Public Art With Passion

How a Philadelphia artist creates printed and painted art in and out of his community.

Ever since he was young, Alloyius McIlwaine has had a passion for art. He dreamed of creating art for a living, so he learned everything he could about how to make art and how to make that his life.

He studied business administration at Neumann University in Aston, Pennsylvania, and with those skills on top of his love for art, he was able to open his business, Cultures Clothing. Cultures Clothing is a brand that features art and designs by McIlwaine, and it uses fashion to show that all cultures have something interesting to offer. But beyond his business, McIlwaine is still an artist.

As a Philadelphia native, he does public and freestyle art to fulfill his passion. “I’ve always been fascinated by color and color composition,” McIlwaine says. “The idea of creating something out of nothing from your imagination.”

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Progress shot of a flower shop mural in Detroit, installed in May 2018. This piece was another abstract mural which utilized McIlwaine’s signature shapes and kudoglyphs.

Painting and printing the town

In the realm of making public and freestyle art, the design process is a key component. For McIlwaine, this process depends on the project. “Sometimes, I’ll open Photoshop and I’ll mock up my ideas on the computer first. For other projects, I might just put on some music and freestyle the image off the top of my head,” he says.

Once he has his design, he then begins the work on finishing and either painting or printing the art. “I usually just paint the mural directly on the wall with acrylic for interior walls, and spray paint for interior painting murals. If the mural that I’m putting up is in an awkward area to reach, I may use a polytab mural cloth and gel to install the work,” McIlwaine says. “When I’m doing graphic design, I typically set up my base layer, and then set up multiple layers on top of the base layer so that I can work without the risk of messing up the base image that I have.”

He mainly uses Photoshop and Procreate, and he’s learning more about Adobe Illustrator and InDesign. In general, he works a lot with Adobe Creative Suite. As for the physical products he uses to create art, he uses the Montana Gold and MTN 94 spray paints the most, and for acrylics he tends to use Liquitex and Golden.

As he continues to install more art, McIlwaine is looking at doing more with Prestotex adhesive-backed fabric mural installs, as he’s seen good results so far with this medium.

This mural was installed at Lincoln Financial Field and incorporates Philadelphia Eagles and Pepsi symbolism. This was also designed with Photoshop and Illustrator.

There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into the pieces McIlwaine creates. If it’s public art pieces, he hand-paints the images. “But if I’m creating images for billboards, mural prints, posters, coffee table books, or art prints, I usually create the image in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator and then vectorize the image. Sometimes I use a program called VectorMagic to prepare the files for that format,” he says.

The transition from creating the graphic designs to printing them is also vital, as the quality needs to be maintained. McIlwaine does this by ensuring that the vector file he makes is of good quality.

“I work with a lot of bright, rich colors, so in order for those colors to come across the right way when I print, the vector file has to have relatively smooth transitions,” he says.

When McIlwaine prints, the material he chooses usually depends on the project. “Each project that I do usually requires a different material to print on,” he says. “For example, for my art prints, I try to use a card stock or a paper that has a nice weight and sheen to it.”

He also does canvas prints, where he adjusts the weight, the texture, and the richness of the color printed so that the quality of the art is preserved.

He works with Athenaeum Editions in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for canvas printing. McIlwaine has produced a coloring book and a coffee table book, and he regularly creates and offers new paintings and images as prints, both on canvas and on paper. For his paper prints and coffee table books, he usually goes with inkjet photo printing with a luster coating. For coloring books, he usually uses a coated 90- or 100-lbs. watercolor paper.

McIlwaine continues to make and install public art to this day. He’s worked on a mural for the Philadelphia Eagles, multiple campaigns for Makers Mark, a pool for the Renaissance hotel, and other various projects for Apple TV, Miller Lite, Netflix, Comcast, and more.

Currently, he’s working on the biggest art show of his career, which is a showcase called “Chameleon.” For this project, he’s collaborating with over 35 other artists on a variety of different surfaces and media. “As soon as I wake up in the morning, my mind fills with ideas … and art becomes an outlet for me to get these ideas out,” McIlwaine says. “I just love the joy that my art brings others.”

A part of McIlwaine’s “Beauty Beneath the Cracks” series of murals — this one was painted for Philadelphia International Airport, installed in June 2019. He used acrylic on canvas and converted it to vector for print.
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Nathan Stromberg

Nathan Stromberg is a former editorial/content intern for GRAPHICS PRO. Nathan graduated from the University of Northern Colorado in May 2023 with a double major in communication studies and journalism, emphasizing public relations.

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