Meet local artist Charles Buchanan, who captures the magic of Birmingham in his art

charles buchanan
Recognize the location on the right? (Claire Buchanan)

For over 20 years, local artist and creative Charles Buchanan has brought life to Birmingham architecture like Vulcan, historic buildings and more through his art. Read on to learn how he takes everyday ideas and turns them into something eccentric.

Birmingham proud

charles buchanan
Some examples of his prints. (Gabby Gervais / Bham Now)

Buchanan was born in Selma but moved to Birmingham before his senior year of High School. He instantly considered it his hometown since it was the largest city he’d ever lived in.

Although he toyed with the idea of moving away, Buchanan knew there was something special about The Magic City.

“Birmingham is a place where you can accomplish things. You can be an artist and get into a gallery, make your mark and have an impact. People really take pride in Birmingham and its been very rewarding to see people rediscovering the city. You can see the impact of people investing in Birmingham and people outside are discovering it. Watching that progression has been fantastic—I’m proud to be here and call it my hometown.”

Charles Buchanan

Given his outgoing demeanor, you wouldn’t guess it, but Buchanan told me he was always more of an introvert. His favorite part about being an artist in Birmingham is connecting with locals over his art.

He said when people recognize locations in his art or are happy to connect over Birmingham, it makes everything so much fun.

“It’s such a neat way to connect with your community on a different level. It has surprised me how I used to be shy and introverted, but I love opening up with people about art and talking with them. It’s gotten a lot easier over the years.”

Charles Buchanan

Living the dream

charles buchanan
An artist in action. (Claire Buchanan)

Ever since he was a kid, Charles Buchanan has loved to draw. He said drawing has since taken different forms over his artistic career, from painting to printmaking.

Buchanan has multifaceted talent, with a career spanning professional and creative copywriting, editing and even penning a book. The common thread between his projects? He finds inspiration in the everyday.

Sometimes, his art features treasured Birmingham landmarks like Vulcan. Other times his art may look familiar, but is simply inspired by a local spot—something he calls visual DNA.

“If you look at my art and think it looks familiar, it may not be an actual place. If I draw something like Sloss Furnaces, you may never be able to find the actual vantage point, but it still feels like that. I love capturing the look and feel of Birmingham and Alabama.”

Charles Buchanan

With many forms of art under his belt, it begs the question, how can you pick a favorite? Buchannan said there’s nothing quite like the perfection of the imperfect print.

“As an artist, for so long, I tried so much to be a perfectionist. Printmaking doesn’t always allow that because you never entirely know how the print is going to turn out, so I’m learning to love imperfection and randomness.”

Charles Buchanan

Inspiration, everywhere

It’s no secret that Birmingham is full of fascinating architecture and history at every turn. It’s no wonder Buchanan gets most of his inspiration from simply walking around town.

He reminisced on a time where you could walk around downtown in the morning and have the whole place to yourself. Although that’s not quite the case anymore, checking out the architectural details of each building has remained the same.

“Even with all the development going on, Birmingham has preserved a whole lot of original architecture and design. Taking a stroll and looking at the details on the buildings is amazing, especially in Woodlawn. I love the weathered texture of buildings, where things have been painted or are a little rusty, I find that very inspirational.”

Charles Buchanan

He also loves walls across the city that feature painted ads. So much, in fact, that he actually wrote a book about them, Fading Ads of Birmingham, where he tells the story of how they inspired his art. Some of them date back to the 1880s and are still visible today, offering a very fascinating look into the past.

Find his art

To take a virtual look at Charles Buchanan’s work, follow him on Instagram. He let me know he regularly updates it with his most recent sketches, prints and more.

If you’d like to see his works in person, he currently has a gallery on display at Filter Coffee Parlor in Five Points South titled Something Sketchy—a collection of art appreciating a sketch as the final drawing.

In the future, Buchanan looks forward to showing his art in more galleries and transitioning to larger-scale artwork to see if he can adapt his style to something much larger than what he’s used to.

Find out what Charles Buchanan can create for you on his website.

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Gabby Gervais
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