A Synopsis of the Life and Times of Alex Steelsmith
by Laurie Steelsmith
A self-taught artist, Alex Steelsmith began drawing and painting at an early age. His works were shown in art galleries during his teenage years, and have since been widely exhibited and collected. An itinerant artist for many years, he has traveled and lived in various parts of the United States and abroad, in his early travels working at odd jobs to support himself and his art while making numerous pilgrimages to art museums in New York, Paris, Rome, Florence, Athens, London, and many other places.
As an avid backpacker and mountain climber, Alex frequently finds inspiration for his art by exploring new landscapes, often covering great distances over mountainous terrain. With his paints in his backpack he has crossed national parks on foot and climbed in major mountain ranges in many parts of the world. In Europe at the height of the Cold War, he crossed the iron curtain and backpacked in the former Soviet bloc. An article written about Alex's art when he was only 23 years old estimates that in his travels he had covered some 30,000 miles on land in more than 20 countries, traveling much of the way on foot, hiking and mountaineering. All the while, he continued to hone his craft and develop his own technique.
Alex's works have been seen in numerous juried shows, including seven consecutive annual exhibitions at the Currier Museum of Art, and several invitational exhibitions at the Newport Art Museum. His art has also been exhibited by the Institute of Art in Manchester, N.H., and in many other locations in the U.S., including art shows in Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Seattle, Honolulu, Maui, and elsewhere.
Alex eventually migrated to the Pacific Northwest, then to Hawaii, where his works soon began to reflect the land, the people, and the rich diversity of life found in the islands. After experimenting with traditional printmaking techniques, in the early 1990s he explored the first methods of using digital technology to reproduce works of art. Reproductions of his paintings have been shown by numerous galleries in Hawaii and other areas.
During the course of his career, Alex's works have received many accolades and distinctions. He has been ranked as "one of America?s top artists" by nationally syndicated talk show host Judy Jarvis, and his original paintings have been purchased by the president of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (who has described Alex's art as "phenomenal") and other notable collectors. In recent years, Alex achieved an unusual milestone as both an artist and mountain climber: after reaching the summit of Mount McKinley, the highest point in North America, he completed a painting depicting the view from the summit, and published a limited edition print of the painting.
Since winning an art contest for adults when he was 14 years old, Alex's works have received many awards in juried competitions. Major awards include the Gimopolous Trust Award, the DeKalb Memorial Award, the Prescott Award, the New England Clinical Laboratories Award, the Miriam Sawyer Memorial Award, the American Institute of Architects Award for Painting (at the Currier Museum of Art), and the Merchants National Bank Award (from the New Hampshire Institute of Art). His artwork has the unusual distinction of having received separate awards for works of widely varying painting and drawing methods: watercolor, pen and ink, acrylic, scratchboard, mixed media, and other techniques. He has also received separate awards for works of widely varying subject matter: portraiture, landscape, seascape, figurative work, and still life.
In recent years Alex has served as juror for the Association of Hawaii Artists annual exhibition, and his artwork, which has been featured on the covers of publications including the statewide Paradise Pages phone book, has become familiar to many Hawaii viewers. His paintings have also appeared on Hawaii's Channel 2 TV News and in the statewide newspaper; see NEWS. He continues to travel often throughout the islands, exploring and painting the variety and abundance of Hawaii's natural beauty.
Recently Pomegranate Communications, a California company, began publishing samples of Alex's artwork in the form of greeting cards. To date, the company publishes and distributes ten of his works, including several that appear on this website. Pomegranate's products are distributed worldwide to major retail chains, including Barnes & Noble and other bookstores. They are also found in numerous museum gift shops, specialty stores, and other locations. For more information, see NEWS.
An integral aspect of Alex's career is his fundraising activity for numerous nonprofit groups and charities; over the years his artworks have inspired contributions to a long list of local and international organizations. He has donated proceeds from many of his works, often as much as 100 percent, to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, and other groups supporting people with disabilities. (In one effort alone, he raised $10,000 in donations for one group.) His works have also supported the Baby Hui, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Red Cross, the local Food Drive, Attorneys for the Rights of the Child, The Hawaii Community Foundation, Manoa Valley Theater, the Mae On Project, and other groups.
For more information on Alex's art, mountain climbing experiences, and fundraising activities, see the ARTICLES and NEWS sections of this website.