For our Valentine’s Day 2023 cover, we have a lovely image by Craig Alan, brought to us by The White Room Gallery. Here, the gallery’s owners, Andrea McCafferty and Kat O’Neill, discuss Alan’s Populus series, his career and more.
Meet Artist Craig Alan
How is this week’s cover art, Craig Alan’s “Everyone Loves a Kiss,” representative of the artistic voice and style found in Alan’s other works?
“Everyone Loves a Kiss” is part of Craig’s Populus series which is predicated on social connection. He always wants people to find themselves in his art.
The series was created to speak to the masses, as indicated by the title, to not only engage but to send a message that you are literally not as big as you think you are and that we all need to work together to accomplish larger goals.
What themes does Alan explore in Populus pieces such as “Everyone Loves a Kiss?”
Universality and the beauty of humanity where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. There is always a story in Craig’s art.
If you look closely at this piece, you will see the same man raking in two different spots, two empty chairs, two people dancing and then you have lone figures staring off as if lost in thought while another waves.
Look even closer and you see one guy running with a chair overhead and another with an umbrella overhead who appears to have seen enough and is now walking off the canvas. You can’t make out any faces or expressions.
They are all just people with their shadows and their actions coming together to form lips with the promise of a kiss. A hundred eyes could look at this piece and have a hundred different opinions as to why, and therein lies the magic.
In what ways does Alan’s work stand out from other artists who create images of this nature — large images made up of small figures?
Most artists will agree that inspiration makes its presence known in surprising ways. During college Craig would head over to New Orleans to create portraits for people passing by to make some extra cash and he got very good at quickly capturing the human form, but what he hadn’t discovered yet was how the human form could evolve into something more.
That epiphany came when he was at this mother’s high-rise taking some photographs of a wedding happening down below, and he discovered that one group of people together formed an eye. From that inspiration came the creation of a library of painted characters that Craig arranges into endless narratives with unique hues, compositions and ingenuity.
Other artists, like Jane Waterous, who we also represent and whose style is sadly often blatantly copied, create images from small strokes of paint that look like figures from a distance, but Craig’s library is really one-of-a-kind and ever-expanding. It’s almost like he’s captured the world’s cast of characters in the miniature.
To that point, every painted figure is 1.03 inches, the perfect dimension Craig determined after much trial and error to cover the spectrum of sizes in the human race. His art for the Populus series is very labor intensive.
Depending on the size, one piece could take anywhere from 50 to 150 hours with 400 to 1,800 figures used to create the motif, and he often works on five or six paintings simultaneously to keep the creative juices flowing.
He looks to news sources daily for inspiration for his unique commentary on the world, often incorporating themes of hope, joy, love and novelty.
Outside of the Populus series, Craig paints narrative works of art featuring exquisite dresses with understated bodices and elaborate skirts comprised of peacock feathers, butterflies and fans. Another series he calls Novel Anthology is comprised of surreal portrayals of people and animals. Imagine a large brown bear on a little red tricycle or a girl with a rabbit head at a lonesome tea party.
Craig is one of those rare artists who can live in different worlds with his own unique signature.
His pop art Populus series resonates so strongly with humor and engagement and then, on the other hand — or with the other hand, who knows, as also being ambidextrous is not out of the question for this artist — he paints concepts so rich in symbolism and fantasy that you almost think one artist’s oeuvre is from two different artists or at the very least from two different minds, to give you an idea of the breadth of Craig’s imagination.
On a side note, if you were one of those people who got a charcoal portrait for $15 or a watercolor for $30 years ago, consider yourself lucky because that price point is long gone.
When did The White Room Gallery’s relationship with Alan begin, and how has his status in the art world evolved since you first acquired his work?
Even though we represent a myriad of mediums, we have many collectors invested in pop art and, as such, we thought Craig’s Populus series would be a great addition to the gallery and have thus represented Craig exclusively in the Hamptons for about four years.
He was already exhibited worldwide when we began working together and that exposure has only increased due to his tireless work ethic and creativity.
We have sold many of his pieces over the years to collectors of all ages and backgrounds, both domestically and internationally, further proof of his universal appeal.
What would you say has been the greatest accolade or achievement of Alan’s career so far?
The interesting thing about Craig beyond his versatility is his humility. He considers himself a painter, not an artist, allowing the viewer provenance over the attachment of that label. But modesty aside, a wonderful accolade was when Craig’s Nelson Mandela portrait went viral as a tribute photo at the time of Mandela’s death in 2013.
Wonderful for the obvious reason of honoring an amazing human being, but also because it took the Populus series that Craig started in 2007 to a whole new level of appreciation.
How do you foresee Alan’s career’s trajectory moving forward?
Unfortunately, in the art world talent is not always commensurate with a timely success as evidenced by Van Gogh and countless others but the work featured here, all from the Populus series, has been so well received since its inception that Craig’s trajectory is nothing short of a one-way path to the stars.
Within the Populus series are figurative, abstract and conceptual themes. The figurative features celebrities and icons like JFK, Hendrix, Monroe, Prince, Gandhi, Elvis, Bond, Sinatra, Lennon, Hepburn, Mercury, Dali, Picasso and even Jesus, to name a few, and those homages are always in demand, but the abstract and conceptual have their own allure as they juxtapose the known with the unknown in provocative, vibrant executions.
Figures navigate gears and mazes. Some black and white, some color. It is the human race at a slow pace.
Would you like to share any closing thoughts or additional information?
We’d like to thank Dan’s and you, David, for giving us the chance to share Craig’s art and story with your audience who should all now, just for the fun of it, imagine themselves 1.03 inches tall.
Craig’s Populus work can be seen at the gallery in the current exhibit SPARK up until March 19. Of course, commissions are always an option. Just requires a little patience. But well worth the wait. Current gallery hours are weekends, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. or by appointment.
To see more of Craig Alan’s work and to inquire about purchases or commissions, visit thewhiteroom.gallery or visit The White Room Gallery at 2415 Main Street, Bridgehampton during gallery hours.