Alfred Alexander Gockel (he goes by Alex but his given name is “Alfred”) was born in the coal mining town of Ludinghausen, Germany in 1952. Gockel’s first work was published when he was only eight years old. He planned to become an engineer but at the age of 16 Gockel began to work in the German coal mines. When the mining industry experienced a downturn, many of the town’s inhabitants were left without jobs. The struggle that Gockel felt at this time continues to effect his artwork today. “I like to touch the viewer’s soul with my vibrant colors,” Gockel has said. “Often in my paintings I use elements that reflect my challenging past, when as a boy I worked in the coal mines. But my purpose is to express my joy in life, and to show that we can overcome many obstacles through the expressions of life’s beauties.” In the early 1980s Gockel decided to focus on his art full-time. In 1983 he and his wife Ingrid founded an art publishing company; Avant Art, today a top ranked player in the abstract segment of the market, with customers in more than 50 countries worldwide.