We had the good fortune of connecting with Hilton Alves and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Hilton, putting aside the decision to work for yourself, what other decisions were critical to your success?
The most important decision I’ve made to contribute to my success is to keep it real to what drives me as an artist. I want to create unique art that represents my vision of, passion for and love for the ocean.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I started as a self-taught artist back in 2000, in my hometown Guarujá – SP, in Brazil. I never studied art or anything about art that inspired me to start painting. But drawing was always a passion, and I used to draw a lot about my lifestyle throughout the years. In the first years, as a kid, it was all about those Japanese super heroes that we used to watch on TV. Then in high school, I used to draw a lot of sports like surfing, skate, soccer and martial arts. By doing that so well with details I ended up working at a tattoo shop, drawing for the tattoo artists and their clients. One of the clients saw me drawing a perfect wave on a piece of paper and joked that it could be a nice painting. My answer was that with my budget it was impossible for me to buy art supplies. The next day he stopped by at the shop and gave me a whole art set, with some canvases, oil paint and a few brushes. The year was 2000. It took me two weeks to actually be mentally ready for that. I had no idea how to start an oil painting, how to mix things, colors, etc. I started with the smaller canvas by painting my favorite scene at the time, a place where me, my brother and my dad used to work on the beach, at a kiosk, during the summers in Brazil. Once I finished a few paintings, I brought them to the tattoo shop and hung them on the walls, to show my friends. One day, a customer asked how much for one of those and I had no idea how to charge for a painting, so I asked how much he would pay for it. He said a number that was equal to working in the shop for around 8 months and I sold the painting right away. The interesting part was he took the painting and promised to come back the next day to pay me, so I had to trust on my intuition. The next day he returned with a friend, paid for the piece and his friend ended up buying a painting too. When I came home with all that cash, my dad saw it and asked about that. Once I told him that was from selling paintings, he told me to use some of the money to invest in my art career by buying more brushes and canvases. He even told me to quit my job at the tattoo shop and go full time as an artist, so I did. And without a clue about how to survive as an artist, I went through so many adventures to display my art, like ‘art shows’ on sidewalks during surf contests in my hometown, an art show at a tradeshow in Sao Paulo without being officially invited, using my friend’s ID and badge, trading art lessons for food, etc. In 2004, I decided to paint a small wave mural on a wall on a beach where I used to surf, but I couldn’t find the owner, so I painted the wall from 11pm to 5am. I just wanted to try painting waves on something bigger than canvases. I used some of my friend’s silkscreen ink, by adding water and some left over latex paint from my dad’s job to do that. Around 5am I saw a police car parked near by and I stopped painting and went home. A few hours later I returned to the site to check the mural and the cops aproached, asking if I was done with the wall. Right before my answer, they said that they were watching me paint all night long and I should finish and sign the job, mentioning that the mural brought some peace and beauty to the place. That’s the beauty of being self-taught, you follow your passion without too much of planning and sometimes things happen for you, but I would say, I also like to make things happen, with passion, vision and a positive mindset. Now, twenty years later, I’ve accomplished so many things as an artist and wave muralist, and I still do these things with the same love for art from the beginning. Living in Hawaii since 2007, I’ve found all the inspiration needed to keep my art exciting and to make a difference in the world through my paintings and murals. My art brings positivity, happiness and playfulness to the viewers. That’s what I think sets me apart from others.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I think that Kahuku (O’ahu’s country side) has it all. We can eat at the most famous shrimp trucks, eat the most famous poke bowl, go hiking at some of the local trails, surf the perfect waves around and hang out at my art gallery that I built in a shipping container, drinking a cup of espresso and talking stories.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d say all my family, friends and art collectors around the world should be recognized. It’s hard to mention them all, because throughtout my twenty years as an artist I want to count every little bit of help from everyone and the list of names can be huge if I do that. Even this interview is counting… so my answer is that I want to give a shout out to all who support my work in many different ways.