We had the good fortune of connecting with Aleister Gilgrim and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Aleister, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
For me, balancing what I do for a living and how I spend the rest of my hours, my life has changed considerably over the years. To be completely honest, I spent a good decade sacrificing all of waking hours for wage-slave-nonsense; throwing my body on the gears of corporate ineptitude because I had a sense of duty to my own work, its quality, meaning and purpose, even when the company itself may function and feel the opposite. The only answer, the only answer for anyone caught in this loop is to leave. Piffy and privileged, that statement can certainly come off that way, and in many respects it is. I’m not saying that there’s a singular path for everyone, but if you find yourself literally destroying your life, foregoing friends, family, loved ones, and your own health, get out – if possible, and as I was lucky and privileged enough to do, change course to something completely different. Get as far away from the corporate world as possible. Walk dogs, build brick walls, cook food, create things, care for things, and get involved in your community. If you have talents, focus on those, focus your energy on finding ways to use those talents to do something. It wont’ pay as much as a corp-o paycheck, but your soul will be clean.
There is no balance or simple maths solution that can provide a one size fits all, fortune-cookie-truism for how to find balance, however, asking the most fundamental questions of why you are where you are and what that energy expenditure really means for your life, can help you face the difficult and often challenge of deciding if the rat race is really where you want to spend your life.
Balance is what we create by altering the circumstance, not something we try to wedge into the circumstance after the fact… that way lies an endless parade of self-help gurus that will never help you to move forward but will succeed in wasting your time and your money and your energy for as long as you’re desperate enough to hurl yourself at them.
It’s your life, find not the balance, but the purpose of it and the balance will come.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Like most kids who grew up in varrying parts of southern California in the 80’s, I’m a complete mishmash of influences and interests. I grew up on untranslated manga from the 70’s and early 80’s, the second wave of skate culture, and surf culture embracing the radical day-glow palette, graffitti, lowrider and laraza culture, japanese buddhism, underground comics (the old black and white stuff), home console video games, hip hop, punk rock and visual kei music. I’ve attempted to bring all of those influences together as best as I can, to be my voice. Whether it’s creating a custom tattoo design, or working on my comic with Aurauz (P.A.T.T.: Post Apocalyptic Taco Truck), or a commissioned illustration, I want it first to be excellent of course, to satisfy the needs of the piece through design, composition and balance, and also, to reflect me, to show through the completed work that it was my hand that did that. Sometimes that comes out in just the theme, or the motif or the elements of the work, and other times it shows up i the render itself. Combining all of these differing elements isn’t actually what makes my work my work though, it’s the fact that they are combined through my hands, my way. While I’m sure my work has been identified simply by the references, the style or subject matter, I strive to give it my own individual and unique voice. Others may have the exact same or similar background to me, grew up in the same neighborhoods and had the same influences and even opportunities, and in those cases I always want my work to show as ME and not just the combination of elements that have helped to shape me.
I also strongly believe that art, in all of its forms is absolutely essential to a full, meaningful human life; as such, I always want my work to be accessible, attainable. I’m a firm believer in lowbrow, underground and trade art for that reason. Everyone should be able to own art, especially the work that speaks to them, so it is always important to not price the work out of reach of those who will ultimately appreciate it, whose life it may actually aid. Art is meant to be enjoyed, to be shared, never to be used to launder money in the salon system or as a tulip-frenzied-ponzi-scheme a la nfts or some similar, dry, abstracted beyond meaning commodity, it is human work by human minds and human hands meant to inspire the human soul. And as such it should always be accessible.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m partial to the coast line, so anyone visiting would be stuck with sightseeing the beaches and beach cities where I am. That isn’t to say we don’t know where to go or have fun ^__^
Definitely Seal Beach Main street for a classic tour of the old southern California boardwalks. It’s like a time capsule, not to the 60’s like Santa Monica attempted to be for a while, but a strangely unique mid-80’s vibe that the place just never seemed to grow out of.
Enjoy the actual beach and surf from Huntington through Sunset and Seal Beaches, walk on the sand, take in the air, and throw yourself into the surf if you don’t mind the cold.
Tacos are an absolute must of course. Not talking about the eternal debate of is it a taco (all sandwiches are tacos, except for wraps, which are burritos… sushi, for example, is a naked burrito, unless wrapped in nori), but fish tacos in particular are a must. Wahoo’s is always a classic staple, to me its the In-N-Out of Baja-style SoCal Asian and Mexican fusion cuisine. But, it’s not the only one – honestly, I’d probably drag folks to my secret stops, hole-in-the-wall establishments from Huntington to Long Beach.
Sushi, since I’m on food at the mo, is also a must, and where I live there is no shortage of good, authentic supply.
For drinks, if there isn’t a good quiet dive bar, then the Tonga Hut is the only place to go – superb, classic, and historic Tiki Bar. But if it’s just a time to knock back a few after a long session, I’m gonna insist on the Black Bar on E. Broadway in Long Beach, just steps away from Broadway Tattoo’s front door in the beautiful gayborhood of Long Beach.
Scenic stuff, you have to hike PV (just a bit further up the coast from San Pedro), and check out the incredible beach trails through La Guna, and Costa Mesa.
But, I’m not much of an entertainer… sadly, doing art, making tattoos, painting, being a dork, those are my fun times, so if you’re hanging out with me, it will inevitably end in a bookstore looking for strange or forgotten reference material, or visiting a tattoo shop, I’m not much for nightlife in my old age, and fear that I’m likely not a good authority to advise others in that regard.
But, in the end, I like to embrace the classic stuff that’s always around us out here, in southern California, particularly on the coast – so whether you planned it or not, there is literally always a classic car show going, lowrider bike meet-up, pug and frenchie parties, live music on Ocean Ave, food trucks (not quite a taco truck on every corner that we were promised years ago… but we’re workin’ on it!), free public yoga, clean air, sand, surf and sun… not sure what else people do for fun that I’d understand.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There’s no one single person or group that it would be appropriate to credit with any success i’ve had, not because they dont’ exist, quite the opposite, because there’re too many. I am the product of hundreds of teachers, neighbors, artists, mentors, students, friends and enemies who have made me who I am and provided me with opportunities to both succeed and fail, and to try again when I do fail. Through all of those people, the ones who have stuck by me the most and I think, most importantly, have forced me to get back up when I fall down, to try again, have been my late mentor David Colby, my late brother Jody Patterson, my little brother Aurauz Azima, and of course, not least of which, my partner Mary Bledjian. They didn’t lay the foundation for me to build on, but instead have made sure that I am always standing in fertile ground to grow with, even if I can’t see anything beyond the fertilizer.
Additional shout out to my tattoo familias:
Good Time Charlies Tattooland, Donovan’s Autumn Moon (no longer Donovoan’s), Broadway Tattoos Long Beach, Silent Hill Tattoo Signal Hill, Justin, Courtney, Vic, Chesto, Alyssa, Lindz, Meliska, Mr. Christopher, Chef, Jack, Don, Little Roy, Hoon, Tatto1, Jay Jabalas, and everyone who has kept me sane in the trenches of our little scab-farms (slang: tattoo shop).