Aon Alta at Nomads Sept. 8

Local artist Aon Alta draws with oil pastels Sept. 8 at Nomads Southtown.

Shades of neon swirl together on a canvas, taking the shape of a lotus flower. Loud music and conversation fill the air surrounding the artist, who concentrates deeply on the oil pastel skull in front of him.

Local artist Aon Alta debuted his newest piece Sept. 8 at a pop-up exhibit at Nomads Southtown, an art-filled cafe and music lounge.

Alta’s work typically consists of bright, vivid colors blended together in an abstract way, using a method of painting he developed unintentionally, he said.

“I used to make kind of like muscle-looking stuff on a canvas using a thick primer called gesso,” Alta said. “It would make all these lines and sort of build up, and I’d see these lines and want to paint them all and follow them around, but it’s impossible.”

Alta said he achieved this method while painting a house he was renovating.

“I dipped the brush in the paint, and it was really sticky and thick just like the primer I used. It was like a ‘that’s it!’ moment,” Alta said.

Alta said he sometimes uses unconventional tools when painting, like forks, knives and even plastic syringes to achieve what he calls “a certain chaos.”

“Sometimes what looks random on a painting is actually very hard to nail right at that time,” Alta said. “It’s not going to be perfect, but that’s the point.”

Alta said his work usually consists of brush paintings, but he chose oil pastels for the live drawing at Nomad’s to accommodate his two hour time limit.

“I haven’t really been able to do brush paintings live,” Alta said. “Some of the paintings you saw in there today took me almost a month to do.”

Alta said he had never drawn with oil pastels, and taught himself how to use them the night before the event.

Alta dates his interest in art to when he was a kid, and he remembers drawing constantly during school but never thinking much of it, he said.

By the time he was in college, Alta was more passionate about pursuing art, but he was unable to invest as much time as he wanted until years later, he said.

After dropping out of the UofA, Alta began working as a welder and built steel machines for big companies like Tyson and George’s, but he found it difficult to continue painting, he said.

“I’d work eight hours a day, and then paint at night so I’d have like 4 hours of sleep,” Alta said. “It was outrageous.”

After several years of welding, a close friend of Alta’s, who owned a law firm, did not want to see his talents wasted and offered him a job as a manager, Alta said.

“He said, ‘Don’t worry about it, come work here. We’ll pay you a little bit and give you a lot of free time,’” Alta said. “I don’t make a whole lot but they manage everything in my artwork, that’s what’s helped.”

Alta thinks events like the exhibit at Nomads Southtown would not be possible without this support, he said.

Frances Jason, an attendee at the Nomads art exhibit, loves the energy the NWA art scene gives, she said.

“It keeps Fayetteville really fun and interesting,” Jason said.

Grant Beasley, another attendee, said pop-up events like this are important for “promoting the art culture in Fayetteville” in addition to the art displayed at First Thursday every month.

Alta thinks there are many great artists in Northwest Arkansas but the art scene has a major issue, he said.

Alta thinks surviving as an artist is difficult, and the personal support artists receive from the community is not matched by financial support, he said.

“It’s hard to support new and emerging artists if they don’t have the chance to be new and emerged,” Alta said.

However, this does not drive Alta to leave Fayetteville, he said.

“Even though I could make more money in a bigger city, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,” Alta said.

Alex Kimmell is a staff reporter for The Arkansas Traveler.

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