Focusing on Alvin J. Lewis 

Alvin J. Lewis with his acrylic piece called “Untitled.” Photo provided by Alvin J. Lewis

Alvin J. Lewis with his acrylic piece called “Untitled.”
Photo provided by Alvin J. Lewis

Emerging St. Louis artist, Alvin J. Lewis, is partial to acrylic paint to create conceptual art, focusing on people of color, and many times his own family members or those close to him. Lewis strives to show others the importance of not making perfect works. He used to focus on perfecting his pieces, but now he chooses to be loose, free flowing and focus more on the piece being what it is: a painting. Definitely follow Lewis on social media, you won’t want to miss a single piece.

Check out his website: https://www.alvinjlewis.com/

Check out his Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alvinjlewis/

1. Do you primarily use painting as your medium? Do you experiment with any other mediums/do you want to, if not?

Yes, I primarily use painting as my medium of choice. Acrylic to be exact. I like working with oil paint too and would probably use it more often, but it's just not the safest to use. I have a kid at home, so until I get a studio, I'm careful of the fumes oil paint gives off. Occasionally, I work with watercolors, markers and ink.

Closer look at “Untitled.” Photo provided by Alvin J. Lewis

Closer look at “Untitled.”
Photo provided by Alvin J. Lewis

2. Your pieces usually include a person or people as the subject. Is there a reason behind this? What are you trying to say with your work?

No specific reason at all to why most of my pieces include people in them. I'm just interested in the human figure, including body language, and how we can speak without speaking.

3. What is your favorite part about the art community around here? What could it improve on? 

My favorite part about our art community is that it exists. Everything is digital now to the point where I look at art all day on my phone, but you can't beat physically going to an art event and seeing real art and talking to other artists. Sometimes you hit a wall and may be struggling with ideas or just get burnt out, and talking to another artist can inspire you to push through that. 

Painting Lewis created of Viola Davis.  Photo provided by Alvin J. Lewis

Painting Lewis created of Viola Davis.
Photo provided by Alvin J. Lewis

So far my experiences [with the art community] have been pretty good and that's weird because nothing is all good (my fingers are crossed though). Improvement? I used to complain about the lack of local artists in galleries here, but then I learned more about how galleries work and I understand why that is now. I guess I would be interested in seeing more of us succeed in the markets here. 

4. What is the most challenging part about your work? What is your favorite part about creating?

The most challenging part these days is getting started. I have a lot of ideas written down and sometimes it's hard to decide which one to start on. Or needing someone to pose for me. I'm not super outgoing so it's hard for me to ask people can I take a picture of them for a painting. My favorite part is having a solid idea and actually painting it. I love when I've finished a painting. It's ridiculously satisfying.

Lewis’ piece called “Marv.” Photo provided by Alvin J. Lewis

Lewis’ piece called “Marv.”
Photo provided by Alvin J. Lewis

5. Can you describe your process a little? What inspires you? How long does a piece take? 

My process has really changed over the years and really depends on why I'm painting. I used to be interested in making perfect paintings. Perfect proportions, perfect this perfect that, but not anymore. I like paintings that look like paintings (if that makes sense). I like when something is slightly off about it. I used to sketch out my paintings with a pencil and measure the proportions with a ruler and be so tedious. Now I may sketch before painting, but if I do it's more loose and free flowing. Ninety percent of the time I work from a reference photo for guidance. Lately, I've been into large scale pieces so those usually take a few weeks to a month to complete, depending on how much time I get to dedicate to it.

6. What has been your favorite piece or project so far?

I've made so many paintings there's no way I could narrow it down to a favorite, but most of my favorites have been the paintings I've done of my family members. I have a secret goal to paint each member of my family and close friends. I think it's really cool to see my people immortalized on a canvas.

Lewis with another piece titled “Shooter.” Photo provided by Alvin J. Lewis

Lewis with another piece titled “Shooter.”
Photo provided by Alvin J. Lewis