Alex Leighton aka Xander Laytin is a New Zealand artist whom I had the opportunity to meet while I was living in Auckland for a few years. His work is always bright and super fun, oftentimes featuring familiar cult figures or pop-culture icons. He was gracious enough to spend his time answering a few questions for mph.
Your work features a lot of pop-culture icons and references; what is your drive behind creating so much pop-culture inspired artwork?
Mostly it’s just my ongoing love for all the toys, movies, cartoons and comics I grew up with as a kid. It’s the inspiration all of those things provided me as a kid that put me on my path as an artist.
You’ve created digital work as well as acrylic paintings, do you have a preference?
No I don’t have a preference, the acrylic stuff, obviously, is a little more time consuming so it’s easier to “churn” out the digital stuff.
What is the motivating factor behind choosing to make wooden block-form and plush toys instead of vinyl or resin?
Money and time really, the materials are way cheaper and more accessible. I really wanted to get into vinyl and resin toys but didn’t really know anybody to help me out down here in New Zealand, so just thought an easier option would be to go down the ‘basic’ wooden toy route.
Can you tell us a bit about your job at Mukpuddy?
Mukpuddy is the animation studio I set up and co-run with my 2 buddies, Tim and Ryan, we met each other at Animation school and hit it off, so we decided to start up or own studio after our studies and make our own cartoons. It’s been a long and at times, often, hard struggle but anything worth it always is, and 10 years on we’re still alive and making the best stuff we ever have. There’s actually a lot of crossover with the individual skills the 3 of us bring to the table but I’m generally the head character designer as well as designing backgrounds, props, layouts and storyboarding.
An animation featuring Rhys Darby (you might know him from Flight of the Conchords)
Xander working on Mukpuddy’s latest cartoon “Pocket Protectors”