Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with Alexa Polito
Alexa Polito set up in the lobby of this year's AnimeUSA con in Woodley Park. She sold me a copy of her mini-comic Rough Sex Vol. 1: A NSFW Sketchbook and answered our usual questions after the show.
Washington City Paper: What type of artwork do you do?
Alexa Polito: I do character illustration, focusing on cool and unique characters and how I can draw them in a way or to tell a story that's a little different.
WCP: How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?
AP: A mix of traditional and digital. Most of the time I'll do everything up to the inking stage by hand. Then depending on how I want to finish it—if I want to blow it up into a poster print or print it into a book for example, I'll finish it in Adobe Illustrator. If I work by hand, I use Sakura Micron pens and Prismacolor and Copic markers to color.
WCP: When and where were you born?
AP: I'm a child of the '80s, born in New York City in the super-rad early years of MTV.
WCP: Why are you in Washington now? What neighborhood or area do you live in?
AP: My family moved to Northern Virginia when I was a kid.
WCP: What is your training and/or education in art?
AP: I attended the Art Institute of Washington and have a BFA in Media Arts in Animation.
WCP: Who are your influences?
AP: It comes and goes, but Winsor McCay and Fukaya Yuichiro are the strongest ones, and the excellent animation for series like Avatar: The Last Airbender and my favorite animated film, 101 Dalmatians. I'm always inspired by the other incredibly talented and very varied artists in the Artist Alleys at conventions. Sometimes my strongest influences aren't artists themselves but the musical badasses I adore, like the metal band Dir en Grey, the '80s alt band Romeo Void, and the brill fierce rapper M.I.A.
WCP: If you could, what in your career would you do over or change?
AP: In my retroactive wishlist, I would have loved to go to a school like SCAD. The Art Institute of Washington was kinda crummy at the start of my education, and then a bunch of new teachers and administrators exponentially increased its coolness and quality unfortunately towards the end of my education. I'm jealous of the kids who go there now.
WCP: What work are you best known for?
AP: My most widely seen work would be an illustration I did for VisitBritain that was displayed in New York City in a six-story wall mural for a month.
WCP: What work are you most proud of?
AP: I've done two children's books for independent authors: I Miss You When I Sleep by Noelle LeVeaux and Taye & Cora Save the Earth by Tamatha Hollingsworth. While I'd like to do my own (not necessarily for kids) books one day, written by myself, I'm very proud of these two books and the amount of work that I put into them.
WCP: What would you like to do or work on in the future?
AP: I would love to be, professionally, an editorial or music illustrator, doing character illustrations for album covers, posters and editorials. Personally, a friend and I are hoping to put together our first comic based on some collaborative writings and I would love for that to live up to the potential it has in our heads.
WCP: What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?
AP: I draw boobs. They cheer me up, I'm good at them, and I can sometimes even turn them into some sexy, if meaningless, pin-ups.
WCP: What do you think will be the future of your field?
AP: Illustration is sort of a constant reimagining and I think there's no way that won't keep going in new exciting spirals. With animation, my other true love, I am totally excited by the gorgeously high standards of some of the new traditionally animated films and shows coming out. Has anyone not watched a fight sequence in Legend of Korra and drooled? And in comics, I think the influx of female and other-gendered authors and artists is going to bring a really fresh perspective on storytelling and artistic style that'll smash us into a whole new age.
WCP: What local cons do you attend beside AnimeUSA? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?
AP: I've attended AnimeUSA before, though this was my first year doing artwork for them and selling in the Artist Alley ... I definitely want to keep working with them and want to see everyone there next year. Other local cons I sell at have been Katsucon and Otakon, and you can find me in the Artist Alley at Katsucon upcoming in February! I haven't been to any other local cons yet but I'm definitely eager to check them out.
WCP: What's your favorite thing about D.C.?
AP: I love the feel of being in the city. The architecture and the low height of most buildings makes it feel very open and I'm a sucker for white marble so, you know, I'm set. Plus, it smells less like pee than New York.
WCP: Least favorite?
AP: If anyone doesn't answer "traffic" for this, they're lying.
WCP: What monument or museum do you like to take visitors to?
AP: The Freer-Sackler gallery is my favorite museum in D.C.. It focuses on historical and Asian art, so there are rooms full of silk and tapestries and statues of gods and goddesses from ancient temples.
WCP: How about a favorite local restaurant?
AP: I really like Fado Irish Pub, and especially in winter and rainy days getting a table by the fireplace with something hot and alcoholic. Plus, I'm an easy girl to please: give me fries.
WCP: Do you have a website or blog?
AP: My professional portfolio is alexapolito.com. If you're lookin' for some of my work that's more fandom- or adult-oriented, or to catch me when I go on a Sherlock Holmes-drawing-rampage, check out alexadrawingstuffshelikes.tumblr.com.