The Story Behind Candice Alexander

The Story Behind Candice AlexanderI grew up in a small town North of Jennings, LA called Hathaway (Panchoville to be exact).   At a very early age I was involved in many many activities such as FFA, Beta, Fbla, Basketball. and most importantly 4-h.   Very early on I met an artist who later went on the change my life.  She was a painter from a Louisiana movie they were filming in Lake Arthur called Passion Fish.  From the age of 11 I was inspired to be an artist and after meeting her I knew thats what I wanted to do with my life.  For a decade she kept in touch with me, sending me her drawings and old paint brushes…Her name was Yevette Ward.

I never had art as a child in school and i was never exposed to art lessons until i turned 15.  I got “lucky” in finding what I loved at an early age.  I never gave up and I continued to draw and create little collage pieces, sometimes even as detailed as my adult work .  I was always intimidated to paint so I never really did.   I do remember painting an old red barn still life, just the basic green for the grass, and red for the barn…blocks of color.   When it came to the shading I got scared.   It was totally different than a solid color coming from a crayon or a colored pencil or a marker.  Whats coincidental is that in the last 3 months Ive painted nearly 125 dog portraits and even a portrait of Ellen Degeneres.

Throughout Elementary, Jr. High school, I continued to enter any and all art contests I could find, and sometimes I would win.   Sometimes I wouldn’t. Winning inspired me to keep doing my best, and losing made me want to get better.

I had my first printmaking lesson in Jennings, LA with a man named Larry Schuch.  I was exposed monotypes- painting on glass to make a unique one of a kind piece.  Little did I know I would go on to get a degree in Visual Arts with a concentration in Printmaking.  Most of my childhood memories are of me creating on my white bed spread.  I remember the first time I got in trouble for getting art stains on my bed spread…the rest was history as the next hundred stains didn’t matter to my mom anymore.

In 1997 I graduated high school with 21 in my class.  I didn’t get any scholarships even though I was in the top 4 of my classmates.  I received pell grants because my family were farmers.  We didn’t have a lot of money but we had what we needed.   And I had my art.

Today, during this presentation – if you get anything from me being here- it is this –  Find something you love and follow through with it. Write about it, manifest about it. Pray about it and pray harder about being exposed to things you are passionate in your life.  Most importantly – Never ever give up on your dreams.

After High School I enrolled in LSUE in Eunice bc it was close to my parents house and I could commute.  I studied there for 1 or two semesters, and out of my parents wanting – I transferred to Mcneese.

At MSU I began in graphic design but realized soon enough that I didn’t really care for the non hands on work that I loved.  A teacher there talked me into taking a few printmaking classes and every semester following until graduation in 2002 –  I did.  What’s interesting is that I currently run my business using graphic design with the roots of my work being printmaking .  I NEVER took a painting class until my senior year.  This was around the time that  9-11 happened.  Throughout my time in college I studied in Athens and Rome – each for a month at at time. I took out a few student loans so I can see the world.  I believe that seeing the world is important because it opens doors and expands your thinking outside of what you know.

During my senior year at MSU I also life guarded and worked at Hobby Lobby.  Those were the last jobs I ever had.  I always knew I never wanted to have a boss, so I pursued my passion in what I loved to do.

One day I got this urge to get an old “hobby car”.  I didn’t know why but I knew I just knew I needed one.  I knocked on strangers doors , listening to this inner voice – “find that car”.   I did…and old beat up ragged out 1974 VW thing. Months later I decided to buy another one to use for parts to make my car better.   My senior year I used the front panel in a sculpture for a class I was taking.  That same teacher who I had a printmaking class with at a young age- Larry Shuch recognized that car bc of the odd green color.  They never made cars that color.  Come to find out it was his old car. He offered to buy it back from me but I refused since I had parted the thing out, had no title, it was wrecked and leaking oil everywhere.   He told me he wanted to trade me for a baby printing press. The rest is, well- history.  At MSU I was never told or required to take ANY business courses, but I wish I would have.   For artists I also believe taking videography would be important for marketing.

The baby printing press sat in it’s box for almost half a year until I finished college.  After graduating college I was approached by a locally well known artist, Eddie Mormon to share a studio space at Central School . As fate had it, Eddie ventured downtown and I ended up getting the space.  I really didn’t know what to do out of college- because really the only option was to go to grad school.  I knew eventually I would have to apply but I had to ask myself if I really wanted to go back to school, or start making money instead of going into debt.

In 2002 I applied for my first business license In Lake Charles as an “engraver”.  I applied for art grants and rarely got any… I did manage to get a celtic nations grant…..

After 4 months of piddling in my studio and selling my art here and there in the Lake Charles area- I decided to venture out by applying for shows out of town and out of state.  I applied for a license to be a painter in Jackson Square New Orleans. I slept in parking lots in my van, showered at truck stops, and I painted to the tunes of New Orleans.   Eventually the politics and bickering among the artists there turned me off, so I left.   No one in new orleans would ever be convinced that printmaking was original art and the prints were original . I had this amazing idea of printing on site in the square…that was quickly shot down with the politics and the City officials in New Orleans.   I came back to Lake charles to search for a circuit of shows as an excuse to stay gone because at the time I had the mentality that there was nothing at all in Lake Charles or even Louisiana for me. Months later I landed myself in New Mexico because my studio neighbor suggested I try a few shows and I could stay with her for a little while on her little house on the prairie… In one month I exhibited at 4 street fairs and for the first time tasted the freedom of the road and discovered that with a baby printing press, copper and a van- I could work and live anywhere.   I travelled throughout New Mexico taking pics on the worlds first digital cameras and using those pics and the amazing landscapes for inspiration in my new road work.    I even booked a show at the Clovis Community College months down the road…what an excuse to stay longer I thought.   When I got to Taos, NM I truly fell in love with the place and literally by body had no desire to leave.   I enrolled at the University of New Mexico in Taos where I studied printmaking, video editing and portraiture.  I had little money, but I had wings and faith in selling my work.  That same year I hustled small shows here and there and saved enough pennies to buy a little slice of earth in Northern New Mexico off of the grid.

The travel bug was in me and so was never giving up with the hustling and selling of my work.  For the next few years I bounced back home so much that its hard to remember.   I eventually decided to build a tent from scratch…I bought a sailboat sewing machine and designed a tent to do weekend long Renaissance Fair shows…sometimes they lasted for 1-3 months with the shows being on the weekends.  At this point I went from calling myself a gypsy to a rennie because it was almost as though I graduated college to work under the big tent, except one that I can call my own.   At the renaissance Fairs I played the part from dialect to costume and educated the old to the young with the ancient renaissance process of printmaking….copper to the paper from the press. I lived in tents during the week where I worked on custom litho portraits and printed them on the press at my set up shop.

I travelled for nearly 5 years back and forth to LA-NM-LA-FL-LA-PA-LA-FL-LA-PA-NY..all in a mini van, a small set up and the same baby printing press.  Sometimes I slept on top of my gear and took solar showers.

In 2006- something eventful happened.  I sublet a house in Pennsylvania from a Renaissance friend.   I remember it snowed and I didn’t leave the house for 17 days.  I started a book called the “Artists way”.  I was pretty lost as to what I was supposed to be doing in my life.  The book called for writing everyday stream of consciousness and daily little exercises to tap more into my inner artist child.   Around this time I was working  on a commission of a Fleur De Lis engraving that a woman wanted as a Christmas gift for her 12 relatives…she told me it was her coat of arms….and that she wanted to buy the original copper plate and the engravings…I only quoted her $300, just enough to pay my rent at the time. It is VERY rare to sell an original plate, but I needed the money.

I worked on the plate on my right, and I would journal daily on my left…I wrote about creating a body of work that would reach the masses, and I engraved my heart out on this engraving- that for me- wasn’t really anything special since I WAS from Louisiana.  As fate has it- the woman never called me back nor did I request a deposit on the work I did for her…For a year I considered a total loss…what would folks up north want with a Fleur De Lis anyway I thought.

I believe in prayers.  I believe in synchronicity.  I believe in Manifestations…and I believe in God.  I believe writing is like prayer…Writing today – the passing from the brain to the hand to the paper- words never leaving the mouth to be words of passion and merriment.  Everything seemed to come to a head…I received my denial letter to graduate school…and I was stuck with a Fleur De Lis commission.

If anyone of you know my work- what i thought was a commission gone bad, later turned into a commission gone WILD.

Months later during the years of 2006-2007 I decided to drive a few hours to NYC. I remember me, the mini van and a set of deer horns on the front driving through china town…It really seems like I was more bold at that age because these days I can’t ever imagine doing that. I made my way to the City Offices where I applied for a another peddlers permit…but this time it was to set up in front of the MET museum of art.  And that’s exactly what I did…hustled the streets of the big city.  I tunneled and took a train to and from upstate New York to sell my work out of a pop up suitcase I made from one I found off the side of the road.  I worked the streets of NYC until the snow had me chilled to the bones and I decided to come back to my roots in Louisiana.

At christmas I was invited to participate in a “pillars of art” set up for nearly a month in the Acadiana Mall in Lafayette. Little did I know the commission gone bad would be just the opposite when I landed back home in cajun country.  I remember displaying one here and there and as the three weeks passed- I recall only selling that image…I sold about 200 original engraving prints and started hand coloring them…sports themes,school colors…lsu inspired etc…nothing too fancy.   At the very end of the mall contract I hit somewhat of a burnout stage so I told myself I was either going to quit doing them- or embrace it and take it further….I always remind myself that if i don’t always like something – that I should probably explore it a little more…and boy is that what i did!  I began to take requests and listen to what people wanted but I never sold any- except the first original design called “keyhole”… I knew I was onto something and so did everyone else at that time.  I was also starting to get custom commissions and I FINALLY was able to save some money.

This series manifested though the pages of the artist way book and has turned 10 years old this year almost to the day.   To this day I still believe that those magical pages of prayers and writing into the Universe led me to find my niche in the art world, and 10 years later I have thousands of collectors.

I soon later incorporated my business into an LLC an a single owner corporation.  My business license went from being free to costing several hundred dollars.  I had to get an employee, sometimes two, and of course I had to pay more taxes.

For 15 years I collected every single email I possibly could of everyone who bought my work and supported me. To this day I have nearly 10,000 email addresses and 15,000 followers on social media.   You may think thats a lot- but to me- its still only the beginning.   During these last ten years I have licensed my work with the collegiate licensing company where I have permission to use MSU and ULL and LA TECH logos in my work.   I pay insurance and fees and royalties quarterly.  These companies also require fair trade where my company has to report who is making the raw product and where it comes from .   For my entire career, Alexander Art Studio has manufactured my work, and my digital prints on nearly 80 different products from cell phone cases to shirts to cutting boards to mugs and even jewelry. We outsource nothing.

Before releasing  my new popular body of work- I quickly applied for a copyright at the Library of Congress under the title “fleur de lis – worlds within”.  I later found out the cost of having such a popular body of work. This was really all new for me and it happened somewhat fast.  For years I was a true “starving artist”

in 2009 I was invited to be in the Dallas show room at the world market. This is a place where retailers go to buy wholesale for products to put in their stores.    I also had to get a sales rep and in over a year I was in nearly 40 stores.  This may sound great, but I soon found out that with success comes copycats.  And that is exactly what happened.  I got knocked off in China with my Texas design where a company was manufacturing thousands of them on bracelets….and selling them virtually everywhere…its not hard to get a small image off line and print it..even with a watermark.   I soon realized I had to get an attorney to protect my work and later sent out 18 cease and desist letters across the state of Louisiana, Texas and of course CHINA.  The Dallas world market was very short lived, and so was my sales rep who was making 15 percent –  and especially after I found dozens of bracelets in packs of 12 on the shelves of the world market later.

For ten years I didn’t really stop…I only grew my business more and more. I stayed more locally and regionally with the street fairs and festivals. Shreveport, Lafayette, Jennings, plantation shows and lake charles.   My work began its popularity in magazines and articles across the state.   So much that I outgrew the studio and the entire hallways at central school. One night while eating at Pujo street cafe- my friend and I decided that right across the street in the old Charleston building …may make a nice studio for me…

The next day it was mine…keys in hand and a decade of a studio move began…something I never in a million years would have imagined!    In the last 5 years downtown Ive really grown to love Lake charles and my space here.  Almost daily I say aloud how I’ve outgrown this space…but we continue to move around and build up.  As an artist I believe we have to always reinvent ourselves….and once again…find what you love and pursue it.

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