Michael Alvarez: Paint, Friends and Fam in the City of Angels
When looking at a painting by fine artist Michael Alvarez, it’s easy to feel both amused and intrigued in an instant. A graduate from the renowned Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California in 2007, Alvarez has spent years pushing and perfecting his technical skills, while growing and connecting with his personal style. Paying homage to his family, friends, culture, and the components of his life in general, Alvarez’s paintings are rife with personal and nostalgic undertones. The painter’s subjects are typically manipulated in a way to depict a surrealist style, slightly distorting and blurring the lines of reality.
At 28 years old, Alvarez is already making a name for himself in the art community, especially within the city of Los Angeles – his birthplace and hometown. It is here where he developed an early penchant for street art, using the LA landscape as his canvas, and later taking the more traditional route by attending art school. A self-proclaimed “skate rat”, Alvarez spends a typical day grinding pavement while grinding his mental gears to concoct his next piece. It is the amalgamation of sights, sounds, and smells of LA which comes together to continuously fuel and form Alvarez’s ideas and inspiration. Karen Tran met with the artist to talk art, work and life.
What is your earliest memory of realising your interest and talent for art?
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. I grew up near a lot of great murals, riding my skateboard, and later painting graffiti, so I was always near a lot of creativity. My high school art teacher was the person who introduced me to an art world and gave me the resources to get started.
Where did you study and what was your experience like in school?
I graduated from Art Center College of Design studying illustration. It was an
amazing experience. I had great teachers and an awesome squad who taught me a lot. We would work all night long, and sometimes get some intense dance sessions going. It was great, but I definitely think it could be less expensive.
Your paintings and artwork evoke very personal sentiments. There is a heavy sense of nostalgia conveyed through your subjects. How do you decide on what you want to translate onto canvas and through other mediums?
I’m really interested in humans. I am also a fan of photo albums of folk tales, which are great glimpses into people’s lives and cultures. It usually starts with a photo reference I have. Or a person I’m fascinated by, and I’ll try to their use expression, interaction with their environment and others, along with symbols and details to tell their story.
Who are some of your favorite artists that have influenced your work? What inspiration and influences do you draw from that plays a role in your work?
Lucien Freud, Henri Rousseau, David Hockney, Carmen Lomas Garza, John Valadez and Nicole Eisenman are some influential painters. The music of Ween, Los Blops, The Beatles, Wu-Tang Clan, and Roky Erickson are very influential, as well as the television show Louie. The graffiti work of Dzeas D2R has inspired me greatly, as well as all of the art my friends create. My experiences as a skateboarder and graffiti artist were also influential because it helped me develop as an observer and explorer.