Glasgow-based artist Alex Pascual draws on the world around him to create vibrant artworks with an abstract edge. We caught up with him to learn how he finds beautiful details within everyday scenes.
Originally from Spain, where he studied illustration at the University of Barcelona, Alex moved to the UK in 2011. Living in London before heading up to Glasgow has profoundly impacted Alex's art style, but the humble act of making marks with a pencil is a through line that ties all these locations together.
"Drawing is a fundamental part of my practice," Alex tells Creative Boom. "It's a very flexible medium. You don't need too much preparation to start. You can draw while sitting on the couch, travelling on the train, or cooking in the kitchen. You can draw with an ordinary pencil and a piece of paper.
"Drawing is simple because you put one line after the other, but at the same time can become very complex. Also, drawing is the oldest medium; humans probably started drawing before speaking."
Alex's interest in drawing began with sketching everyday things like objects, interiors and friends. It's a habit which has clearly stuck with him, as now his drawings document the bedrooms, kitchens, and sleeping friends that populate his life. "There is beauty in those small things," he adds. "Working with my everyday is a way to search for beauty in those domestic and ordinary things."
Inspired by the paintings of Pierre Bonnard and Éduard Vuillard, both of whom depicted domestic interiors and intimate spaces, Alex takes a similar approach when creating his drawings. Just as they transformed supposedly redundant elements like rugs or wallpaper patterns into central motifs, so too does Alex unearth the hidden aesthetic qualities of objects constantly in front of him, whether a bottle of Fairy liquid or an overflowing laundry basket.
"Friends or people close to me are part of my everyday life and help to give scenes something more," Alez adds. "In addition to this, I have moved from many different cities and houses in the last twelve years. Drawing some of those moments has been like a personal diary.
"Every drawing I have made recalls something I have lived, and I love it when one of those drawings flies away and hangs in another person's house. Then that drawing becomes part of someone else's everyday life."
When it comes to the abstractions in Alex's drawings, these appear to be the perfect middle ground between drawing without reference and copying from reality, both of which present their own problems. "The challenge was how to use and transform reality into my own language," he explains.
According to Alex, distorting the everyday involves paying close attention to all the little details that come to you effortlessly. "All those little gestures and repetitions that continually appear in your drawings; those are indicators, clues you must follow," he reveals.
"In my case, there was a natural tendency for deforming and distorting things. The origin of that distortion came from wanting to highlight and exaggerate parts that instinctively seemed attractive or more interesting to me. Exaggerating also refers to emotions that you keep and let go of."
He adds: "The first five to ten minutes of each drawing create the direction. This is a time for speculation. Lines move fast from one side to the other. The rest of the drawing elements adapt to that first guidance. Breaking perspectives also allows me to escape from the conventionality of a single point of view."
As for his use of colour, Alex looks to modernists like Gauguin and Van Gogh. "You can identify their paintings from a mile away." However, he also finds inspiration in the exquisite pencil drawings of Klimt and Schiele, as their mastery elevated their simple sketches into works of art.
"When I start a drawing, I begin with intensive lines that define my intentions," says Alex. "Those lines are playful, sensitive and crude at the same time. The colour quickly appears mixed with the pencil lines and sometimes covers them. Adding colour and keep drawing is something that happens simultaneously. Colour selection is intuitive. There is no premeditated plan. Using vivid colours helps me to create my particular narrative."
Colour was also something that Alex integrated naturally when living and working in Barcelona. "The sun is up there constantly and influences your eye perception," he says. "But also, hot weather can affect your focus and concentration."
There's no fear of burning up in the comparatively cooler Glasgow, which has surprising benefits. "Living in the UK gave me the focus I needed; you tend to spend more time at home," Alex concludes. "It feels like hours are longer. Honestly, I love rainy days for drawing.
"Looking back, I consider the six years I spent working in the studio I rented in north London as crucial for my development. My drawings started changing, and I felt so comfortable with my style. I began to work with small formats, putting in more energy and being more productive. My everyday started merging with Mediterranean memories."