The Creative Process With Ali Struck
Getting to know talented creatives has been one of the most exciting elements of starting our business here at The Street Art Loft. As we continue expanding, we also have an opportunity to see how taking different artistic paths can lead to success both personally and professionally. Ali Struck is one great example of how you can begin to brand to expand. We have really enjoyed working with her.
Ali Struck is an artist and illustrator based out of Los Angeles, CA. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from San Francisco Art Institute in 2010 with a major in painting. In 2012, she relocated to Hollywood, California and worked as a producer in the post production film industry. In January 2016, Ali switched gears to become a full time fine art instructor and director of a Studio City children's art program. She currently sells her paintings and commissioned art work out of her Sherman Oaks studio.
Ali began oil painting at ten years old, having already attended years of classes in fine art studios in her hometown of Thousand Oaks, California. By twelve years old she was attending weekly drawing and painting classes studying live nude models. Theses studio classes continued throughout her teens and landed her in an advanced placement art program at Thousand Oaks High School.
With a lifetime of fine art technical training and four years in a high-concept art university under her belt, Ali’s most recent 2017 work has taken an exciting turn. “Each aspect of my art practice thus far - as a student, independent artist, and teacher - have melded in a way I'm really excited about,” says Ali. “I feel equipped to step away from my more traditional technique and leap into much more contemporary abstract portraiture. I’ve had a great response from the clients who have commissioned them. This breakthrough has been both thrilling and encouraging.”
Ali's most recently finished piece, a 24" by 36" canvas, is a geometric oil painting of our “dearly beloved” Prince titled, "The Artist Formally Known As.” Her depiction of this icon brilliantly captures Prince’s mystical essence. She uses a strategic assembly of vibrant shapes to construct his facial features and upper body. Layers of dark hair slither atop his head and swirl from his exposed under arm, dancing around like black magic. Sharp, piercing eyes are the focal point of this intense piece; we’re confronted with a seductive gaze, which draws the viewer near while seemingly daring them to try and look away. “The gaze” has, for a long time, been a predominant area of interest in my work,” she explains. “My intention as an artist is to evoke an emotional response in a viewer. I feel that a successfully captured gaze can expose the subject’s human condition. It can either convey or evade their most private secrets. It's an intimate gift from the artist to the viewer, whether it be received as a mirror or a spectacle.” In the case of Ali’s Prince portrait, his point blank stare reveals a wild darkness deep within. With the one year anniversary of Prince's departure having just passed, this feels like an honest and honorable portrayal of his late, great highness.
Ali begins her process by assessing a reference image, or images, and scrutinizes which aspects she will include, what she will add, and where they should land on the canvas. “Maintaining the proportions of the subject and planning the composition of the piece with the scale of the final painting in mind is integral. It's important that my work begins with accuracy so I can trust myself to later stray from that sound foundation.” Ali starts with a loose, but studied and accurate charcoal sketch on the canvas. Next, Ali draws a basic six-line grid and digitally lays a corresponding six-line grid atop her reference. This assists her in transforming a larger-than-life scale of a subject into a geometric design. “Starting off with some basic linear measuring elements allows me to shift into a more structured direction. I've never used a grid technique in my more realistic portraits. For these geometric portraits, however, I find a minimal nine-segment grid to be a useful mapping tool as I transition from flowy charcoal lines into assertive, angular brush strokes.” Ali then executes a thoughtfully created canvas stain. For Prince's portrait, a regal purple was mixed with linseed oil, leaving a rich, warm magenta hue on the canvas to glow from underneath the subsequent layers. The fun really begins for Ali with a mid-sized loaded flat brush. She opts for a synthetic bristle brush designed for precision. She identifies large planes in the mid-range tonal regions, making thoughtful but fearless decisions as she begins blocking them in. Ali uses fast-drying mediums to allow for layering and rendering sharp edges. She's also found a fast-drying medium, like Galkyd, shortens the sticky ‘hands off’ phase that occurs during oil paint’s natural drying process.
“These paintings are like putting a puzzle together, and I'm finding if I put the colorful pieces together properly, there's minimal tweaking to be done once assembled.” Ali's final step is layering in the texture elements - in this case adding the subject’s hair in a way that is unexpected and yet communicates its organic quality. “Prince’s bouncy, swooping hair, slightly obscuring his left eye and his mass of dark, masculine armpit hair, are some of my favorite elements in the photograph I was working from. His heavily made-up eyes have an effeminate quality, true to his persona. The juxtaposition of these physical characteristics contributed to my excitement over this subject and, for that reason, are the darkest and boldest elements in the piece. Capturing the combination of his masculine and feminine qualities made me feel, in the end, that I had been true to his cultivated image.”
Ali delivered this painting to her client’s West Los Angeles flat last week. She plans to return in several months to varnish the piece to ensure the deepest layers of paint are thoroughly dry. This final measure is taken to ensure that the oxygenated oil paint maintains pigments as rich over time as they were when freshly mixed. This week, she’s working on a 36" by 48" commissioned oil painting of nineteenth century environmental philosopher, John Muir. She’ll be hand delivering it to a client in Northern California later this month.
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