By Sophie Gargett
Welcome to The Dilettante Creative Confabs in which we chat to contemporary, independent artists about their work, inspirations, and creative process.
For the first interview in this series we delve into the mind of Dr. Apeman, a musician and artist with a penchant for whipping up cinematic dreamscapes and psychedelic grooves.
We at The Dilettante tend to have a love/hate relationship with social media. With its ever-changing algorithms, endless holes for procrastinators to fall down, fabricated ideals and such like, social platforms can be utterly perilous for creatives. But, at times, this strange intangible space can lead to great connections, a wealth of inspiration and some dazzling feasts for the eyes.
For us, the saving grace of social media is its scope for small, independent artists to showcase their work. One of our latest discoveries is the work of Alexander Valdes, better known as Dr Apeman.
The magic of Dr Apeman's work is in its dichotomies; vintage and futuristic, static and shifting, familiar and absurd. Blending dada-esque collage techniques and moving visuals, he artfully creates a plethora of strange new worlds; colossal beasts and pin-up models tower over retro cityscapes, distant planets and kaleidoscopic skies overshadow scenes of daily life... Browsing Dr Apeman's work feels rather like perusing a vintage travel guide from the year 2240, creating a wonderful sense of escapism and intrigue.
Topping off these visuals with his self-produced music (a mix of 1960s psychedelic funk and lo-fi instrumental grooves), Dr Apeman creates multi-dimensional pieces of art that aren't quite just images, music videos, GIFs, or NFTs (although admittedly we're still not quite sure what this new fangled format is exactly). While our future may not be likely to feature giant animals and mammoth neighbouring planets, from Dr Apeman's work in this new artistic medium we get a glimpse of what art may become as we see technology advance.
Without further ado, let's hear from the man himself!
Greetings Dr Apeman! Can you describe your creative style in three words?
Surrealist digital collage.
What do you like to do when you're not making art and how does this feed into your work?
Most of my time I spend producing and composing music. Whenever I get stuck or burnt-out on a track I take a break from music to make collages. The collage work has definitely changed how I approach music making and vice-versa.
"Finish and publish your projects. Your favourites may flop and your throwaways might blow up."
Why did you decide to become an artist?
I needed album art, and I didn’t have money for a designer. So I began making my own. When I started sharing the art online people really seemed to enjoy them, so I kept at it. After a while I got a real knack for it. Now it’s what I do to unwind, and sometimes for money.
What does the process of creating look like for you?
Messy and Chaotic. I begin a collage by amassing dozens of pieces, and mix them together until something jumps out. Then I’ll make a dozen different variations with alternate backgrounds and sizes. Afterwards I delete the unsatisfactory versions until I’m left with two or three final drafts.
If you could go back in history and mingle with any creative movement, when would you go and why?
1960s counterculture without a doubt. In addition to the amazing music, visual aesthetic, and positivity it just looks like a wildly fun moment to be alive.
Do you look at the past, present or future for inspiration?
Lots of the pieces work by juxtaposing something vintage and something futuristic, although they more depict alternate realities rather than any future/past.
"Relaxation is a common theme - waterfalls, beaches, sight-seeing, etc… I suppose that’s because that’s the feeling I’m looking for when creating."
What are you working on now?
I’m currently completing some album cover commissions for some exciting new bands. I have lots of music coming out this year, so creating pieces that. On top of that, I’m trying to keep up with publishing a collage daily.
What is the best piece of creative advice you have to share?
Finish and publish your projects. Don’t let perfectionism keep you from sharing your work. You will be genuinely surprised by what the public likes. Your favourites may flop and your throwaways might blow up.
What themes are central to your work?
Science Fiction is a frequent theme. Many collages are what I dub 'alien world' pieces. For example, one might be a 'vacation planet' with a daytime beach scene under a starry sky. Or another might be an industrial scene on one of Jupiter’s moons. Relaxation is a common theme - waterfalls, beaches, sight-seeing, etc… I suppose that’s because that’s the feeling I’m looking for when creating.
"Distraction has its place. If I’m stuck, half focusing on something else like a movie or a podcast helps the subconscious problem-solving."
How does your art practice help your outlook on the world?
It has taught me that there’s an unlimited amount of beauty in the world. Two things can be completely unalike and both be perfect. Life isn’t about being better than anyone, it’s just about making and doing good things.
What do you do when you are stuck for inspiration?
[As Picasso said] inspiration exists but it has to find you working, but distraction has its place. If I’m stuck, half focusing on something else like a movie or a podcast helps the subconscious problem-solving.
What struggles come with creativity for you?
Alternating between sky-high confidence and deep self-doubt. Always wondering if a collage could’ve been better if only x, y, z …
What has been the best moment you've had whilst being an artist?
Strangers’ compliments make my day every single time.