The American Academy of Art has named Chicagoan and 1989 graduate Alex Ross – one of today’s most accomplished and famous comic-book artists – the 2012 recipient of its Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Ross, highly praised for the photo-realism of his work and often referred to as “the Norman Rockwell of the comics world,” will accept his award and speak to this year’s graduating class at the Academy’s commencement ceremony on Monday, May 14, 2012.
One of the most in-demand illustrators working today, Ross is credited with taking comic book and graphic novel illustration to new heights.
In 2011, Ross had his first museum exhibition, Heroes and Villains: The Comic Book Art of Alex Ross, which was held at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. It ran through January 8, 2012. http://www.warhol.org/connect/blogs/exhibitions/Heroes-and-Villains–The-Comic-Book-Art-of-Alex-Ross/. The first museum exhibition celebrating Ross’s artwork, Heroes and Villains featured more than 130 paintings, drawings, photographs and sculptures from Ross’s personal collection.
“We are proud of Alex and of all of his impressive achievements,” said Richard Otto, the Academy’s president. “Alex is an inspiration to our students and thousands of artists, worldwide. He’s very deserving of the highest honor our school bestows.”
“It’s a great honor to have any kind of recognition like this and one I certainly did not expect,” Ross explained. “I’m thrilled that the school still offers the same education that I received, and by many of the same people who gave it to me 25 years ago.“
Before gaining fame for his portrayals of Superman, Batman and other iconic heroes, Ross began his career as a storyboard artist at the Leo Burnett advertising agency. Freelance work in comics led to contact with writer Kurt Busiek, to whom Ross pitched a story collaboration.
Those plans came to fruition in 1993 with “Marvels,” a graphic novel series that took a realistic look at Marvel superheroes by presenting them from the point of view of an ordinary man.
Ross is a multiple winner of some of the industry’s most highly prized honors, including the Harvey Awards and the Eisners – both named after key craftsmen in the field. He’s won those several times for categories related to best-limited series, best artist and/or best cover artist.
Commenting on his selection of the American Academy of Art for his formal training, Ross shares: “I followed the path my mom had taken before me, when she attended the school back in the late ‘40s. Knowing that I wanted nothing else but to pursue a career in art since I was a kid made it easier for my parents to guide me in this direction, where we knew confidently my ambitions would be nurtured the best way possible.”
When asked what three pieces of advice he’d offer young and aspiring artists, Ross explains: “Figure drawing, figure drawing, figure drawing. Don’t ever think that you can have this one licked. It will always be the thing you need to work harder on. That applies to myself and to everyone active in the field.”
In its review of Ross’s “Mythology” book in 2003, Entertainment Weekly said, “Painter Alex Ross brings to his work an unparalleled sense of the real. His heroes – both super and mortal – have weight; they exist in space, and that space is affected by them in ways never before seen on the page.”
Graphic novels and comics are big business. Industry Analyst Milton Griepp estimated in 2011 that combined sales of new periodical comics and graphic novels in 2010 were $635 million. Comics have also given rise to many of Hollywood’s biggest blockbuster movies. It’s a bet Disney was happy to make, as evidenced by its purchase of Marvel for $4 billion in 2009.
Ross’s upcoming projects include painting the covers for new comic books featuring characters like the Shadow, Flash Gordon, and many more classic heroes.
Born in Portland, Oregon, and raised in Lubbock, Texas, Ross now lives in the northern suburbs of Chicago. For more information, visit http://www.alexrossart.com/.
About the American Academy of Art:
The American Academy of Art (www.aaart.edu) has trained and educated some of the nation’s most prominent and prolific fine artists and illustrators since its founding in 1923. Alumni include movie poster illustrator and cowboy artist Howard Terpning (2010 Distinguished Alumnus winner); Haddon Sundblom, who gave us the American version of Santa Claus for Coca Cola; and numerous other artists. Children’s book illustrator Loren Long, (2011 Distinguished Alumnus winner), illustrated President Obama’s 2010 book, “Of Thee I Sing.”