Interview with artist: Keith Alford

Mon, 16 Sep 2013 11:44:00 +0200

Our beloved readers, today we would like to present you with an interview with a talented artist Keith Alford. His various artworks are admired by a great number of art lovers and many of them belong to the top favorites in our gallery. Now you have a chance to get to know a personality behind them.

Keith, tell us about yourself, how did you learn to paint?

I’m a 46-year-old proud father of a beautiful 23-year-old daughter – Jaylynn. I live in Ontario, Canada and have a background in I.T. Business Systems, Networking and Data Management with a current focus on EDP auditing and data clean-up for a newly implemented production system.


I learned a lot about painting (formal instruction) from my art teachers in secondary school. (Especially from Mr. Peter Barron – Aka “Mr. B”).  My older brothers and I also used to regularly watch a show on PBS television in the ’80s called “The Magic of Oil Painting – with William Alexander”. He was an incredible artist (to me at least), who could: first take a 4-inch wide brush, seemingly stab it in a random fashion across his canvas - pick up a putty knife, slash it back and forth…do a couple more magical swipes with a few dry brushes – and just like that - a forest would appear.  A couple of his favourite sayings were “You are the almighty creator!” and “Fire in your Happy colours!”.  . . It didn’t take long before I would be “singing” his words while trying out the various techniques that he demonstrated on his show.

For the most part, my artwork has just been a personal hobby of mine. Being a (proud) computer geek for most of my life, I have been exposed to many different drawings, graphics and design packages over the years. This provided for the occasional visit into the artistic side of the electronic world.  About 10 years ago, I took up digital photography using the “learn as you go method”.  That resulted in spending many many hours of fixing poorly taken photos in Photoshop. While much of what I learned in Photoshop was through trial, error and experimentation, I did receive many good tips and tricks over the years from the many regular contributors to the digital imaging and graphic forums at the website, as well as through participation in various “Artify This” and other image-manipulation threads within those forums.  

How did you get interested in art?

I couldn’t say how (or when) I first got interested in art … so I called up my mum and asked her. :)

She said my interest was something I probably picked up from my dad - and that I, like my older brothers and sisters before me, took an interest in the arts from a very early age. My parents simply did whatever they could do to encourage those interests. I remember a Funk & Wagnell’s pictorial/print collection of many of the great masters of art. I think there were about 40 volumes, with each one dedicated to a specific artist. I never tired of looking at those. Escher, Dali, Da Vinci, Van Gogh and Picasso have always among my top favourites. Growing up in Canada, the Group of Seven artists were also obvious favourites.  

A great variety in your paintings is obvious. I can’t say what I like more – your portraits, animals, abstracts… what is your favorite object for drawing?

While I don’t think I have anyone's favourite thing to draw (which probably explains the variety), I think that abstracts are always fun to do. There is much more freedom as you only have to paint the idea of something, there is no need to worry about all the details.


We are amazed by your newest artwork “In Depth”. It’s not a common style of Flame Painter pictures. How did you do it?

Thank you. That came about mostly by accident. :)

The fish originally started out as quick swirls in Flame Painter, using the default flame brush (they were flames that wanted to be fishes). When I brought the first couple of groupings into Photoshop for arrangement and layering, they were mostly transparent, messy blobs when first stacked up.

 I thought that if I could make them solid, I could make some of the fish appear to be behind the others (a layering technique I’ve used before). I intended to create a solid black copy of a fish-layer to use as a back layer. But when I made the new layer, all the flowing black fins showed up and they appeared much more elaborate than they did with the original layer. I started playing around by making a couple more copies of the same layer - trying out differently coloured layers, stacked on top of each other. Eventually, I found that layering them from darkest-at-back to lightest-at-front started to give me a result I really liked. 


After painting several more groups of “fishes” in Flame Painter, I was able to come up with “In Depth”. I continued in a similar fashion to finish up with “From Below the Above”.

Do you do anything else when you’re drawing?

Music is a must. I always have music playing.

For example: When making “Sizzle Stix” (the drummer), I was listening mostly to Pink Floyd & Led Zeppelin (as well as Charlie Daniel’s - The Devil went down to Georgia). While creating “From Below the Above”, I was listening to Yes’ - Tales of Topographic Oceans and Rick Wakeman’s - The Six Wives of Henry VIII, along with some of his other solo-pieces. Mancini’s Peter Gunn and Pink Panther are a couple of other favourites to draw to.

We all could notice your pictures of sizzling music instruments. Do you have any negative experience with them? :)

Please note: No musical instruments or musicians were harmed in the making of my works. :-)

Don’t look at sizzling instruments in a negative light. :) Think of them as representing the feeling of really hot music.


OK, we believe you. Which feature do you fancy on Flame Painter? Is there anything you miss?

It’s not so much any one feature but the natural feeling of creating art that Flame Painter gives. The ability to trace a background image is a great way to doodle and quickly sketch ideas (and keep a bird from looking like a rock). The unlimited combinations of brushes that can be created in Flame Painter also mean a never-ending adventure of results.

It would be amazing to have a copy/paste ability directly between Flame Painter and Photoshop. (I don’t think there is a need for a full plug-in). It would also be nice to have the ability to change the default starting size and/or save named drawing sizes/configurations. (I usually start with 5000x5000)

Let’s see what the future holds :). Where can we find your artworks?

For now, many of my Flame Painter creations can be found in the Flame Painter gallery.

I do have a website that usually has lots of photos on display (amateur photo geek :) ). However, at this time most of the site is offline while I work on a re-design (something broke). Once the photos are back up, there will also be a gallery of my flame painter artwork with pan and zoom features.

Your photos are really tasteful – we love especially your Macros in Land of Small album. Is there anything you would like to say to the world?

I do have to say that your software has certainly renewed my passion for art. I have done more creative artworks with Flame Painter (photography/ photoshop excluded) than I have done in the past 25 years combined. My sincere thanks to Peter Blaskovic and the rest of the Escape Motions team for making such great artistic software such an affordable reality.

We feel like we’re about to blush. Thank you again for your time and your interesting answers, Keith!

I’m honoured to have been asked to share. Thank you. :)


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