I have spent the majority of the past 10 years working in remote and wild places. My work continues to capture the human experience, but the setting has changed. I now find myself coming full circle and like my father, am inspired by the mountains, deserts and waterways that call us to adventure.
As cliché as it may sound I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember. Growing up with weekends in the mountains of Washington State, I fell in love with its wild places. I remember being amazed by my father’s pencil drawings of animals and nature. He kept them in a neat pile on top of an old box of comic books. As a young artist, I was inspired by the characters in his comics and spent endless hours trying to draw what I saw on the pages, continuing to draw from comics into high school. The first drawing class I took was in the last quarter of my H.S Senior year. My final project was a pencil-drawn portrait using a photo of a friend. I had a huge crush on her. This was my first portrait and I was beyond nervous. Her response and gratitude were a turning point in my confidence to do more than copy other people’s art. Shortly after graduating, I moved two and a half hours from my small town to Seattle. Over the course of the next couple of years, I would begin to fully embrace art as a part of how I see the world.
When I look back at my work over the years, a single theme stands out: my reflection of the human journey in connection to the space they chose to experience it. When I moved from my small town to the heart of Seattle my art was full of people navigating streets between tall buildings that covered the sky. These were done on large canvases with the elements being grey and black charcoal. I have spent the majority of the past 10 years working in remote and wild places. My work continues to capture the human experience, but the setting has changed. I now find myself coming full circle and like my father, am inspired by the mountains, deserts and waterways that call us to adventure.
What did you enjoy about drawing before it became your profession? Talk about some of your early passion projects.
I spent the majority of my 20s focusing and developing my portrait style. It evolved and shifted between pencil, charcoal, pastel, acrylic, multi-media and digital illustrations. Several years ago, I woke up in my van at a Wal-Mart parking lot in SLC and realized I had not created anything new in a long time. I bought a small pad, a few pens and drew a portrait of a good friend. It’s almost like I had to remember that I could do it. In addition, I had always worked with mediums that allow a great deal of flexibility with making changes. When pen touches paper, the mark is there for good. It was challenging. I decided that I would draw a portrait of a friend every week and mail it to them regardless of my other projects. I reconnected with the joy I felt creating simply for the sake of creating. I am currently in the early stages of a new endeavor. I’ve wanted to collaborate with a couple of friends who are artists and use different mediums; for instance, a writer and musician. I chose a piece of published non-fiction that explores the connection we have with our gear; how it can be the difference between life and death in the mountains and the memories they carry. I am working on creating a short illustrated film with original music, narrated by the writer. It’s exciting and daunting at the same time.
Whether creating a personal project or working with clients, the process is very similar. The conversation starts with the question “what is the goal of the work?” The goal could be capturing a moment, conveying information relating to a product, or a service. Projects, where the underlying hope is to inspire are my personal favorites.
I find inspiration in how artists can express complex concepts through simple art using stencils. Jean-Michel Basquiat and Dan Eldon didn’t create art to fit other people’s needs or perceptions of what art should be. Instead, they gave the world their understanding and expression of their experience.
The most difficult challenge has been balancing my passion for creating art and utilizing the skill set to pay the bills. I have become attached to how I want a piece to come to life while the client(s) often have different ideas. Sometimes I go down this mental spiral of not wanting others telling me what looks best. Relinquishing some ownership of the work is an ongoing lesson that I’m still learning. Something I find that what helps in this realm is to remind myself that I am in a place to help someone else realize their vision. And that, I can get behind.
Growing up among the Cascade Mountains in Washington State, Xander's passions from an early age were drawing and exploring wild places. His experience as a Professional Guide, Wildland Firefighter, International Development Team Leader and Outdoor Behavioral Therapy Field Director has taken him to five continents yet he always returns home to the Pacific North West.
If you'd like more information on Alexander, please visit his website, alexanderbasquiat.com.
On Instagram: @thislifetothenext