Craig Alan’s first masterpiece was done using crayons on his parents walls. They were huge fans of his artistic talent even then.
It would be a while before he reconnected with his artistic aspirations. Craig went to grade school and middle school in California, then moved to Georgia where he finished high school in Newnan. Another one of Craig’s talents was soccer, and he was offered a college scholarship with a small college in Cleveland. Despite great things happening on the extra-curricular front, Craig’s grades became an issue. and his coach at the time enrolled him in art classes to pull his grades up so he could continue playing on the team.
“My first class was a pottery class. All of a sudden, it was like everything made sense. School became a lot easier because I actually wanted to learn. I threw myself into it. It was the first time, I really felt like I wanted to learn because everything now felt applicable to me. It ended up changing my whole perspective of learning and even pulled me away from soccer, the whole reason I was there. It was after this that I got with a publisher and started my path in the art world. That's basically how I went from jock to art to painter. Maybe this can be a lesson for all of the parents’ who don’t find their kids’ crayon wall art very artistic. Who knows?!” Craig recalls.
Fully immersing himself into every aspects of art he could, Craig went on a journey to discover 2D, 3D, painting, theatre and more, seeking to learn everything he could about art in as many paths as he could take. Being a true creative, Craig says that his mind “continually races with new concepts and ideas.” He continued, “I love to challenge myself with experimentation of both mediums and subjects. Being traditionally taught, I have had to push myself over the years to expand all of the concepts that swim around in my head and ultimately create them into physical works. Trying to break from normality is no easy task. Yet, there is nothing as satisfying to me as creating something that has never been seen before. Pushing the limit of what has been done and what COULD be done is the driving force behind my growth as an artist. My evolution continues to the next chapter until the final one.”
Craig’s creative mind is always on, and it’s a main conduit through which he draws his inspiration - he views the world through his creative lens. His Populous series, a cherished series beloved by fans around the world, stemmed from his different way of looking at the same view.
“It is really easy for me to draw inspiration from almost everything I see. I think if we are willing to look closely enough, even the most ordinary things hold their own type of fascination. My Populous series really began from one of these common places. I was literally standing on the balcony of my mom’s beach condo overlooking Orange Beach, Alabama. This is something I had done 1000 times before. Yet, this day ended up being different. I had new camera and was looking through the lens. As I looked out towards the ocean and scanned back to the sands, I saw a wedding party there. Still ordinary enough, until I started shooting pictures of the party and as I looked down at my camera, I noticed the way the camera condensed the people on the digital screen. On the screen, they seemed to form the shape of an eye as they stood there on the beach. The inspiration in that moment began with so many “'What if’s”. I started to consider alternate imagery, surfaces, effects, results, etc. This concept of how we are all symbiont beings and a part of a bigger picture resonated inside of me. There, on that balcony, I began to conceptualize ways I could share this in my work.”
Great art is created out of having an inquisitive and curious mind, and Craig outlines it perfectly in two words: What If?
Asides from viewing daily life scenarios with his unique lens, Craig also draws inspiration from other artists and art eras, such as the Pop Art generation that he greatly enjoys and artist T.L Lange, whom he has worked with for many years. When speaking about T.L Lange, Craig fondly refers to him as “truly a master at any medium.”
When you take the time to study the intricate figures making up Craig’s various works, you will see that each of the tiny figures come to life with authentic interactions between each of them. To ensure that the people in his paintings feel organic and familiar to the ones looking at them, Craig tries to capture as much detail as possible, whether in their movement or style of clothing. He achieves this with a multi-step process outlined below.
“I have found to capture this is using photographs that I have taken from the roof of my studio (much like the view from that ocean balcony years ago). I have people walk, run, jump, etc. I try to capture the motion we are in everyday the best I can. My assistants have a list of the activities that I am trying to capture through the camera. They help guide the models through positions or with props to help me get the shots I need. Each model is shot one at a time to ensure the individuality and detail that is needed for each piece. I can easily shoot 300-400 shots per photoshoot. Once I feel like I have what I need, I then use my photos to create stencils of each individual. Each of them are cut by hand. Currently, I have over 86, 000 individual stencils. I came up with this process by combining several different methods. After the photoshoot and creation of stencils, I use the stencils to spray each person into the piece and then I airbrush their individual shadows. Once that process is complete, I add the detail to them using a size 0 brush. The backgrounds for each piece are created by a process called “color camo”. This is a method of applying acrylic paint in bright colors added with texture mediums to create exactly what it sounds like, a textured, camouflage like surface. After the camo is created, I mix my background color that is applied by scraping it over the camo and texture. I repeat this process 2-4 times or until the desired concentration of color and brightness is obtained.”
There mere of tackling such an intricate design and artistic process is mind-boggling to most people, but to Craig it’s instinctive for him to look for such creative opportunities and possibilities. Craig commits to working on one piece at time, to ensure it has his full attention, and each creation can take between 1 to 4 months to complete. Reflecting on the amount of work that goes into each piece, Craig says “Honestly, I am not completely sure how I haven’t gone crazy yet. It has to be only because I still have so many other ideas an concepts that I want to develop.”
When asked which project he has found to be the most challenging, he shares that it has to be the one he has been working on for a year containing more than 200,000 people. His most memorable piece will always be his first abstract Populous piece, a 48” x 60” piece that was completed on January 22, 2017; this was the first of the Populous series that has lasted until present day.
If you are interested in seeing more of Craig’s work, check their social media for exhibition and event dates. He has a winter lined up in the UK and will be in Germany in December and London in March. Follow them on social media at @Craigalanstudio and @Iamcraigalan to stay up to date with the latest in his artistic ventures!