From the pages of the 2018 Surf Annual, we would like to introduce Alex Ewen as our first Artist Profile. From pouring pints at Tofino Brewery, surfing Long beach with her ladies, and creating art in the smoke pit, Alex Ewen has spread her roots in the Tourist Mecca of Tofino and is here to stay. For more on her unique illustrations and designs, scroll down for the full scoop.
Tell me a little about yourself; where did you grow up, and what do you do?
My name is Alex, “Alexandra” if you have the time. I grew up outside a small town in Alberta called Bragg Creek. The place is stunning and overlooks the Rocky Mountains. My dad moved us to a property when I was 3 or so, I can’t remember, probably drunk on apple juice or something… We lived in a trailer while my parents built our house. Dad and mom always had a huge appreciation for mother nature and built a house that ran fully off the grid using wind and solar power. The house was also built into a hill to take advantage of the geothermal power and faced south for maximum sun exposure. We were pretty secluded, so I spent most my time drawing or hanging out with the horses down the road. At times my brother and I felt like the oddballs out. Kids at school would bring their new Gameboys, while my brother and I would bring jars of leaches we found down by the swamp, or our moms barbecued cookies (which were pretty tasty..and a little smoky). Looking back it was the coolest way to live. Why watch TV when you could be chest deep in a muddy swamp?
What does a typical day in the Smoke Pit look like?
I live with five roommates so space can be limiting. My bedroom is my workspace, also known as the “Smoke Pit”. The name sort of came out of the woodwork, I can’t really put a finger on it but I’m pretty sure one of my roommates gave my room the name;).
I try to start the day with a good long walk on the beach, then it’s home for some coffee and some good tunes (music is the mojo in the Pit). I try and draw once a day, even if I have projects on the go. It helps keep the creativity moving and helps me stay true to my own style. Once the coffee is in the system I get to work. Depending on the project I might be in the pit for hours, coming out on the other side ready for a sunset surf. Time in the Pit depends on my creative projects, and on my work schedule at the Brewery, which is my other job.
Your work has a unique edge to your subject matter that most would not express in there work. Do you feel that is why your work stands out so much more than others?
Throughout my life, I have always drawn. Art was the only class in which I really excelled. Additionally, my mom who is a curator and has always been in the art industry constantly took my brother and me to museums and art shows. We have exposure to other artists extreme ideas and mind-warping concepts from a young age. I think seeing those artist work, gave me the fuel to really let it rip… If you feel something, express it, show the world what you’ve got, make people question it and themselves. We have become so accustomed to being comfortable in our own bubbles that I think it’s important to pop those comfort zones. I hope my art does that to people.
What inspires your work?
The state of our environment really fuels my art inspiration. I find it so bizarre that we abuse the only thing that can keep us alive. We know we are doing damage but refuse to change our course. The self-absorption, over-consumption, the fake “go green” sales marketing schemes and garbage we produce, makes me boil. It is those issues that get me inspired and make me want to change things through a visual format. I like when something looks beautiful and appealing to the eye but has an undertone of sickness. Similar to the ocean, she’s a beauty but she has a lot of garbage and illness hiding underneath it all.
You are pretty set up in Tofino, do you feel its a place you would like to live for an extended period of time?
This place is insane with its extreme landscapes to combine with a chill local vibe made up of outdoor enthusiast, contrasted against with the booming tourism industry and everyone trying to grab the last piece of Tofino for themselves. It makes me laugh. Lost of us have come here to escape the “rat race” and be one with nature, but then find ourselves back on the wheel, either hustling for tips or trying to slap the word “Tofino” on anything we can sell. But what the heck, the place is dope, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. The community makes it for me, everyone is so supportive not to mention everyone here has the craziest secret talents. I am always blown away, your barista has BA, your server is a Biologist, and your boat driver is an Engineer. It’s very humbling.
Tell me about your creative process from starting a new piece to finish?
Ugh, I swear I spend 95% of the time mustering in my head and then telling my self its a wack idea. I often wake up in the middle of the night, panicked and needing to draw everything that is swirling in my mind. It’s hard for me to turn off my artist thoughts. I get so frustrated with how short a time we have on this planet and I have so many ideas I want to see through. Then there’s “real life” and I need to pay bills and feed myself… it’s tuff;).
On a good day, I just start drawing and see where it takes me. Then I normally switch over to digging through old film and idea boards, which usually leads to a “black hole” of creating until hours have gone by and I need a break.
What have you been working on as of late?
I just finished a busy couple months, drawing up Mexican wrestlers for a new Growler for Tacofino and Tofino Brewing Co and then finished up on a snowboard graphic for Dope Snowboards. Its been wild and so fun seeing the scope of my art, and who’s down for the cause.
Any new projects on go?
At the moment I have a couple of design projects on the go, one which involves branding for a local Shaper & Ding Repair shop (“Ding Daddy”). It’s for a friend which always makes the job a lot of fun, and he’s down for my style so I have a bit more room to play around.
Where do you want to go with your work?
Looking down the line I would love to focus more on environmental projects as my mind always seems to wonder there. I have been collecting photographs, both digital and film for a project that has been in my head for a couple years now. It’s a hefty idea and has been at the roots of my art practice for while now, I just hope I can execute it as well as I envision it in my mind.
For more from Alex check out: smokepitillustration.com