From the bold and stylized lines of his Slackers series, to the soft strokes and quiet emotions of Love Story, Hertz Alegrio’s art reflects on and explores the struggles of youthful boredom, love, and friendships. Dabbling in many different mediums and styles, Alegrio creates works that are accessible and versatile while still retaining their feelings of intimacy and emotional vulnerability.
Can you tell us a little about your background and how you became involved with art?
I was born in the Philippines but my family uprooted to Southern California when I was three. My parents aren’t artists - my mom is in the medical field and my dad’s background was in engineering - but coming from an immigrant background we had to get creative to make do with what we had. My dad made things, my mom decorated from thrift stores and yard sales, and they both sewed and patched up our clothes. We were pretty DIY, but for our family that wasn’t a deliberate aesthetic. It was survival. That type of environment instilled a work ethic in my sister and I, who have translated it into our current fields: fashion and visual arts. Though my parents weren’t professional creatives, they nurtured, encouraged, and supported our interests in the arts.
Your early work was often was more realistic, rendered and quiet. Over the years while you have progressed, it has become very vibrant and extremely stylized. How did this transition begin, and are you happy with the direction you’re heading in?
I think the realistic work came from wanting to prove to myself and to others that I could draw my ass off, but I also think it reflected my emotions at the time. I was a pretty lonely teen and so naturally that came out in the images I produced. There is a quiet beauty to sadness that I wanted to capture. As I grew older, I realized the somber images I was making weren’t helping my depression. To remedy that I thought about what made me happy as a kid and that was cartoons. I had piles of sketchbooks from elementary to middle school of cartoons, so it was a natural transition. It wasn’t a drastic change, my work was slowly going in that direction anyway. I’m still interested in melancholy, but now I’m more interested in how it can be presented in a more subtle way. My current work is colorful and designed, but there’s still an underlying current of ennui, discontent, and displeasure. And though the characters are more stylized, there’s still a sense of realism.
Your new series of drawings seems to capture those in-between, spontaneous moments with friends. From drawings of stick n poke tattoos to picking up packs of beer, it almost looks you are following your friends around and illustrating the events of one day. Can you tell us a little about the project and the feeling you were trying to convey?
The series was for a class at Art Center College of Design called Illustrative Storytelling taught by the amazing Jeffrey Smith. The assignment was to illustrate a day in the life of something or someone. I decided on depicting my friends. The series is a bit fictional, but as with all fiction there’s a kernel of truth. My friends are suggested to be young slackers who spend their days doing nothing but skate around, drink, smoke, and lounge about. It’s a celebration of slackerdom! But slackers my friends are not. They’re some of the hardest working people I know. They just look great and make fantastic models.
Where do you draw your inspiration from? Do your friends and real life experiences strongly influence your work?
It’s hard for me not to be influenced by my friends, either by their ideas or their work, but a lot of my recent imagery has revolved around certain characters with suburban frustration. I grew up in Orange County and I’ve been trying to get as far away from the suburbs since I ventured past the orange curtain into Los Angeles. As a kid I hated the staleness of the place, but now that there’s enough distance (in miles and years) I’m starting to embrace the strange beauty of Southern Californian suburbs. Aside from that, comics are a huge inspiration and cartoonists like Michael Deforge and Patrick Kyle are heavy (but subtle) influences.