The Bradley Alston Files | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
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The Bradley Alston Files 

With themes of natural and supernatural, playful animation

For our cover artist of the month, Bradley Alston, art is a chance to manifest an imaginative, animated world that straddles both natural elements and high-grade science fiction. For everyone else, his work is a glimpse into the mind of a talented comic artist who is equally fascinated with the paranormal as he is with the thinking man and his struggles against nature, accentuated by his favorite theme: sharks eating people.

Source Weekly: You seem to be very inspired by animation styles. What were your favorite TV shows as a child, and what did you like to draw the most?

Bradley Alston: Most of my inspirations as a kid came from comic books, comic strips and video games more than animated programs. My favorite comic strip of all time is "Calvin and Hobbes," and that was a major, major influence. I used to copy all the desertscapes, forests, and snowfields full of spaceships, dinosaurs, and adventurers from that strip, and that was a huge influence on my imagination and my style of drawing. I also constantly drew pictures of Sonic the Hedgehog and characters from "The Legend of Zelda" series. That was probably some of my earliest work, just copying the covers of Sega Genesis game boxes; we all have to start somewhere.

SW: Your website is called What the hell is that all about?

BA: Sharks have always been my favorite animals. When I was a kid, I was completely infatuated with Shark Week on The Discovery Channel every summer, and would spend hours drawing sharks from every conceivable angle after each night of episodes. Whenever I had artist's block and had no idea what to draw, I would draw cartoons of sharks eating people, and that tradition continued into adulthood; it [has] always loosened up my imagination. I decided to honor that practice when I began my professional career, because it felt unique to me. It's proven to be a pretty memorable name, and I also feel like the phrase perfectly encapsulates the sort of weird, irreverent, childlike flavor of my work.

SW: You also seem to frequently draw Sasquatch pictures.

BA: I'm totally fascinated by paranormal folklore and the idea of something mysterious and incredible being hidden just out of sight. That tends to be a prevalent theme in a lot of the pictures I make. As a kid, my friends and I used to go to the school library, and there was this back corner that, according to the Dewey Decimal System, was the "130" section, and the 130 section is just all the super weird stuff, books of photos of UFOs, everything that ever happened in the Bermuda Triangle, lake monsters of the world, etc. We would take all those books out and basically gawk at them during the commercial breaks while watching "The X-Files." That fascination with the weird never left me, and I love making illustrations with that imagery, not only because it conveys my own sense of wonder, but because it always forges a strong connection with viewers. Because I grew up in the U.S. in an area of woodlands, instead of near Loch Ness, or the Himalayas, Sasquatches are the most relevant and familiar of those cryptids to me.

SW: How did you get your start as graphic artist? What was the first image you remember feeling absolutely compelled to create? What visual stimulus inspires you most frequently today?

BA: At a young age, that I remember being more confused that other people couldn't draw, or didn't want to, than thinking it was noteworthy that I could. I remember the first time I realized that being able to draw was seen as something special. I drew a picture of two dinosaurs, a T-rex and a stegosaurus, and then I drew them from the front, then from the top, then from the back, and changed the way everything looked based on the angle I was looking from. I thought it was really fun seeing what the stegosaurus' plates would look like from above, and then I remember my parents seeing the drawing and just gaping at it. 

SW: Where did you grow up, and how do you feel that influenced your art?

BA: I grew up in the Hudson River Valley of upstate New York, outside of Albany, in a suburb that bordered a vast rural area. My brothers and I were lucky to have a pretty big swath of forest right in front of our house, and playing out in the woods had the biggest impact on me. Feeling like I was lost in an untouched, unexplored wilderness, just around the corner from discovering some buried relic, or crashed spaceship, or hidden creature, really affected the sorts of adventures I liked to draw. I also spent most of the summers in my youth and young adulthood at a summer camp called Camp Becket, in the mountains of western Massachusetts. Being immersed in over a thousand square acres of undeveloped forest, filled with natural wonders and replete with historical tales and ghost stories really solidified my interest in the sort of nature-based fantasy and science fiction art. I still remember how bright the stars were up there in the mountains, how tall the trees were against the clouds, and how cold and deep the lake felt. The woods felt haunted and alive at night, in a good, exciting way.

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