Born in Orange, Texas, wildlife artist and writer Charles Alexander grew up exploring the woods and fields of his childhood home near Germantown, Tennessee, a now much-altered landscape that first awakened his love of the natural world.
A 1982 Briarcrest graduate, Charles went on to earn a University of Memphis self-designed degree: Writing and Illustrating Works of Natural History. He later studied painting with wildlife artist Robert Abbett at the Scottsdale Artist’s School and with the renowned New York pastelist, Daniel E. Greene. In 1996, he began an intensive course in 19th century painting methods with master teacher Kathryn Manzo at the Contemporary Realist Academy in Memphis.
At the age of twelve, Charles began volunteering at the Memphis Zoo, dreaming of being hired as a keeper one day. At eighteen, that dream came true when he was presented with the chance to raise an orphaned lowland gorilla, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that opened the door to a full-time zookeeper career. During his Memphis Zoo years, he was privileged to work with a multitude of rare species one-on-one, an experience that emboldened his desire to use his art and writing to raise awareness of the plight of vanishing wildlife around the world.
Charles left the zoo in 1995 to pursue his art full time. He has since researched his stories and paintings in many wild places, including the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem and flamingo lakes of Kenya and Tanzania; the Virunga volcanoes of Rwanda, home of the mountain gorilla; the tall and shortgrass prairies of the American Great Plains; and the bottomland swamp forests of the Lower Mississippi floodplain, to name just a few.
In 1994, Charles began collecting stories in Madison Parish, Louisiana. He eventually recorded the oral histories of eighty different people throughout the delta country, in an effort to piece together an environmental history of the South’s last great wilderness, once home of the ivory-billed woodpecker.
A signature member of the Artists for Conservation foundation, Charles has exhibited his paintings coast-to-coast in such diverse venues as San Francisco’s Ft Mason Center and New Jersey’s Hiram Blauvelt Museum, one of only three museums in the United States dedicated exclusively to wildlife art. His work has been published in numerous natural history books and magazines, including Birder’s World, Wildlife Art, World Pheasant Association News, Texas Birds, and The Journal of the Texas Ornithological Society. In 2007, his work with Congo’s Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary was chosen by the Natural World Museum and the United Nations World Environment Program for inclusion in Art Into Action: Nature, Creativity, and Our Collective Future, a book featuring the work of seventy-nine artists from around the world whose art reflects the urgent need to conserve our planet’s natural heritage.
Charles now lives two miles from Mexico in the Rio Grande Valley of Deep South Texas, where he has studied wild parrots since 2012. He is currently working on new paintings and two primary book projects: one on the Valley’s parrots and another based on his Madison Parish stories.