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The Simpsons to Infinity… and Beyond

The Simpsons to Infinity… and Beyond

In 1995, at the ripe age of 19, I landed a job as an animator on the hit television series, ‘The Simpsons.’ My portfolio was was rejected the previous year from Cal Arts in Northridge, California. Determined to fulfill my dream of becoming a Disney animator, I was fortunate enough to get enrolled in a small animation training program which helped me craft a portfolio within a year that was good enough to get my foot into the door of the animation industry. The Simpsons was just the start.

From Animator to Assistant Director

Blue and pink light waves form faceface
Ruiz, Alex. Crescence. 2022. www.alexruiz.art

In just a few short years, I became an assistant director, taking on even more responsibilities in the production of the show. I eventually transitioned to Director of Illustration for 20th Century Fox, designing products, merchandise, advertisements, and toys for The Simpsons, though I did get to play with other Fox properties as well.

I never made it to Disney. At least, not as an animator. More on that later.

It was during this time in late 2003, that I found the artwork of Android Jones. It all changed from there. Never in my life had I encountered a visual style that resonated so strongly within me.

His unique explosive style of art helped me realize that I wanted (and needed!) to create much more dynamic, cinematic, profound, visionary artwork. And definitely NOT The Simpsons:)

Community as a Game Changer

Fortunately, Android and his media company at the time, Massive Black, provided an online community resource called conceptart.org. A collective of digital artists and art instructors showcasing their work and education materials.

This was when I changed my trajectory and mission in life and decided to become a conceptual artist for film and video games. A ‘rock star’ artist position in any industry and just as difficult to obtain.

Ruiz, Alex. Empires of the Sun. 2020. www.alexruiz.art

And so, while designing Simpsons merch by day, I burned the midnight oil at night, EVERY night (and weekends!) on all things ‘concept art’. This meant diving deep into learning digital painting, color theory, character design, alongside intense study of human and animal anatomy. Basically, putting myself ‘piecemeal’ through art college of my own making, one DVD lesson at a time.

The struggle was intense. It was like learning to swim all over again. On The Simpsons, I was a BIG FISH. In this new world, I had become a tadpole in a massive body of water filled with the world’s best artists swimming circles around me. Every day was a lesson in humility, when I would see countless posts of the most exquisite artwork, digital and traditional. Human figures, creepy monsters, super mecha-robots, sexy badass females, rich sci-fi environments, gorgeous fantasy lands.  I was drowning in it all. How could I come close to any of this?!

Dirty Little Secrets

And there was no way in hell I was going to post my Simpsons drawings! There was a time when I was embarrassed to have worked on the show. It was my ‘dirty little secret’. I didn’t want to be known for cartoons. I wanted to be a ‘serious’ artist.

For three years, I posted nothing. I just studied and practiced, day in and day out. Eventually I got the courage to post some art, and was relieved by the warm reception of my new digital work.

The Simpsons kept paying the bills, and in my spare time it was all about preparing for my next role as a ‘serious’ artist, on ‘serious’ projects only.

Surreal mind expansion into the universe
Ruiz, Alex. Burning Man Metamorphoses Cover Art. 2018. www.alexruiz.art

A Decade Passed

It took me a little over ten years to land this ‘serious’ gig as a professional concept artist at Digital Domain, a visual effects company founded by James Cameron.

Eventually the realization came that I wasn’t sustaining myself with my OWN art. I was creating for others. Others, being mostly Disney. (My dream came true for working for Disney, just not as an animator;)

As I did on The Simpsons, I created my own art in my off time, with the sincere hopes of one day sustaining myself entirely as an independent artist. Like the man who I now call a friend and mentor, Android Jones.

Persistence and passion into my own art and creativity paid off in 2018 when Burning Man chose my art titled ‘Metamorphoses’ as the final cover art. This was a huge honor to say the least. Even more so, because the piece they chose, aptly titled ‘Metamorphoses’, visually expressed my own struggle, joy, and transformation over the last several years.

To this day I continue to create psychedelic and visionary artwork for individuals and groups aiming to heal themselves and others through psychedelic medicines, and raise global consciousness on these matters.

visual horizon of geometric shapes fuse with face on abstract landscape in pink, purple, and blue tones
Ruiz, Alex. River of Life. 2021. www.alexruiz.art

The Role of Psychedelic Art

To fathom Hell or soar angelic, just take a pinch of psychedelic.

Humphry Fortescue Osmond, English Psychiatrist, 1 July 1, 1917 – February 6, 2004

Psychedelics can reveal the profound, beautiful, terrifying and immense powers of the mind. It was Humphry Osmond who coined the term, from the Greek for “mind-manifesting”.

Psychedelics have always been a massive source of artistic inspiration for me.

As a teenager I experienced psychedelics for the first time, and I had a strong sense that they were going to change my art. They absolutely did, and continue to do so.

Ruiz, Alex. Phoenix Resting. 2020. www.alexruiz.art

Medicine and Ceremony

I had the pleasure of creating concept art for many films, including Beauty and the Beast, Fast and Furious 8, Spiderman: Homecoming, and Avengers: Infinity War.

Many years later, having experienced powerful and life changing medicine ceremonies, psychedelic art has taken on much deeper, significant meanings for me. As an artist, creating psychedelic art is in many ways a necessity. I had to ‘bring back’ and recreate what I experienced within these ceremonies. I had to show others what I was seeing. It was breathtaking, healing and transformative. I HAD to share these visions, at all costs.

Simply stated, psychedelics can move beyond the ‘veil of God.’ And God is infinite. And so, we get to experience an infinite playground. My artwork is a re-creation of this playground. And for the record, this ‘playground’ is not always beautiful, playful, and fun. Sometimes this playground, is a personal and terrifying Hell.

Changing the Status-quo

Psychedelics challenge the status-quo, because the experiences they produce are always changing. Psychedelics by nature, break through rigidity and stagnation by showing us immensely novel experiences every time. Nothing fixed in the psychedelic state; just like in nature and therefore life in general, life must and will always continue to move. And if enough people experience them, they can change society. This is what many leaders fear.

So, the first role of psychedelic art is to bring an awareness that there are worlds infinitely beyond what we experience in day-to-day life; thought provoking and life changing in itself. The second, is to bring the communities together who have had similar experiences, to create the shared ‘meeting place’ in visual form. And third, to encourage others to engage in the creation of this transformative style of art.

Art and Community Building

Artists offer the world the pain and beauty of their soul as a gift to open the eyes of an heal the collective.

Alex Grey, Artist, Co-founder of The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM)

Art brings people together. Quite literally, like at a physical art exhibition. Consequently, when people gather around works of art, something beautiful happens. The art creates the ‘space’, or ‘middle ground’ for individuals to meet and interact, to converse and at times, debate. I notice this every time I’m at an art show. It doesn’t matter if the art is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. What matters is the art is created, presented and seen. It’s as if the artwork itself carries a magnetic spirit that attracts the viewers to it. Especially as feelings and ideas come up inside people when they’re looking at art. Things we love, hate, and fear.

Ruiz, Alex. Wakhan Thanka. 2021. www.alexruiz.art

The Power of Art

Art also has the power to bring minds, hearts, and spirits together in unity as well; this is achieved with psychedelic art, which can also be considered a branch of visionary art.

Authentic psychedelic or visionary art creates deeper bond when shown to others and shared between individuals who have experienced these realms and transformations are created and nurtured.

I’ve received countless messages from people telling me I’m bringing their own medicine journeys to life, or that my art is portraying their ‘higher selves’, and even more humbling, that my art has changed and healed them in profound ways.

People can rally and unite around a shared vision. When that vision is communicated and exhibited throughout communities, it reverberates a strong message of unity.

Art inspires, heals, and unites. Psychedelic and visionary art can exponentially expand these functions.

To engage in these aspects of art is now my mission in life, and I cannot imagine a higher or more beautiful calling.

You might also like The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM)

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