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Kona’s Own: Alex Gupton

An irresistible, charismatic, kilt-wearing artist

Alex Gupton is a truly rarified creature in the world of art. A charming extrovert who possesses incredible creativity and extraordinary skill in numerous mediums, he also has keen business sensibilities and marketing savvy – a combination of qualities not often found. And, not often found in Kona – kilt-wearing men! 

“My family is part of the Clan Stewart who made their way to Australia from Scotland – who knows, they may have been offered a one-way ticket there a century or two ago,” he says laughing. “I just know that a kilt is much cooler to wear than pants in this warm climate.”

Having made Kailua-Kona home for most of his 54 years, Alex also has a deep-seeded commitment to giving back to his community and always making time for ohana (family) friends and those in need. A native of Southern California, his family vacationed in Kona regularly until his parents decided to make the move here in 1978 with the thought that “what a lovely place this would be to raise our kids”. 

Alex was nine at the time; seven years later, at the age of 16, a move back to the mainland was necessitated by his now late father’s cancer diagnosis. Alex remained there for a stint at higher education in Georgia while discovering his talent as a muralist.

While painting large scale murals for primarily residential clients consumed much of his early years, today he is a master of intricate pen and ink drawings, wood carving to create three-dimensional art, mosaics and bronze sculpture. Much of his work is commissioned by clients worldwide (currently he is booked out for a year!) however, his work may be found in galleries throughout Hawaii and Las Vegas, including a colorful, inviting space he opened together with his wife Jacqueline and partners Victor and Stephan Pillola in 2021. His work is featured in the attractive Gupton Gallery along with 23 additional artists, representing a total of 17 Hawaii-based artists and a handful from Oregon, Washington and Ohio.

“I never could do this on my own, Jacque and the Pillolas are absolutely essential to running the gallery and are vital to its success,” he says. 

 The gallery features both originals and prints from the painters and photographers represented, while native woodwork -- fine furniture and wood sculptures -- ceramics, and bronze also are on offer. Penny Gupton, Alex’s mother, a painter specializing in oils and watercolors, is among the amazing artists whose pieces are shown in the gallery. 

“She never pushed, but rather was always encouraging of my art. She told me, ‘Go out in the world and find something you love’,” he says. “Of course, it didn’t hurt that she always had an art studio in our house and I was always welcome!”

Taking that advice to heart, who would have thought Alex would elect to study business at the University of Georgia in Athens?

“What that experience taught me is: I will always hire an accountant and I will always hire a lawyer so I can focus on being a professional artist,” he says. “I quit school and painted murals in locations throughout the U.S. mainland for several years before returning to Hawaii Island in 1997. 

Hawaii’s tropical landscapes, undersea life and rich traditions are vividly apparent in all of his work, reflecting his appreciation and love of his home. Much of it created in Trompe l’Oeil (trick the eye) style. Hidden within Alex’s creations, and sometimes forming the images as a whole, are a myriad of tiny details and scenes waiting to be discovered – from honu (green sea turtles) and florals to petroglyphs and fish. One of his most endearing creatures is Bob, the three-eyed fish who discreetly makes an appearance in each of his pieces. His signature character was inspired by “Blinkie” the fish on the 1970s hit sitcom, The Simpsons. During his mural making days, a college friend encouraged him to hide “Blinkie” in his work. He wasn’t about to use another artist’s work, so he created Bob. “Finding Bob”, Alex says, quickly became popular and continues to lure viewers into the details of his intricate pen and ink art.

“I live my dream every day. Being allowed to create artwork while residing in paradise with my amazing wife and three great kids, surrounded by friends, I am unbelievably lucky and honored to live this life,” he says.

Equally rewarding, he says, is the opportunity to give back. During select months, the gallery donates a portion of its proceeds to help fund supplies for local art teachers. Artwork is also donated regularly to charitable auctions. Monetary donations are made to local charities supporting women, children, cancer research, hospice and more. Alex gives of his time and talent, participating as an invited guest at the week-long Hawaii Artist Collaboration held each October in Holualoa. The work created during that event is auctioned with all proceeds also funding art supplies for local K-12 art teachers.

“I literally have been doing this my entire life. At 22-months-old, I created my first sketch – a car inspired by my father’s passion as a race car driver. It’s who I am, what I was born to do.” 

“I started painting murals in college to make some money … and it did! I thought, let’s give this mural thing a shot, maybe a year. Now, here I am 33 years later with pen and brush still in hand.”

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