A Colorado Coal Miner's Great-Granddaughter Paints the Town

You can find art all over town -- not just on gallery walls. In this series, we'll be looking at some of the local artists who serve up their work in coffeehouses and other non-gallery businesses around town.

Alex Graham is part of a rare breed: She's a fourth-generation Coloradan whose great grandfather mined coal in Denver's early days. "We've been a very simple family, and there's not much higher education in the family," says Graham. But what this artist lacks in formal training, she easily makes up for with talent. Her nature-inspired acrylics are unique -- not just for what they are painted on, but for the bizarre little alien-like creatures they often feature.

See also: Waking Art: James André Paints His Lucid Dreams

Graham grew up in Commerce City, in the home her dad inherited from her great-grandmother; today she lives in Denver, and she says she's so happy here she never plans to leave.

When Graham was first starting as an artist, she did lots of experimenting on "junky art," she says. "It wasn't always pleasing to the eye," she admits, adding that she's still surprised she was able to sell her earliest work. Since then, Graham's style has changed dramatically; now she creates art that is technically sophisticated and much more aesthetically pleasing.

The pieces are colorful without being obnoxious. "When I set out to paint, I don't intend to be colorful, and I want to downplay the color as much as possible," explains Graham. But "things just happen," she says.

Graham likes to paint on board, tabletops, found objects and other nontraditional mediums. "I don't like the texture of canvas," Graham says.

Graham has shown her work at Earl's Sandwich Parlor and ism gallery. Her most recent exhibition was through the Denver Urban Gardens Art Farm, where the garden backdrop complemented her contributions to the show. The outdoorsy stuff, Graham says, "blended into garden instead of standing out like a sore thumb."

Continue reading for more on Graham and her artwork.

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Graham is so inspired by her home state that lately she's been going to different parks to capture the environment. "I'll leave the piece as it is, or maybe paint some characters into it," Graham says.

The result is imaginative in almost a "childlike sense," as Graham puts it. The focus is on animals, nature, and other earthy scenery that encapsulates a spirit for adventure and its maker's own love of nature.

Graham's father, also an artist, helped nurture his daughter's talent from an early age. Graham attended the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design for a year, but dropped out. "With art school," she says, "I feel that unless you are going for a super-technical skill, one year is all you need as far as networking and learning the basics."

Shortly after leaving art school, Graham began working in the local restaurant scene. She's currently a server at Dazzle Restaurant and Lounge, where her work will appear in October. For more information on Graham and her work, visit her website.

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