When the white walls of her friend’s garage needed some cave people for the pre-historically themed birthday party, Allen Wittert’s mother got the call.
Allen, who was five years old at the time, tagged along as his mother for the occasion and watched as she effortlessly charcoaled in the large, groupings of people that constituted the prototypic wallpaper.
He recalls his mother “bringing to life these wonderfully fun, strongly drawn cave people on the rough white walls.”
This was a formative moment for Allen. To him, it was an extraordinary event that seemed to break free of the ordinary constructions and rules to which he was so accustomed. From this momentary lift on the no-drawing-on-the-walls taboo to the celebration of dirt through this artwork, this moment stirred something within Allen.
“It blew my mind” says Allen. “It has affected my work to this day.”
From that moment of freedom. He was led on an evolution. First, a cartoon admirer, then a cartoon illustrator in South Africa, and then eventually the Houston-based artist he is today.
“Visually I have an urge to distort and exaggerate in my work, and I guess that’s why I first became a cartoon illustrator in South Africa long before I felt the need to be a painter.”
Every inch of worked exaggerated, distorted style doles out excitement to the eye. The eye bounces through the array of reds, oranges, and purples tracked along the nervous system of smudged and sketched lines that interconnect the composition.
“I would say my aesthetic is moving from crazy black line to more subtle and restful grey areas,” says the artists. “I still hang on to some crazy, just more judiciously.”
The innervated scope of his individual canvases is matched by his selection of subjects. His subject matter comes from a variety of sources, whose unlikely cohesion rests on Allen’s stimulating style. This is often epitomized by his figurative work where, heavyweights from all walks of history – Shakespeare, Marilyn Monroe, Napoleon – convene his paintings.
Before these subjects convene on the canvas, they begin in his sketchbooks (incidentally, he describes collecting source material in sketchbooks as one of his sole methodological consistencies). From this “image bank,” he draws up his ideas on his iPad Pro.
When the painting begins, he often starts and restarts his work letting the painting evolve and develop as his process unfolds.
“I work pretty fast. A lot happens that isn’t planned and that suits my impatient nature,” says Allen.