Bringing a fresh edge to vintage design tropes, the illustrative work of Alexis Politz can be seen everywhere, from t-shirts to album covers to posters to packaging to enamel pins to magazines and even arena jumbotrons. Their impressive body of work is also deeply rooted in the local businesses, music, and vibrant creative scene of the Twin Cities. We had a blast talking with Alexis about all things art and design.
BLNCDWORLD: Let’s go back to the origin story. Do you remember a specific moment in your teens or early twenties when you became laser-focused on art as a career?
ALEXIS: Yes. The moment I realized I could make art for a career was in the middle of high school, after finding out I could actually go to college for illustration and not just enter the design world. It was then that I realized there were people who literally just drew for a living and that’s exactly what I wanted to do. Sports and other electives got put on the back burner when research for the right college began. Then in the beginning of my time at MCAD, I started doing commissions for people on the side, mostly album covers and shirt designs for friends in the music scene. It started becoming more of a reality once I found that scene and from then on I focused on a lot of drawing and design revolving around music.
BLNCDWORLD: You’ve created gorgeous album art for a myriad of bands and recording artists. What sort of dialogue goes into those commissions? Do you have a favorite album cover you’ve worked on?
ALEXIS: Thank you so much! It’s quite the process sometimes and other times it’s very simple! I love the variety of folks I’ve gotten to work with – sometimes it’s a multi-step process designing and illustrating a whole album release/rollout from cover art, to packaging, to marketing materials. Other times folks will have a very specific idea, I draw a couple sketches, we flesh out a final for a cover, and it’s done. I’ve really streamlined the process these days so I have a precise idea and timeline of what people want and can afford. Usually it’s a lovely back and forth until we find what works most of the time. I think my current favorite, amongst many, is the cover I did for my friend OKnice’s album “Have You Tried Being Happy?” that came out last year. It’s a specific spot in St. Paul with a dinky run down looking gas station near old railroad tracks that I snapped photos of one day for reference. I was super happy with how it turned out and that Cris loved it, too.
BLNCDWORLD: As a fellow Minnesotan, do you feel your experiences in the Twin Cities are embedded in your work?
ALEXIS: It’s funny because I’ve actually been here for 10 years now! I truly do feel like a Minnesotan now, but it took a while to feel that way. I’m originally from Dallas, and a lot of childhood memories show up in my work, but I think more of the emotional aspects of becoming my own person here in this city is what comes out… vaguely, to me! My young adult experiences are sprinkled all over this damn city and it’s so nice to see how far I’ve come here.
BLNCDWORLD: You’ve been celebrated for incorporating vintage aesthetics into your design and illustrative work. What are some of those vintage motifs or design principals that you keep coming back to?
ALEXIS: This is such a great question. I don’t think I’ve been asked this before! I have always been a big fan of old, run down textures to begin with. I love old paper, rough things that have been printed and beat up, xerox scans and old school printing methods like intaglio. What I like about those aspects is how tactile and real it looks. I like the grit and rust and can imagine what it would feel like. I feel like I gravitate towards traditional and child-like illustration methods too, like cut paper, relief printing, or rough, chalk drawings. Old things have always piqued my interest because it’s been used up and had a life before I knew it. There’s something so beautiful about reusing things and giving it a new life. Also, I suppose too, because I never lived through a lot of things so it’s just interesting reliving it myself? Like high, thigh cut swimsuits, big tilling tools from grandma’s farm, textbooks and almanacs of scientific illustrations before computers. I could go on forever. It’s a lot to learn from, too. Every time I find something I want to draw I go down a rabbit hole about what it is.
BLNCDWORLD: Is there a particular place where you most love to see your work live?
ALEXIS: Oh man, I freak out a little bit when I walk by merch tables at any kind of show and see the physical product. That is so cool and fun to me! I really love seeing full CD or vinyl packaging mostly in real life. Long live physical media. I work at Copycats Media on the side now and run our social media so I am all about physical products and always have been.
BLNCDWORLD: What was your favorite project of 2022?
ALEXIS: Dang. Very, very hard to choose. So I’ll pick 3 instead haha. One, the poster and merch designs for Boats & Bluegrass. I did the whole merch spread and it was a blast to work on every single piece of it all. Two, The Wild Hearts tour poster which is a super group including Julien Baker, Sharon Van Etten, and Angel Olsen. Three, was working on my own bleach painted shirts and trying to figure out what works best. These one off painted shirts have been so fun and so unique and so weird. I tend to start a lot of new endeavors and quit them quickly, but this kind of application I really love.
BLNCDWORLD: You are proudly queer. How do you feel that lived experience is embedded in the work that you make?
ALEXIS: I think being queer, in a way, has taught me how to talk about myself and make parts of myself known. I think through creating, and putting pieces of myself in my art, it feels real and I get to look at it, face it, by creating. I’m semi-out spoken nowadays when I used to not be at all. I was very shy and didn’t talk about myself, couldn’t talk about parts of myself. Generally just by being queer, I’ve learned to be more vulnerable with myself and others, as well as saying what I want and need. Art is a process that allows me to confirm those things before I can talk about them sometimes. I hope this makes sense and answers the question, hah. Being queer shows up in my art in all ways, not just through content matter, but being vulnerable and defiant and going against the grain of how I was raised to be. I make a lot of vague art with hints of the struggle in romance, friendships, queer culture, belonging, inner conflicts, growing up, etc.
BLNCDWORLD: What advice would you have to aspiring artists who are interested in making it their career, but are nervous to take the leap?
ALEXIS: As my dad says, if you want something so much, you will find a way. I took that to heart as a kid. If you want to be an artist so badly, start researching it, start asking questions, start asking to be introduced to people who are doing it old and young, no matter what anyone says about it being lucrative enough or not. Make things from the heart, that feel authentic and yourself. I think being well rounded and not getting tired of what you love is important, too. Everyones different though. I don’t know, there’s a lot I could say, but meeting and seeing other artists doing what they love real time did it for me. I’m always open to chat even though I am constantly learning how to do all of this shit myself, too.
Follow Alexis on Instagram @alexispolitz