May 21, 2012
There is a certain audacity that comes with being an artist. You have to be bold and brave enough to take whatever you have etched in your mind and translate that onto a canvas for the world to see. As someone whose stick figures are hard to decipher, I can’t help but admire the work of a truly fearless artist like Allison Torneros. Coloring the canvas with more emotion than concept, she manages to draw you in with each piece—even her series of just mouths, titled “Mouth Piece,” captures your eye.
Allison found creative inspiration early in life. When she was just two years old she created her first piece of art by sketching her brother’s Cinco de Mayo mask. As time passed, her interest in art grew. Her parents were supportive, but her mother did urge her to draw something besides graffiti-inspired block letters…something more Thomas Kincade-ish. But Allison was hooked. And the gritty appeal of graffiti culture and subliminal dark undertones began to emerge in her work.
In 2006, Allison created a painting called “The City.” Paying homage to her brother who passed away, she says this piece remains her most popular. The piece is a self-portrait that depicts a city extending from her torso. She said she still receives emails from people saying they've had this image tatted on them.
This style that Allison created was uniquely her own and it clearly was connecting with audiences. But she was not quite ready to throw caution to the wind and commit to art as her career path: “I’ve always been a rational-minded person, so I ruled out art as a career. I thought about architecture or design.” So, like a good little realist, she started a branding and design company called Circledot in college. The company was conceived as a mock business for a class, but once she laid out the pieces, Allison realized she wanted to make it a real venture. “It was like a dream board for what I wanted my company to be,” she remembers. Little did she know she would go on to have clients like Disney, Procter & Gamble, DreamWorks and start-ups like–our fav!—the Nom Nom Truck.
Circledot became a success, but after five years in business, Allison realized that success was no substitute for passion. “I was miserable…I had hit rock bottom. Something had to change.” She began to scale down on her design and branding projects and focus only on clients that she was really passionate about. She had learned a valuable lesson, “If you aren’t super passionate about something, there is always someone who will get ahead of you because they are.”
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While Allison now devotes more of her time and creative energy to creating her own original works, that lost period has left its mark on her life and her art. Her subjects remain relatively simple--the outline of a woman, a mouth, a hand—but the colors explode from the images. The pretty pinks and bright oranges mask the eerie undercurrents of each piece. From far away the paintings seem beautiful, perfect even. But up close you see the grotesque deformities and flaws marring the faces of her subjects. You are pulled into the painting wondering what else you will discover on a second look. For her, these sinister undertones are reflective of real life people she’s met. “I’ve met a lot of crazy people who are beautiful and put together on the outside, but once I got to know them the illusion fell apart.” Allison says that she is “embracing the creepy” and exploring “the state between the beautiful and the grotesque.” The dichotomy of the two is striking. Viewing the paintings up close reveals that beauty is nothing more than a trick of the light. She says, “I really like ambiguity because it makes me feel weird and I want others to feel weird.” Mission accomplished.
The paintings strike you like vivid snapshots of a dream you've forgotten. Your eyes are drawn to them, looking for clues behind the soft swirls and bright spots. The effect is created by Allison’s process. She first splatters paint around on a canvas and then lets it dry overnight. The next day she interprets the shapes like a Rorschach test to see what she can create out of them. “Over time this is where my aesthetic has taken me. Flowy, organic, fluid. I like to let loose and see where it goes.” If there is one thing she hates, it's a sketch book. She says that if she sketches things out first they come out too perfect. “I welcome mistakes because sometimes that’s when the best things happen.”
Recently Allison got the opportunity to showcase her work at her first solo art show, Streams of Consciousness, hosted by Hold Up Art in LA. Her next show will also be hosted at Hold Up Art and the theme is superheroes. While she considers gallery shows a huge milestone in her career as an artist, the rebel in her is never satisfied. She recently launched a line of apparel with North Face and will be a featured live artist at this year’s Jazz Reggae Fest. But breaking into street art is the next big step for Allison and requires all of her courage. “Think about it…you are tagging buildings and then signing your name.” She plans to take on a tagging project creating a huge wall mural in Venice. Most artists start in the underground scene and then are scouted by gallery owners. Allison is once again shirking tradition and going the opposite route. For Allison--with her unique talents as a business woman and an artist--we can be sure that her passion and creativity will lead her to success. No sketch book required.
Watch Allison in action in the time lapse video below!