We dive into the interesting career of private commission artist, Iain Alexander and explore his view on the new wave of digital and crypto-based art.

If you had told a young Iain Alexander that his future career would involve being an international DJ and successful artist, he probably would not have believed you. Throughout his teens, Iain focused on a single-minded path to glory in the swimming pools of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. That was until a back injury in 1999 cost him his place on Team GB and meant the need to focus his talents and training discipline into other channels.


“I used to swim every single day at 5:30am before I went to school. At lunchtime, I would do weight training and then in the evenings, I had another hour and a half of swimming. You can imagine somebody just training and swimming all their lives and then having that taken away from them; how devastating that would be. After my injury, I was lucky to be offered a lot of support. The psychologist asked me what I did with my friends and in my spare time and I realised the only friends I had were people that swim and I didn’t do anything else. So, he asked me if there was anything else that I enjoyed and I thought – music. Before a competition, I used to try and emulate Linford Christie and how he had that tunnel vision where he never used to speak to anybody. I would try and do that, but I used loud music to help me stay focused. So, he told me that swimming was just something that I was very good at, but it was my mental strength that helped me achieve what I did. He encouraged me to take that mental strength going forward in life and channel it into whatever I wanted to do.”

A music career beckoned and despite his relative youth, Iain found himself swiftly moving up the ranks as a successful DJ. By the time he was 18, he was flying around the world to play to large crowds, and he credits the cautious support of his mother with helping to handle this.

“Mum wasn’t particularly happy about the new career, but she pushed on me that I had to research the country I was going to before I travelled. She encouraged me to experience the culture, try the food and talk to the locals – not just pull up, play my set and then onto the next place. I was extremely fortunate to travel loads and then I saw a bit of a gap in the market in Dubai in 2004. I thought that it had good potential to be massive in terms of clubbing, so I went back in 2006 catching it just at the right time.”

The right time for Iain involved running a successful beach club called Plastik – a nod to the fickle and slightly superficial environment of Dubai.

“I used to call it ‘Groundhog Day’ because every day was so similar, get up, go to work, party, go to bed. But I learned so much and I met some incredible people there. It made me appreciate money a bit more in life because of just the over-the-top spending and wastage that I saw at times, you know? It fitted with the world and the brand that I was in at that moment. I was young and it was cool. Don’t get me wrong, I like to still visit but it’s not a particularly healthy world to be living in and being around all the time.”

Iain admits that being a DJ and club owner is a ‘young man’s game’ and when the sheen wore o the party lifestyle, he turned to another one of his great loves – art.

“Before I went to Dubai, I had gone to university to study art. The tutor said on the first day to the people in the room, ‘Who’s here to just make money?’ I put my hand up and was told I was on the wrong course. They tell you that only 3 or 4 per cent of artists can live o their art alone but I thought, well why couldn’t I be one of them? I thought that if that is the way they were going to teach, why should I be on this course? So, I walked out.”

It would seem that Iain is one of the ‘lucky few’ as he has worked consistently and steadily since. Choosing to mainly work through word of mouth with private clients, he found early success and has been commissioned to produce works for royalty, celebrities, private collectors and elite brands. Without limiting himself to one medium, discipline or style – Iain’s work remains fluid, he chooses the materials and format for each new body of work depending on the client he is working with.

“I wouldn’t classify myself as a normal artist. I don’t market myself, like an artist or go down the route of how other artists work. You have painters who paint, sculptors who sculpt. I can never do the same thing twice. I always wanted to explore, and there are so many ways now to do that. With each project, I try to push my boundaries. I love working with different mediums every single time. I oer each client an option to try something new or go down the route with something I haven’t done before which could be a bit risky or it’s them getting something unique and different.

“When you are working with the very wealthy, they already have so much, so the only thing you can order them is something different or unique, a one-off, something that they can’t go and buy from a gallery floor. I like to get clients involved in the idea process to a certain degree because, at the end of the day, I’m creating this piece for them. I invite them to invest in the creative side of it as well.”

A recent project in Qatar linked to the World Cup had to be put on hold temporarily due to COVID-19, but Iain has put his downtime to good use. As well as working on and researching two new projects, Iain and his partner Elsie-May (of local Jersey band’s Ruby Rouge & Elsie and the Emeralds) welcomed the birth of their first child, a daughter called Opal Grace.

One project that Iain has been developing in between helping Elsie to take care of their new baby is a new platform for artists called AppArt. The website is being designed to support independent artists, helping them to self-manage and maximise their profits from sales rather than being reliant or taken advantage of by 3rd parties. It is a project that is close to Iain’s heart and stems from that original experience at art college where the message for artists appeared to be one of pessimism and acceptance of the status quo.

“Most artists have to rely on galleries and 3rd parties to sell their work and whilst this can work well for them, it also does mean that they are reliant on the whims and tastes of others. It can also result in people being taken advantage off. The driving force behind the development of AppArt is that it will be a site that has been made by artists for artists, and artists will receive 100% of their sales and have a direct contact with the buyers providing support in the right way. A percentage of profits are going to be put back into projects to benefit education, charities and creative based projects, which is something that I have always supported. The site will also have an area where art owners can sell their work without having to pay large management fees. It will work on the premise that the more people that come on board, the wider it can build and stretch.”

Iain has also spent the last six months researching the potential growth area of Cryptoart and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). These are unique digital tokens encrypted with the artist’s signature and individually identified on a blockchain, effectively verifying the rightful owner and authenticity of the creation. The NFT can be applied to anything which has been created or designed by an individual and then that file can then be bought and sold using cryptocurrency

“It is a really interesting topic and something I feel could go in one direction or the other, You can sell the digital artworks as a one-off original piece or you could break it down into, say, 100 shares and sell them separately. People are paying crazy money for these things now. I have just worked with Tyson Fury on a family portrait, and he had someone do a painting of him that was converted into a digital file which sold for a million dollars. The buyer gets an encrypted certificate, which is the valuable thing. To some degree, it is no different from when a collector buys a valuable painting and puts it in a vault. No one is looking at or appreciating the artwork and its value is purely how much it is being bought and sold for. A CryptoPunk NFT was auctioned at Sotheby’s recently and sold for over $17 million, so this area is blowing up right now. I have always used digital art in the development of my work but I want to investigate it and understand if this is something I can work with moving forward. I personally would want a physical piece of work to hang on my wall if I was investing in art so I would always make both versions for my clients if so.”

From talking to Iain, you know that he is not an artist that is content to remain in the same place, doing the same thing for a long time. The future for him as an artist now revolves firmly around his family, using his craft to provide for them as well as meeting his desire for ongoing creativity

“I’d love to do more stuff in the public arena, involving the culture of the area on a huge scale. Making something that a whole community can work on that is educational and tells a story yet looks fantastic as well. Elsie and I have agreed that we want to keep on travelling as this is something we both value and love, but right now the focus is on our daughter.

“I wouldn’t change anything about the path that has brought me here. But Opal Grace has inspired me to make some different decisions in my career as well. I want to think about the bigger picture. Utilising the time that I put into my work, the best I can, but not having to work as many hours. To simplify and to maximise, so I can spend more time with my family.”