Alex's Story

Alex started out in business when she purchased a disused old stable in Stanhope.

Born in Shotley Bridge, County Durham in 1974, Alex has never flown far from her family nest and is a proud resident of the Northeast. Wey Aye Man .. Although close to the urban sprawl of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, the quiet Derwent countryside was always far enough away for her to feel like part of an altogether different kind of lifestyle.

Best known for her sympathetic, quirky and unique depiction of dogs, cats, birds and farm animals you don't have to cast your gaze far to see where her inspirations came from. The verdant, rolling fields and hills stretching into the horizon are populated by sheep, cows, horses and birds including the recently reintroduced red kite.

Alex was brought up with Labradors, they are a part of the family. "Sally was my parents' first labrador, after that came Judy then Missy and Purdy, four crazy Labradors and me, I think it was fair to say my mum had a bit of a reputation (The labrador lady). She would walk me in my pram with four dogs alongside, I'd like to think they were always behaving themselves but somehow I doubt it.

There have always been dogs at home, I honestly can't imagine a life without one. One of my earliest memories as a three year old was sitting in my snowsuit amongst a litter of puppies, our labrador Missy had given birth to. I would just sit there and let them run around me." 

Alex's love for dogs is easy to understand but she has always been inspired by the natural world around her. She has a great passion for British wildlife, especially birds. She has a good working knowledge of garden birds, seabirds, gamebirds and birds of prey and makes it her duty to feed the birds at least once a day. "I worry about the birds not getting enough food in winter, I have always fed them and it doesn't take a lot of time out of my day to do my bit. You don't see many sparrows around here anymore do you? I can't remember the last time I saw a greenfinch, things are changing .. it's sad."

Of course, its Alex's extraordinary talent as an artist and designer that has brought her to national and international prominence over the years. But ... what many people don't know is that she started out painting animals in a very different style to the way she paints them today.

"I was a serious artist .. Really. For most of my teenage years and early twenties I was trying to perfect my fine art studies of birds and other wildlife, especially otters, which I always loved. In my mid to late twenties I was a regular attendee of craft fairs, selling my fine art work for anything between £250 to £1000 and I was building up a solid reputation in the business. I definitely saw my future, at that stage, as a commercial wildlife artist. Things were going in the right direction and my work was actively sought after by certain collectors, I struggled to keep up with the demand. With things going into overdrive I took the plunge and bought an old stable building in the Weardale town of Stanhope, it seemed a natural progression to have a gallery from which I could encourage people to come and see my paintings. I quickly sussed however that I wouldn't be able to keep up with the demand for my work, so this is where I got the notion that I had to consider running off limited edition prints and perhaps print a few greeting cards as well."

"However, I have a secret ... It just so happened that I stumbled across my signature painting style by accident. In all truth, I am indebted to my younger sister Liz who also likes to draw. One day, probably a typical Northeast rainy one, she began to sketch a very basic illustration of a sheep. She wanted to make it happy so she gave it a big beaming smile, I then decided I would give it bright, rosy cheeks. Little did I know that such a simple creation would become a true inspiration. Even today, it seems amazing to me no one else thought of it first ... I remember thinking at the time that these fun, quirky little characters were perfect for the country people who frequented my gallery and that they would keep the till ticking over on slower days when no one bought one of my originals. It's fair to say they proved to be very popular indeed. Within a few weeks I was selling them both in my gallery and at the craft fairs I attended up and down the country. It was a eye-opening experience. The amount of cards I was selling blew my mind."

This is how Alex started out on the well worn path she continued to tread today. Her cute greeting card characters are now instantly recognised by dog, cat and animals lovers the length and breadth of the United Kingdom and now overseas as well. Quiet and modest, she is not one to boast of her achievements but Alex is immensely proud.
"I am contacted fairly regularly by young artists who ask me how to get started and for tips on getting their work to the masses. I don't know of any shortcuts. You have to have a viable idea and you need to get your work out there. If your artwork is proven to be commercial enough, the truth is there is no substitute for good old fashioned hard work, that's my expierence anyway." Now Alex's creations can be found not only on greeting cards and art prints but on gift wrap, gift bags, textiles, cushions, coasters, placemats, fridge magnets, bookmarks and a large variety of stationary items as well as a ceramic collection. Her products are sold worldwide and she shows no sign of slowing down.

"I never expected my business to snowball quite the way it has, but then again it's not a fluke either. I enjoy what I do and I am an extremely driven person, some people are often disarmed by my softly spoken persona, I am quiet ... Yes, but boy am I determined, I always have been .. I try to do the best I can in whatever I do in life. I love animals which makes my job so much easier and I really am happy with what I am doing .. I'm just happy there are people out there that take pleasure in my work .. Very happy indeed."

Follow Alex on her Instagram Page: @alexclarkart

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