Francis Alao is a self-taught artist living and working on Bainbridge Island, a culture-rich community on the outskirts of Seattle and the Kitsap Peninsula stretching a shy 28 square miles. At only 22 years old, Alao encompasses an impressive balance of coolness and modesty. Though he’s a bit quiet when discussing his work, Alao is distinctly loud with talent.
The colorful and lively scenes of animation of his youth paved the way to the vibrant masterpieces he paints today. Alao may not have been classically trained at an art school, but this self-taught artist created a process all to his own—resulting in each work expressing a unique and colorful scene inspired by emotion. With his skills, and a little help from cannabis, Alao creates beautiful works of art that speak to the unique culture of Seattle. Alao took a moment to speak with CULTURE about his past, his process and how he uses cannabis to make his personal masterpieces.
“I like to consume cannabis in rolling papers, backwoods, edibles and bong hits. I don’t do dabs—way too much for me. My favorite strains are the tangy and sour strains. I use it for creativity and OGs and cookies when I’m trying to relax.”
Tell us about your artist career. How did you start out? How long have you been evolving your craft?
I’ve been evolving my craft my whole life. I started having interest in art at a very young age. I was about four years old when I first picked up a pencil. I was really into cartoons and Japanese animation, always wanting to make my own. After graduating high school, I studied and learned painting on my own because I couldn’t afford to go to art school. I started posting my art in social media, and people would contact me to do commissioned work. I gained more popularity when I started an exhibit at Paper & Leaf.
Could you lend us some insight into your creative process?
My creative process depends on the subject of the painting. I usually study and find references of the painting first. Then I sketch everything on a canvas to see the bigger picture. Then I start painting it with lighter colors, layer by layer. I can work in any medium, but I mostly prefer graphite, ballpoint pen, acrylic, oil paints and Prisma markers. Each piece can take some time.
What do you hope to communicate with your art?
I like expressing emotions in my paintings—to have other people feel what it is I’m feeling when I’m painting. In life, we have experienced all this fragmentation of thought and feelings. For me, creating art brings things back together.
What are your earliest perceptions of cannabis? Did you imagine that your artistic practice would intertwine with cannabis culture?
The first time I used it, it helped me focus on drawing. I wouldn’t stop drawing for hours and hours. Ever since then I smoke before I paint. I didn’t imagine my artistic practice intertwining with cannabis at all. I just really enjoy smoking weed and painting.
What is your favorite method of consuming cannabis? Do you have favorite strain(s) that influence creativity?
I like to consume cannabis in rolling papers, backwoods, edibles and in bongs. I don’t do dabs—way too much for me. My favorite strains are the tangy and sour strains. I use it for creativity and OGs and cookies when I’m trying to relax.
What’s next? Are you working on anything at the moment? Do you have any big plans underway or a specific vision for the direction of your creative work?
I’m working on something new right now, a different theme, something out of my comfortable zone. I plan on having another exhibit, hopefully soon. I always have this vision of being involved in fashion design. I think I’ll be pretty good at it. I’ve been designing some stuff.
Instagram and Twitter: @franswuhh