“Get your hands dirty – plan a little of course, but don’t plan so much that you don’t start in the first place because things seem too complex.”
Ryan Alexander Emond
Ryan Alexander is a 28 year old artist living in downtown Toronto with his partner Melissa and dog Lily. Ryan established SIDESIX Studio in 2015 which focuses on the use of different media (i.e., Rubik’s-style cubes, sugar, pool chalk) to create modern pixel art pieces. Read on to find out more about Ryan and his work.
Tell us about SIDESIX Studio and how you got started.
SIDESIX Studio is a small studio based out of Toronto, Canada. Its primary focus thus far has been modern and contemporary art utilizing various materials ranging from plastic toys to sugar cubes.
I actually started the studio as a result of moving condos. I was set to move into a new condo and wanted to fill one of our bare walls with a nice large piece of modern art. Instead of going out and buying something to fit the space, I figured I would take on the project myself. I had seen an article on the French artist Invader and his works with Rubik’s cubes. After plenty of research, I set out to complete a piece for myself and built a custom portrait using 221 Rubik’s-style cubes. A few months later, I posted the final product on Instagram and many friends, family and Instagram followers showed interest in the project. I pre-sold my next piece about 3 weeks later and started to scale this small personal project into something a little bit larger.
Was this always what you wanted to do or did it emerge over time?
I have always had a need for some form of creative outlet; acting throughout elementary and high school, and dabbling in digital design once I entered University. I think what really instantly appealed to me about this project was being able to use some old skills (especially the digital ones) and extend them into something I can actually get hands-on with in the real world.
Who has helped you in the process of following your dream?
My wonderful partner Melissa has always been there to support me in everything that I do. She has been there to calm me during frustrating times – and has been exceptionally tolerant of the mess in our home (which I often wrote-off as a part of the ‘creative process.’) My father Pierre has also been a consistent support system throughout my life and this project hasn’t been any different. He has always encouraged me to follow my dreams and pursue things which challenge me.
I can’t thank the both of them enough.
Where do you go for creative inspiration?
For years now I have escaped to Miami for relaxation and inspiration – whether to enjoy Art Basel or take a stroll through the Design District, I find the city recharges my batteries and gets me excited and inspired to create.
What challenges have you encountered and how have you overcome them?
Believe it or not, one major challenge I encountered in this project was how to actually solve a Rubik’s cube (I think I had only solved one or two in my entire life beforehand). After learning a few basic algorithms (thank-you internet) I had my starting point. Thankfully, since then, I’ve had over 750 to ‘practice’ on.
How do you deal with criticism?
It depends on the nature of the criticism – if it’s constructive, then I encourage it (especially if it’s in regards to technical aspects: i.e., mounting or structural integrity issues). When the criticism is completely focused on the subject matter, I find it difficult to take the critique too personally because of the innate subjectivity and personal preference of art and art styles.
What is it that you love about what you do?
The excitement and deep satisfaction of starting from an idea and following it through all the way to completion. Also, producing the work itself: being able to relax, have a few drinks and just build is pretty fantastic.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
Get your hands dirty – plan a little of course, but don’t plan so much that you don’t start in the first place because things seem too complex. Learn the business side of things – I’ve heard that some art schools don’t spend too much time on this side of the equation (which is a shame) and I think it’s safe to say that for the first part of your art career you will be your own web-designer, salesman, and PR firm so learning some basics might not be the worst idea.
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back?
I think if I could go back a few years I would have challenged myself to begin this project earlier. I have no formal art education and I think that this was one major factor which intimidated me out of getting involved sooner. I would also probably take a page from Back to the Future 2 and sneak back a sports almanac for some no-risk funding.
What are you most excited for in the future?
I’m very excited to be starting a new project in the next few months.
I am creating a large piece made entirely from sugar cubes – roughly 27,000 sugar cubes (214+ pounds of sugar). The piece will be over 10 feet wide and nearly 6 feet tall and the subject matter will be less on the playful side and more of a political and satirical piece.
The project should be completed by the fall of 2016. Make sure to follow me on Instagram at @ryanaemond to get updates on the project as the year progresses (Disclaimer: I upload the odd photo of my puppy on that account as well).