Lexi Alvarado is a painter, musician, badass human being, and wonderful friend. Together we’ve climbed trees and buildings, danced through drive-ins and shared some of the best conversations about life – what it means to be lost, happy, focused, and young.
Lexi currently studies Art at Eastern Illinois University. I talked with her about painting and music, her influences, an upcoming study trip to Italy, and her plans and dreams for the future.
Daria: You’re a painter and a musician. What came first and is there a secret true love for one?
Lexi: Painting came first. I started painting when I was six or seven years old. I started playing with water colors because my uncle really wanted me to be a painter. Every year for Christmas he would give me all these art supplies and every time I went over there he would teach me how to paint. He also put a guitar in my hand. So that’s where everything comes from, technically. My uncle is my favorite person in my family. He taught me a lot. He taught me a little bit of guitar, but I’m mostly self taught when it comes to playing the guitar.
Painting and music, I love them both so much. So it’s really hard for me to choose if I love one more than the other. But when it comes down to it I think I spend more time painting than I do making music, so that answers that question, I suppose.
D: Is there something that painting does for you which music doesn’t or the other way around?
L: No, not really. I just like the process a little bit more, and I think I’m a little better at painting than I am at music, so I think that’s it. I feel more confident in painting.
“I saw these giant paintings and thought, I wanna do that! So I did”
D: Who do you look up to? What inspires your art?
L: My uncle is definitely my biggest inspiration but my inspirations have also grown over time. I’m a really big fan of surrealism, and I’ve been getting into different abstract art lately. I really like Salvador Dalí. He was something else. He is a huge influence on the work I make right now. A lot of my stuff is very surreal and when you think of surrealism Salvador Dalí usually is the first person that comes to your mind. Generally, I’ve been really into artists. There’s one called Andrew Salgado. He’s a Canadian working in London and he’s one of my favorite artists right now. Andrew Salgado is definitely the reason why I started painting really big. I recently started working on giant 4×4 panels because I saw these giant paintings. I saw them and I was like, I wanna do that! So I started doing them – they’re super fun!
D: Are you still thinking about becoming a teacher?
L: I was originally registered as an Art Education major. But I couldn’t get into the Education program because I was one point away on this test because I kept on failing the math portion of it. I kept taking this test and I got a 21 on it every single time and I needed a 22. At one point I was just like, “This test is expensive. Fuck it. I’m just going to change my major.” It was a really risky move, but I’m really happy I did that. I’m spending a lot more time on my art rather than learning how to teach it.
D: What are you currently working on?
L: I am currently working on another giant portrait. The girl I’m painting is a student here, I’ve always found her face really, really interesting. I’m in the beginning stages of it, I need to get back to the studio. I’m really excited to see where this work takes me.
“A good thing came out from my mini depression I had fallen into that summer.”
D: You also play a lot of music. “Sincerely, Your American Girl” was your first studio production that you worked on during the summer of 2015. Was this something you had anticipated and planned for a while? How important was this step for your journey as an artist?
L: I didn’t expect to have the full record written in a summer. I knew that I wanted to write a record. At least do a song and record it. It was the summer of 2015 where things just really inspired me to write. I came out with four songs in a month. I got into the studio which was a huge step because I’ve been playing shows and people asked for my music and I couldn’t give them anything. Not anything recorded at least. It’s all that I have, this EP. Being able to show people music aside from what I play for them live is a huge step. A good thing came out from my mini depression I had fallen into that summer.
D: “Sincerely, Your American Girl” is a love song that captures the delicate pain of nostalgia and letting someone go. What’s the most beautiful part about missing someone?
L: The most beautiful thing about missing someone is that you’re weak. Nobody wants to be weak and nobody wants to be down, but I feel like that’s where you’re the most inspired to create things. More so for artists – they analyze things differently and these moments really help to appreciate the good things that you have. Without that contrast life is missing something. When you’re really, really down it helps you to appreciate the good. I definitely think the most beautiful part about missing someone is being weak to them. You’re at your weakest.
“I become weak in front of so many people”
D: You frequently play shows in and around Chicago. How would you describe the magic of playing live?
L: It’s the most terrifying yet rewarding thing. When I first step up on stage my heart is always pounding and I’m super nervous. It takes one song for me to feel really comfortable. It’s this rush of adrenaline and pure happiness that people are listening to the things you created in your bedroom or wherever you created them.
Playing live takes a lot of courage. It’s definitely made me a stronger person because I become weak in front of so many people so often. And they enjoy it! I think the most amazing feeling about playing live is when people come up to you after your set and genuinely express how much your songs mean to them or how they connected to them. I’ve had people come up to me going, “That song! I know exactly how you were feeling in that song cause I’ve felt that way before.” And that’s just the most amazing feeling, that you wrote something that someone else connects to.
D: How do you feel about collaborating with other artists?
L: That’s a lot of fun! It’s really hard sometimes because you have to find the right artists. I’ve tried to work with artists that have different writing styles or are just better than me in general, and I’m like, Well you’re a genius and I’m, well, me. I have collabed with a couple of my other friends and it’s gone well. It’s great to get feedback on what you’re doing and to have someone else going, “Hey, have you thought of this?” I was sitting alone in my room writing this song and I never thought of some things that someone else thought of. A couple of my songs that are on my record wouldn’t have been as great as they are if it weren’t for my friends who have listened to them and given me their input.
Art and architecture: “I’m gonna nerd out about these things.”
D: You have a study trip to Rome coming up next summer. What are you most excited about?
L: I’m most excited about seeing the really old architecture and the art. Walking the streets of the old masters… I’ll be walking down the streets that Michelangelo once walked down! I’m gonna nerd out a lot about these things. And to be able to learn and work where all these masters were taught and worked. That’s a fantastic opportunity that I feel very blessed to be given.
D: You’re going to be spending the whole summer in Europe as well.
L: Yes! And I don’t know what I’m doing! I don’t have a set plan, I’m still thinking about just buying a one-way ticket and then figuring out how I get home after that. That idea is really exciting yet terrifying at the same time. Part of me wants to have a little outline of a plan, but I don’t want to set every single step that I’m going to make. I want to leave myself the freedom to make those choices when I’m there.
Five years from now? – “I don’t know where I’ll be three days from now”
D: Where will you be in five years?
L: I’m scared to think of the future – and that question haunts me! In five years I will be 26 so I hope to either be in grad school or be done with grad school. I hope to be able to show my work in galleries and have a little tiny bit of recognition. It’s only five years from now so I can’t expect entirely too much. But I hope to be a step ahead from where I am now. I’ve taken some good steps and I hope to have my foot in some art scene in the city. Where? I don’t know.
I’m different from a lot of people. Things usually don’t go as planned for people who have a set plan but they take comfort in knowing they have a plan. And me, I never really do. I don’t know where I’m gonna be three days from now, let alone five years.