The world of art has encompassed plenty of styles and genres that constantly has developed over the years. Communities are drawn to the awe-inspiring pieces that seem to transcend not only different cultures but also different parts of the human timeline. Something painted 1,000 years ago still has a huge impact today which is one of the greatest parts of viewing something in the creative space. One genre of art that has been at the forefront of major cities around the world has been murals. These colorful and thought-provoking imageries have been a big part of the Philadelphia landscape for a very long time. One artist has been at the center of Philadelphia’s art renaissance. Enter Alloyius Mcilwaine.
Alloyius Mcilwaine is a self-taught American artist who was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and has been passionate about the arts since his childhood. Thus, Alloyius McIlwaine has been painting and drawing on a daily basis since he was three years old, following his own desires and working without any preconceived ideas. As he puts it so well, “the idea of appealing to an emotional response, through the use of color, shapes, textures, and composition, has always fascinated him.
As a child, he quickly developed a taste for these elements through working with comics, devoting himself diligently and faithfully to reproducing the drawings down to the very last detail. A few years later, fuelled by his own personal discoveries, the young artist set out to experiment with different media and styles in order to finally develop his own pictorial writing.
His artistic language lies between figuration and abstraction, incorporating elements from both urban and pop art and it is resolutely free and contemporary. Whether he is working on canvas or on walls, Alloyius spontaneously and naturally takes pleasure in coating surfaces with large colored planes to give rise to pictorial, and extremely dynamic, creations. He is also a muralist and has painted these murals across the globe – from Japan to France, Costa Rica to Morocco – and has also covered a large number of public and private facades all around his native country with his unique signature. This artist is as enthusiastic as he is passionate and likes to disseminate his works in order to cover cities with bright and joyful splashes of color. We had the privilege of sitting with Alloyius Mcilwaine to chat about art and design.
Classic Entourage Mag: Thanks for chatting with us! Can you tell us a little bit about your adolescence and how that led you to become an artist?
Alloyius Mcilwaine: It’s actually pretty funny! I was a really hyper kid. I used to run around non-stop…to the point where I had to wear one of those kid leashes from back in the day haha. So, as a way to give herself a break from my hyperactivity, my mom used to ask me to take a timeout to draw her some of my favorite comic book characters. So that’s really how I was introduced to art! And it just came so naturally to me. I was always brimming with ideas…so drawing and painting gave me an amazing outlet to express my creativity! As I got older, I started studying and experimenting with new mediums…to try to learn more, and push my skills to the limit.
CE Mag: How did you describe your style? What makes it different from other artists?
AM: I think that my style is a combination of comic book art, pop art, street art, contemporary and graffiti…so it makes for a unique blend. When I first decided that I was going to go for it, and try to turn my passion and hobby into a full-time job, I spent some time trying to figure out my style and voice. I think that finding your unique style is one of the most important things for an artist to do. In your best-case scenario, you want people to be able to easily identify something that you’ve made…even if they don’t see your name on it. What’s interesting is, the thing that became my signature style was spawned from doodles that I did in the margins of my textbooks in grade school. I used to draw various shapes in my textbooks, and I collage them together. So, I took that idea and tried to develop it into a visual language. And I’m still working on developing this idea further and further each day.
CE Mag: What was your first commissioned mural? Where is it? Why is it significant to you?
AM: My first commissioned mural was in a salon in the middle of nowhere in New Jersey actually. It’s no longer there, as the salon isn’t there anymore, but your first commissioned job is always important. It gave me the hope that I really could make a living out of doing what I love to do the most. And now at this point, I have close to 300 murals that I’ve painted worldwide.
CE Mag: Can you talk a little about the process from start to finish for a mural? For a painting?
AM: There’s always a freestyle element to what I do. Even if I have a general idea of what I’m going for, there’s a fair amount of it that I make up on the spot. So my paintings are heavily influenced by my environment and by what’s going on around me. Many times, I just put on music and let it all flow out from me.
When I first started, it almost felt like I had handcuffs on when going about my every day life, but when I got to paint, the handcuffs came off…and I could just be free. It was like a release of my energy onto the canvas or wall…so there was always this explosion of color and ideas. However, over time, I learned to control that explosion a bit more…to give it more structure. So I’m a little bit more analytical at this point than I used to be. Wisdom comes with age lol.
CE Mag: Your masterpiece work all seem to have some blue in it. Is that your favorite color? Do you choose colors before you choose the design?
AM: Blue actually is my favorite color…which makes sense, because I always feel the most at peace when I’m by a body of water. But you know what’s interesting? I’ve also noticed over time that outside of black and blue, yellow is the color that I use the most. By nature, I’m a bright, happy person…so I guess that makes sense. And my color choices are often very serendipitous. I often choose colors based entirely on how I’m feeling in that moment instead of meticulously planning out a color scheme.
CE Mag: What are a few things you dislike in the art community currently? How do you think it can be improved?
AM: When it comes to the galleries, the art critics and the whole high art culture, I think that there can be a certain amount of pretentiousness to it. There was this one painting that literally was a black square in the top corner of an all white canvas…and this piece sold for over $100,000. Now if I recall correctly, the painting was a representation of the artist’s religious beliefs, and a nod to Kazimir Malevich’s “Black Square” piece…which is interesting for sure…but come on now lol. I saw a piece of art that took a guy 840 hours to complete…but because it was done in a comic book style, it would be lucky if the piece was priced at 10% of the price of the black square painting. Certain styles and techniques are judged to be less than other styles…until it’s discovered that there’s a market for it. Street Art was certainly frowned upon and looked down on for a long time, until it became commercially viable…and then it became the new hot thing that everyone wanted. So the pretentiousness of it all gets to me sometimes. I think that some of the love and beauty of the creation of art gets lost in the art machine sometimes. I’d like to see an art market where there’s more variety and more lanes for different styles to reach those $100,000 and above heights.
Also, the lack of representation for artists of color and women in the major museums and galleries is disturbing…so that definitely needs to change. And there’s a whole thing that I can get in to regarding the antagonistic nature of some graffiti writers towards street artists…but I’ll be here all day talking about that lol. Both cultures have beautiful things about them and should be celebrated.
CE Mag: What are some goals for this year? What about next year?
AM: I’m putting out my first coffee table book, “Muses Vol. 1” in the first quarter of this year! It features all of the paintings, murals, photography and more that I’ve created based on beautiful women! Also, I did 45 new murals in 2020…so I want to do 50 in 2021! And I want to start my 50 state mural tour back up when everything is back to normal again. I’ve painted murals in 17 states so far…so I have a lot more to go! I also want to do murals in Australia and South America so that I’ll have murals on 6 out of the 7 continents.
CE Mag: Any advice for a new artist that wants to get into the field?
AM: Yes for sure! Be sure to study your craft! There are so many invaluable resources at your disposal now…so be sure to use them. I’ve learned so many techniques just from watching other artists on YouTube! And use social media to your advantage. It’s all about marketing and visibility in this day and age…and social media can be your most valuable tool. Be sure to work hard and constantly create…and don’t be afraid to share your work. It doesn’t have to be perfect. People enjoy seeing your growth as an artist…and it makes them want to support you more because they feel like they’re a part of the journey. Shine bright!
CE Mag: Thank you so much for chatting with it. A real pleasure!
AM: My pleasure!
Be sure to check out his work on his socials!
@alloyiusmcilwaine on TikTok
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Categories: Arts & Ideas