Meet the Artists of the Month For #CMweird: Joseph Alessio
We had the privilege of working with three talented artists whose work dances on the edges of weird. Their work plays with perception, widens our boundaries of what we consider normal, and allows us to explore the strange and the new.
Studying artwork provides a glimpse into the artist’s worldview, but it rarely paints a fuller understanding of what motivates their work. When things get weird, it’s helpful to get curious, which is why we interviewed them.
Meet Joseph Alessio
Joseph Alessio is a typographic illustrator and animator, making words mean more for clients including Target, Hallmark, and Disney. Working with a variety of media, a broad range of styles and an obsessive love for letterforms, he turns words into images and images into words, exploring the intersection of language and visuals. He also plays (unofficially) 7 instruments, and was accidentally responsible for the death of an ill-fated bonsai tree.
How did you get your start?
I began my fascination with letterforms as a kid by reading a calligraphy book that belonged to my older brother. Unfortunately, I found calligraphy to be difficult and resorted to simply drawing the forms with a pencil rather than with the proper calligraphy tools. Little did I know that this was a legitimate practice, known as “lettering” and that I’d delve into it as a career years later! I returned to this interest while working at a small web dev studio as a web designer, and eventually segued into doing type and lettering-based work full-time as a freelancer. It took a lot of behind-the-scenes work, practice and study, but it paid off in the long run. And while I’m far from having “made it” or achieved my dreams, I feel like I’m on a good path as a freelance typographic illustrator.
How did you arrive where you are today, doing the work that you do now?
I’m fairly dedicated to type-based work, but stylistically I’ve taken quite a few turns, as I’ve explored letterforms in a variety of media, styles and frankly, personalities. I think a good part of the process of finding styles you’re comfortable in is figuring out how to express your personality through your work. As you become more comfortable with yourself, you find ways to be more expressive and playful with the work you’re putting out; and for me, that’s come through exploring multimedia and multiple dimensions. Working with multimedia, and especially motion, is intriguing to me, because it’s interpreting letterforms—ubiquitous in two dimensions—in three or even four dimensions, extrapolating on the basic form to make something interactive and tangible. Language is so beautiful—an incredibly vast and nuanced form of communication, very intellectual. But when we express it in type, it’s creating an intersection between the visual and intellectual. When we start adding multiple dimensions, we’re adding the tactile to this already multi-layered method. It’s incredibly fascinating to me, exploring ways to fuse various levels of communication in a single multimedia, a multidimensional piece of artwork. It’s a never-ending process of exploration, and I’ll keep evolving in skills and the styles I’m fluent in, but I love working with this variety of media, dimensions, and styles.
How do you get weird? Celebrate it in your work?
Being weird has never been difficult—I’m not sure there’s ever danger of “fitting in” for me, no matter where I end up—but being expressive of this always requires effort for a pretty introverted person such as myself. I think, as I mentioned previously, that celebrating your own quirks requires getting comfortable with yourself. The more comfortable you can be with yourself, the easier it is to create stuff that’s expressive of who you are—and that often means getting weird. Getting to the point where I feel comfortable making quirky work has been a process, but when there’s an opportunity to create something with few or no constraints, why hold back?
What’s the local creative community in your city like?
I’ve actually just made the move from Denver, CO to the Bay Area a few weeks ago, so I actually have yet to figure this out! I’m just beginning to settle into life on the west coast, but am looking to integrate into the creative community here—great clients and people to work with, new creative friends to collaborate and hang out with, events to attend, etc. So if any of you all reading this are in the Bay Area, hit me up! I will say I really enjoyed Denver while I lived there; it’s a very friendly community, very real people, and a great emphasis on work-life balance as well as turning out some top-notch work. It takes some effort as a freelancer to get out there and find people to connect with, events, etc., but it’s absolutely worthwhile. I particularly enjoyed the CreativeMornings chapter in Denver—and that’s not a sponsored statement!
What’s your weirdest superpower?
I have an incredible talent for making everything more complicated than it needs to be.
What’s one piece of wisdom you’d give to someone who is just getting their start?
Don’t be afraid of starting over, working hard, and sticking to it. Perseverance can be exhausting, especially when you’re seeing minimal results from all the hard work you’re putting in, but everyone goes through this—you just don’t see it on Twitter or Instagram. There are going to be tough stretches, uninspired weeks or months, nagging feelings of impostor syndrome, dry spells—but it’s all part of being a freelancer or member of the creative industry. Don’t give up on yourself and don’t lose sight of why you’re doing this in the first place. If you keep exploring and making work that makes you smile, even when it’s hard and results aren’t showing up, chances are it’s making someone else smile too. Strive for excellence and quality output, and people will notice.
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