore, half of my work is pop culture-based art, but the other half is my own on stuff, my own stories, and my own characters. So I looked at this as an opportunity to pitch them an idea that I’ve been working on called Monster Season, where basically I’m creating new lore out of existing holiday icons. They went for it. The first one that we’re working on is Mr. Kramp, which is actually not Krampus. It’s got a little bit of a twist to it. It’s basically my take on if I could design a Krampus. I’m very excited about that.
WICKED HORROR: One of my favorite pieces that you’ve done recently, really speaks on just how awful 2020 has been and that’s your “Best Year Ever” piece. The first time I saw that, I couldn’t help but to laugh. It encapsulates everything and how insane all of this has been.
ALEX PARDEE: I was scribbling that, and I thought that this is the first time in my life and the first time in a lot of peoples’ lifetime, where it’s such a global event. No matter where you are in the world, you’re dealing with this on some level, what’s going on right now. So it just kind of made sense, that we’re all being unified by tragedy now. It’s depressing.
WICKED HORROR: I just wanted to ask one more question. Your art and designs were my favorite part of Adam Green’s Digging Up the Marrow. Are there any other plans for you to inject your creations into other films and mediums?
ALEX PARDEE: I always want to take my art into new directions and new media and do stuff. So I am always on the lookout for how I can expand. How can I keep building my world in other forms of media? Working on Digging up the Marrow was amazing and since then, I’ve actually have been pitching cartoons and pitching some work that I’m developing into some live action stuff with some other companies and stuff. So yeah. There are things in the works. We’ll see!