I knew of Damian Alexander, who also goes by Dami, before I really even met him. I found his blog, DamiAnimation, while I was searching for my university on the blogging platform Tumblr in the hashtag ‘WSU.’ I was unaware that Damian was a transfer student in my year. I just thought his artwork was beautiful, and I enjoyed his movie reviews.
Fast-forward two years, and I finally interacted with Damian in person. We both became members of the campus literary journal’s editorial board. I was the Fiction Editor and he was the Layout Editor. Soon after, we started taking a course together called The Freelancer, based on learning about freelance writing, editing and design work.
I had a chance to sit down with Damian in the art studios of Parenzo Hall, where he was finishing up some work in his sketchbook. I was able to look through a proof copy of his children’s book, which he is looking to get published, called I Want a Kid and I Don’t Care. It was wonderful to sit down and get a look inside this artist’s mind, especially from the perspective of having read his blog for several years now.
Why did you decide to transfer to WSU from MCLA?
The Art Department is really small and dwindling. Basically, they have the same Art Department we have here, but theirs was getting smaller, so I just jumped ship. I almost went to MassArt, but then it was expensive.
I hear you on that. I almost went to Emerson, but it was really expensive, so I applied for graduate school instead. That’s where I’m going next year.
Oh, no way! I almost went there too, right after high school. But I wanted to do Art and English, and Emerson only really had English.
So, why Westfield? I mean out of all the other comparable state schools with Art Departments?
It’s probably lame, but it’s just because people mentioned it. I decided to go to a school that’s affordable, and people mentioned this one to me.
How do you feel about our Art program now that you’re graduating? Do you feel like it was worth it?
Yeah, I do. I mean, all the other schools, even MassArt and the other expensive schools, essentially have the same program as here. It’s just so much cheaper at the state schools. And I took a class at BU that was no different than the ones here.
Did you actually attend MassArt or did you just visit the campus?
I took two classes at MassArt and I also took classes at Art Institute of Boston in high school. They actually paid me to take their classes.
Wow, that’s awesome! Have you lived in Burlington your whole life?
No, I move a lot. Before that I was in Huntington Beach, CA. I was in Massachusetts when I was really little beforehand. The weather is a little gross, but I like when it’s fall. I like fall and spring in Massachusetts, but I hate winter.
Damian and I talked for over an hour, touching on topics like gender and sexual orientation, the fact that we both lost our mothers, his off-campus living situation last year, and award’s he’s won. Damian won the Scholastic Art and Writing Award through The Boston Globe in 2010 for his short animation ‘Fading Colors.’ He received the golden key award for the animation in the state and then a silver key for the animation nationally. He also won the Excellence in Creative Writing Award from MCLA and the Spring Art Award for Printmaking from WSU.
Dami identifies as ‘queer,’ a blanket term that means he doesn’t mind what pronouns are used for him, and he’s not positive what his sexual orientation is. This influences his decision to use diverse characters in his work. His children’s book, I Want Kids and I Don’t Care, features the choices of parents to adopt diverse children, such as kids who identify as queer, or who have disabilities. One of his main protagonists has a prosthetic leg, but it isn’t a main plot point. It’s only mentioned once or twice.
Dami’s led an interesting life, but he’s very nonchalant and calm while talking about it. He told me that he found out his last name used to be Murphy a year ago while he was looking through baby pictures. It turns out that his last name was changed to his mother’s maiden name after she passed. Ironically, Dami’s mom wanted to give him the initials DAM on purpose. “She thought I’d be a rock star,” he said, laughing.
His career goals include writing and illustrating children’s and young adult books. He’s also considered writing adult novels that include child-like illustrations intermittently throughout, to give it them a graphic novel-like feeling.
I asked Damian why he’s so passionate about art, and what drives him to keep drawing. He keeps a small sketchbook with him at all times in case he spontaneously gets an idea. “It gives me the ability to put thoughts of my head,” he said, flipping through the small book to show me some of his sketches.
He also works on longer, sustained projects—often the same subjects that he begins with in a basic sketch. One of the sketches in his book is something he plans to turn into a sculpture. The hardest part of being an Art major, Damian says, is “staying in the school’s lines.” Sometimes they tell him to make a pot, and he makes a sculpture instead, and then later figures out how he can turn the sculpture into a ‘pot’ so it will still qualify.
This kind of creative and out-of-the-box thinking is what drew me to Damian’s blog in the first place. At DamiAnimation, you can see that he’s thinking constantly, and that he doesn’t feel limited by societal ideals. If Damian wants a unique, diverse cast of characters, brought to life in 3-dimensional sculpture and then photographed for a book illustration, he’ll do it. He finds a way to bring everything in his colorful mind to life.
Damian Alexander is an illustrator and writer from the New England area. He studied art and writing at a small school in the middle of nowhere. Since then he has been working on an eclectic collection of children’s books and young adult fiction. He specializes in a mixture of gleeful childhood innocence and in-depth emotional trauma. His favorite words are aesthetic, paraprosdokian, and juxtaposition. He keeps them apparent throughout his works. His artwork involves anything from acrylic and watercolor painting, to black and white sketch and ink drawings and even sculpture and puppet making. His written and illustrative works often go hand in hand. Visit his website at www.DamiAnimation.com.