High school graduate inspired to paint

Published 1:47 pm Saturday, July 3, 2010

Inspired by the realist style of Edward Hopper, recent Century High School graduate Ali Sifuentes snapped a few nighttime photographs of Silver Lake Foods on north Broadway hoping to recreate the scene in an oil painting.

“I’ve been by there many times and after studying the building I thought I’d try to recreate the cinematic contrast between light and dark colors,” Sifuentes said. “The building has a fantasy sort of feel and it seemed ideal for this style of painting.”

Sifuentes believes Hopper, a well-known American artist that often focused on urban and rural scenes depicting modern American life, was sending a message about himself and people of his time.

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“I’m basically trying to do the same thing, only I’m showing what the present looks like,” Sifuentes said.

Sifuentes became interested in painting when he started using acrylic paints in a 10th grade art class.

“Before that I had never considered anything artistic,” Sifuentes said.

Now he spends up to seven hours a day working on his paintings — at least one hour at school and the rest at home. Social studies teacher Victor Robinson saw Sifuentes’ painting of Silver Lake Foods and contacted store owner Jason Oudal about an art show featuring some of Sifuentes’ work.

Impressed with the painting, Oudal bought the painting on the spot and has since hung it in the store. It’s the first oil painting the teen has sold, but it has led him to want to pursue painting as a career.

Sifuentes currently works at Kentucky Fried Chicken, but will have an additional job this summer. Oudal has offered to pay him to complete a mural project in the store.

“I’m not sure how big it will be, but it will probably take the entire summer,” Sifuentes said. He said his mother, Ana Sifuentes, was “pretty surprised by the attention my paintings have gotten.”

He currently doesn’t have plans to attend college.

“I’d like to continue selling my paintings,” Sifuentes said. “That’s really what I’d like to do for the rest of my life.”

Art teacher Odell Portz said Sifuentes’ passion for painting is “unquenchable.”

“He paints all the time,” Portz said. “I have students interested in painting, but no one spends as much time on it as Ali.”

She said people who aren’t painters don’t understand why they dedicate so much time to it.

“Two, three, four hours — that’s when you really get into the flow of it,” Portz said. “Like any sport, there’s a warm up time before you get into it and things start working.”

Portz has asked Sifuentes to try doing some abstract painting, but so far he has refused, because Edward Hopper wasn’t known for that. “He’s got it bad,” Portz said with a smile.