Updated: Oct 6, 2021
Local fine artist, muralist, and maker Ali Futrell employs creative, controlled lighting and a unique and expert use of color to make her work pop.
By Maureen Kingsley
El Segundo-based artist Ali Futrell was impossible to miss at this summer’s ArtWalk. Centrally positioned at the bustling and festive ArtWalk headquarters in the parking lot just south of the fire station, Ali’s neon-hued still lifes and whimsical figure paintings dazzled in the afternoon sunlight, garnering plenty of attention from the passing crowds.
“Color is my overlying theme,” Ali says of her very distinctive style and bold, vibrant color palette. Many of her paintings are of everyday objects, such as fruit, engaged beautifully with light and shadow and rendered in playful, unexpected, nearly fluorescent colors. A banana might appear reddish orange with a violet shadow; an avocado’s skin deep blue with chartreuse flesh. Her incorporation of shading and reflected light is so skillfully done, it reveals the complexity and unique beauty of the seemingly mundane items we normally take for granted.
“For my still lifes,” Ali explains, “I usually take reference photos first, using various filters, gels, and lighting” to create those saturated, almost surreal visuals that she then renders on canvas or wood panels in oil, acrylic, and spray paint.
Disco balls, which Ali frequently employs in her photography because of “all they do with light and refraction,” are among her favorite subjects to paint, too. Her work “You’re a Handful,” pictured above, features a large disco ball held by her sister and is one of her favorite pieces to date. “This was my O.G. disco ball painting,” she says. “The color palette came so naturally, with warm and cool directional light coming at both sides. I showed this work at my solo show ‘Ali Oop’ in Sacramento and sold a few prints of it. It inspired my future disco ball images.” Ali’s paintings of disco balls are popular among purchasers of her art.
Ali began her art career as a muralist. She created her first mural for a 7-Eleven convenience store in Sacramento, where she grew up. “It remains my biggest project to this day,” she says. “I learned so much from the process of making it.”
Since painting that first mural, Ali has painted several for canned-wine brand Bev, for whom she is a brand ambassador, and she’s also painted for clients such as Verizon and Dignity Health. She describes her murals as “illustrative, graphic, and whimsical,” and, like her fine art, they feature bright, bold, attention-getting colors.
Help on these large-scale works sometimes comes from Ali’s family, including her sister, her mother (an artist in her own right), and her father, a contractor. “I come from a family of artists,” she explains, pointing to both her mother, who specializes in hand-painted clothing, and her grandfather, Larry Welden, a watercolor painter and teacher. “I really admired him growing up,” Ali says of her grandfather. “He painted lots of landscapes and palm trees, and I use those in my own work. He sparked my interest in painting,” she adds, “and much of what I learned creatively came from him.”
At Home in El Segundo
Ali moved to El Segundo recently, in February of 2020, after coming to Southern California from Sacramento for a month to work on a mural in Venice. “I stayed here in El Segundo while working on that mural,” she explains, “and after completing it, I didn’t want to leave, so within months I made El Segundo my new home.” She has wasted no time finding and introducing herself to the South Bay’s artistic and creative communities, including the South Bay Artist Collective and the folks at Unita here in El Segundo and in Hermosa Beach. She visited and now rents space at Hawthorne Arts Complex and really enjoys being a part of that community of artists, too.
Ali describes her experience at this summer’s ArtWalk as “an enjoyable night, and overall an incredible event to be a part of."
“I felt the energy there,” she adds. “And I loved meeting people that were interested in and genuinely excited about supporting the arts.”
Visit Ali Futrell online and on Instagram at @alifutrell.art. Ali’s work “Neon Avos” is our cover image this month.
This story appears in the October 2021 issue of The El Segundo Scene.