No matter what you paint, it means different things to different people. I like that.
– Alex Vera
Alex Vera‘s art career began with a reproduction of a painting of Mickey Mouse for a friend, and it’s since turned into gallery shows & an exhibit at Art Basel in Miami. “The funny thing that came out of all of this was I actually fell in love with the painting,” he writes in his artist statement of that first reproduction. “So…I returned to the art store and bought more canvases and paints.”
He began to develop his own unique style, one inspired primarily by the bright & eye catching colors that he saw in his daily life in south Florida. Symbolism was also an important element to bring more meaning to his pieces. Vera’s work soared in popularity after he displayed a painting of Madonna at Art Basel, and soon, he found his work published on playing cards & on the cover of a Moleskine notebook.
Vera is constantly exploring new subject matter for his artwork, from celebrity icons to depictions of cities to flowers & nature. He has also created several paintings that portray Bitcoin symbolism in his colorful style. In May 2014, Vera was added to the Art4Bitcoin database of artists who accept Bitcoin for their work.
During my chat with Vera, he told me that technology has definitely aided his artist career, and he sees potential for Bitcoin to further benefit the art world. Vera is also taking advantage of recent technologies by utilizing creator funding platform Patreon to support his dreams of turning painting into a full-time job. “I’ve made some progress in the art world, but it’s highly competitive like many things in life,” he writes on his Patreon profile. For a small contribution each month, patrons will have access to a greater body of Vera’s work; for higher amounts, patrons will receive exclusive video content, news updates, and even a custom sketch.
Emily Braun: In your artist statement, you say that art has always made sense to you. What is your absolute earliest artistic memory?
Alex Vera: My earliest artistic memory was drawing Garfield and Snoopy after reading the Sunday comic strips. I was absolutely fascinated by the comics on Sundays, because they were in color and in longer form. It wasn’t too long before I started drawing all the characters from Peanuts and Garfield. I think I was around 7 or 8 years old at the time.
Braun: How did you develop your own unique style? And how has your work changed or grown since you first began?
Vera: Living in south Florida, everything is colorful and bright! From the flowers on the plants to the bright Art Deco buildings – color is everywhere here! It just seemed natural to incorporate the bright colors, because I was always exposed to them. I also find that bright colors add energy to my art and convey the excitement I feel while painting. The style came about from being influenced by Picasso and Keith Haring. I also admire stained glass, so you can even attribute some of it to that. My art is constantly changing in subject matter but not in style – not yet, at least. I admire the style that I’ve created and don’t think it will change very soon, but I do intend to grow upon it.
Braun: How do you define your success as an artist?
Vera: Success as an artist, to me, is having your work in museums like the Louvre. That would be a great badge of honor. But I also define artistic success as the emails I receive on topics like being gay and the religious issues that stem from that (I made a painting of an abstract face with a cross being forced down the person’s mouth). When someone reaches out to me to tell me how my art has made an impact on their life and how they can relate to it, it’s touching.
Braun: What is your top highlight from your career as an artist thus far?
Vera: Being in Miami’s Art Basel! That was my first exhibition, and it was an amazing honor to be part of it.
Braun: What advice do you have for an artist who is just starting out?
Vera: To believe in your art and do it for yourself, nobody else.
Braun: What technological challenges might an artist face? And how does technology benefit you as an artist?
Vera: I think technology has helped my career. All of my success, I owe to the internet. From my videos on YouTube to my website, it has given me more exposure than I could have ever imagined.
Braun: How did you first learn about Bitcoin? What aspects of it most interested you?
Vera: I found out about Bitcoin through my brother-in-law, who was a miner; at the time, nobody was doing this. I thought it was strange at first, but when the hype turned into a huge explosion, I didn’t think he was crazy after all. What I find most interesting about it is how someone was able to create virtual currency that actually has value. If someone was to do it now, it probably wouldn’t work… but back then, it did!
Braun: I love your Bitcoin paintings! Why did you find Bitcoin to be a compelling subject for your artwork?
Vera: I made Bitcoin art because it was timely. I love painting things “of the moment”, much like the “masters” of art did with religion and the Renaissance and other monumental moments in time.
Braun: Do you know of any use cases for Bitcoin or blockchain technology to benefit artists or the art world?
Vera: The blockchain could be used to create digital ownership of jpeg images through time stamps. That would be innovative.
Braun: What do you see in the future for Bitcoin & digital payments?
Vera: I think it’s going to take another good decade before we see it widely accepted. People don’t accept change easily. Electric cars have been around for over 100 years, and we still use gas, for example. If it’s not more widely accepted in 10 years, I’m not sure what its future will look like.
– Emily Braun
To support Alex Vera on Patreon & view more of his work, click here!
All artwork in this article is credited to Alex Vera. The featured image for this post is titled Fish in Love.