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Why did you decide to go by the moniker Hueman? Before I started painting murals, I imagined Hueman as a concept for a potential lifestyle brand that focused on our common humanity. The idea that we are diverse people of different colors and hues, and to look past the labels that divide us. So, when I started painting murals, it made sense to sign my name with Hueman, because I’m a human being painting with all the colors. As someone who was working as a digital illustrator and designer for years, the departure from twelve hour work days behind the computer made me feel more human.

How did you get started creating murals? As a kid, I was into graffiti, and I always wanted to paint on walls. I first started painting murals anywhere there was wall space—my boyfriend’s band’s practice room, the back wall of a parking lot, the side of a hair salon. I did a lot of asking in the beginning, searching for walls to paint for free. Eventually, I had enough walls out in the world, and people commissioned me to create murals for their own buildings.

Your work balances the “abstract and the figurative” and the “beautiful and grotesque.” How did you develop your style? When I paint something soft and airy, there’s always this itch to introduce something sharp and solid to balance it. Finding the middle ground between opposing elements feels right, like working in the magical overlapping space in a Venn diagram. The style came from me being drawn to so many different styles that I had to fit it all together in a way that made sense.

What are the unique opportunities and challenges of your freestyle process? I love the freestyle process because it allows me to create work intuitively; I like to let the work figure itself out. My art ends up taking unexpected turns from all the experimentation. When I’m creating in a more formal way, starting with a sketch first, I find I’m tweaking and tweaking the design until I’ve gone too far and overworked it, and it becomes harder to decide when it’s “done.” Freestyling feels more natural and organic, just the way I like it.

How do you adapt your process to public walls as well as gallery settings? Creating work for a gallery setting is where my freestyle process started. Everything I put in a gallery is a direct result of my private back-and-forth with a canvas. When I’m creating for public walls, so much work and planning is done before I even get to the wall. I’m doing my freestyle process in the studio and refining it all on my iPad, and just working on it until it becomes a piece I’m happy with. When that’s complete, I scale the finished design up onto the larger wall, using either a projector or a gridding process.

When I approach a blank canvas, I almost always start with a simple gesture—a brush stroke, a sprayed line, an abstract doodle. I’m creating a motion path for all of my elements to ride on.”

Have you noticed an increased demand for murals? There is definitely an increased demand for murals. Recently, any time there is a new building development or office space, there’s a desire to place a mural there. The increase in demand is not only due to more people enjoying art, but also due to social media habits. People like to pose in front of murals. I don’t mind it; however, I do delete any incoming project inquiries asking for a mural that’s “Instagrammable”. That’s an easy way to turn me off!

Who are some of the muralists working today that you look to for inspiration? Felipe Pantone is one of the most innovative artists today. I admire his style as well as his business sense. His studio practice is run like a company while still maintaining artistic integrity. I also love how distinct Georgia Hill’s work is. Though she only paints in black and white, her ideas seem limitless. She is able to go scale up or down and work in different mediums while still being uniquely her. And I absolutely love Conor Harrington’s painting style and use of color, and his mix of classical imagery with contemporary themes. Also, it’s impressive how he’s able to scale his work up for large murals and still have it look exactly like his smaller works.

What are some ways that creatives can create a sense of motion in their still work? A sense of motion in still work can be created through the composition, brush strokes and line work—it’s about where you are leading a viewer’s eye. When I approach a blank canvas, I almost always start with a simple gesture—a brush stroke, a sprayed line, an abstract doodle. I’m creating a motion path for all of my elements to ride on.

Through your experiences with incorporating augmented reality (AR) into your work, what did you learn about how technology can influence our interactions with art? Back in 2013, I launched an app to view AR elements within my artwork. The intent was to have people seek my murals out in the world, view it through the app and bring the mural to life through their phones or iPads. Unfortunately, at the time, the tech wasn’t great and there was a lot of lagging, so it was something I neglected for a while.

Now in 2019, AR has evolved in such incredible ways, especially with social media face filters. Back then, I viewed the technology as something that could bring an existing analog work of art to life. Now, I see the AR technology as the art itself. A person can create an entire art experience with augmented reality; it doesn’t have to exist within the context of an existing art piece. A great example is artist David Oreilly’s work. If you bring up his “Simulation” face filter on Instagram, it plays an animation like a bizarre short film, using the users’ face as the main character.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? I wish I was more patient and took more time on my projects. In the beginning, I was so eager to get into the art world that I put out a lot of messy, half-assed work, which ended up in me losing on a lot of opportunities. It’s better to put out a low number of high quality work than it is to put out a high number of mediocre work. I can be creatively impulsive—which is why I enjoy the freestyle process—so this is a lesson I’m still trying to learn.

Allison Torneros, also known as Hueman, is a multidisciplinary artist based in Oakland, California. Whether she is creating delicate visions on canvas or crushing massive walls with a spray can, she draws on the human condition to create colorful mash-ups of the abstract and figurative. Hueman’s unique freestyle process involves creating refined compositions from a spontaneous beginning of paint splashes, drips and sprays, and her layered works can be seen on public streets and in galleries worldwide. She balances gallery exhibitions and public mural work while collaborating with some of the world’s top brands like Adobe, Nike and Sony Music.

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