nrvmagazine.com
nrvmagazine.com

Give a kid a coloring book with tracing pages inside, and you just might unleash the artist within. Alex Crookshanks was but a pre-kindergarten toddler when he received a Hot Wheels coloring book with tracing pages as every other page. Not content to simply trace the coloring page under it, Alex tore out the tracing paper and began tracing all sorts of things in his southern West Virginia world.

“This led to me drawing freehand,” he explains. “My parents were quite supportive of my artistic endeavors, even when they took a comic book detour in middle school and most of high school.” In 8th grade, he designed a new logo for the school. As a high school senior, he designed the class senior shirt, all the while dreaming of moving to New York City and becoming a starving artist.

“My high school advisor and my parents steered me toward graphic design as a way to pay the bills and support my studio art efforts,” he recalls. In 1994, Alex entered Concord University in Athens, W.V., graduating with bachelor’s degrees in graphic design and studio art with a painting emphasis and minor in art history. During college, he made four art trips to the Big Apple, further fueling his ambition to move there and be an artist. However, he’s not there being an artist. He is here in the New River Valley, and his art is garnering attention in our region and beyond.

After eight years as a graphic designer with a Bluefield, Va., company, Alex took a job in Blacksburg, commuting 70 miles each way for a year before moving to town in 2010. It’s not New York City, but his advisor and parental advice has paid off. He can pay the bills and pursue his uniquely creative art style. A couple years ago, he decided to show some of his art.

“It was time to see if the world liked the art I was creating, or if it merely would remain something I do for myself and for birthday and holiday gifts. I matted some work, named it “Life Impressions” and posted it, along with some paintings, on Facebook and in Blacksburg and Bluefield. I started getting shows in both places, plus Roanoke.”

After reading an article about David Hockney using his iPhone to paint digital, still life paintings, Alex downloaded all sorts of apps and started cranking out still life digital works himself. “Then I started doing portraits of me, my family and some friends. People went bonkers for them on Facebook. So, I started charging strangers all over the world to do a pixelated portrait from their profile picture or a vacation snapshot. I ran contests and have drawn in people from everywhere.”

Another Alexander, [Graham Bell], would most certainly be astonished that his telephone has evolved into so much more than a communications tool. Today’s iPhones, as well as iPads, serve as pocket computers, televisions, cameras and connections to the World Wide Web. For Alex, it’s an enthralling new art venue. Since his first show titled “My Pixelated Period” at Mish Mish Gallery in downtown Blacksburg, Alex has received several commissions and sold art pieces and note cards.

“I am able to create a new body of work that is not static. In contrast to traditional forms of painting that are primarily lit from the front (e.g., overhead lighting), images in ‘My Pixelated Period’ are backlit when displayed on an iPhone, an iPad or digital photo frame. As such, they move, change and meld to the environment of the viewer depending on where the image is viewed.”

By Joanne M. Anderson

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