Finding the Glow: A Talk With Hueman

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Artist Hueman (Allison Tinati) with one of her walls of shimmering color

Combine eye-popping color with larger-than-life scale, and you've got the art of Allison Tinati. The artist (who signs her paintings Hueman) has rocked the walls of buildings from the US to Sweden to Haiti. We caught up with her to find out what colors her world.

Q. Painting a giant wall could be intimidating. What was going through your head the first time you tried it?

In my early 20s [after some tough times] I didn't have much more to lose, so I thought, I'm just going to paint a mural. That's what brought my confidence level up, just really going through such a hard period in my life where I felt like I had nothing else to lose, so who cares? Why don't I at least give it a try? So that's what I did. A lot of friends were either graffiti artists or street artists, and I told them I was looking for a wall to paint on.

Q. You've named yourself Hueman. What does that mean for you?

Mural by Hueman

Hue is the biggest part of my name — Hueman — because of my love for color. I like color palettes that make it look like something is glowing, and I'm always trying to find ways to make it look like it's glowing from the inside. I love things that are holographic or iridescent, and try to find ways with acrylic paint or spray paint to recreate that movement -- the way that color changes when you look at it from different angles.

Q. You use the hashtag #sprayballet. What's that all about?

Ever since I was a kid, even when I would sketch, I would make big swoops with my pencil, with my paintbrush — I like to create motion with two-dimensional flat things. I like to create depth, and especially since I started painting murals, using my entire body became a part of my art making. The entire process always starts with a gesture. It always starts with the movement.

Q. How do you start a big project, and how do you know when it's done?

I make sure that as soon as I book a project I'm putting everything in my calendar, everything on my to-do list. Then I'll usually write or sketch down a bunch of ideas, or I'll go straight to paint on a big canvas and mess around until I feel like something sticks, and go from there.

These days I'm really trying to work on not overworking my art—some of my most favorite pieces and other people's favorite pieces are ones that come completely off the top of my head that I haven't worked on for too long. So I think it's being able to take a step back and really try to connect with where my piece is going.

Q. You've written about how losing your brother affected your art.

I was only 13 years old when he passed, and only this year did I realize how much he affected my art and also my interests. He was one of those brothers who you idolized, a very creative person. The entire reason I'm into hip-hop and this whole genre is because he was a huge hip-hop head, and he exposed me to graffiti and dance.

I went through a lot, and without art there wouldn't have been an outlet for me. Also, losing someone so early in life made me think a lot more introspectively about what happens when we die. I think there's a kind of spirituality that makes its way through my art.

Q. How do you feel about the next generation of artists?

I think that the younger generation gets a lot of flak, but are really some of the most educated and aware people that we've ever seen. They make me really inspired and they're our future. I was a weird freaky kid, and social media has given kids a platform and a community. It makes me really excited for what's to come.

Hueman's responses are condensed and edited for length.

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Finding the Glow: A Talk With Hueman