Alex Ross was born in Portland, Oregon, and raised in Lubbock, Texas, by his minister father, Clark, and his mother, a commercial artist from whom he would learn many of the trademarks of his artistic style. Ross first began drawing at age three, and was first influenced by superheroes when he discovered Spider-Man on an episode of the children's TV series The Electric Company.
He would later be influenced by comics artists such as George Pérez and Berni Wrightson, and attempted to imitate Pérez's style when he did superhero work, and Wrightson's when he did what he calls "serious" work. By age 16, Ross discovered the realistic work of illustrators such as Andrew Loomis and Norman Rockwell, and envisioned one day seeing such styles applied to comic book art.
At age 17, Ross began studying painting at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, where his mother had studied. During his years there, Ross discovered the work of other artists like J. C. Leyendecker and Salvador Dalí, whose "hyper-realistic quality", Ross saw, was not that far removed from that of comics. It was also during this time that he formed the idea to paint his own comic books. Ross graduated after three years.
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