After some emotional events in occured in the life of Turner McElroy, the artist within him emerged. He now goes by Charlie Alright. Charlie is a 17 year old painter from Oswego, New York, who also dabbles in fashion design. His paintings feature colorful characters, often contrasting dull backgrounds, that capture pure human emotions and vulnerability. Read our interview below.
How would you describe your style of work?
My work is a form of therapy in and of itself, an extension of who I am. I hadn’t fully developed and immersed myself into the world of art as I have now until I had suffered a series of concussions leading to a traumatic brain injury. From there I took a step back and reevaluated what my purpose was and who I am , I guess that’s what I’m continuing to do through my work. My style is a result of being exposed to cartoons and anime throughout my childhood as well as classical works. In a sense I would say that my work is somewhere between Superflat and Renaissance, yet most importantly I’m trying to be an artist of my time. I guess you could say that my style is part of whatever era of art we might be in right now.
How did you choose the name “Charlie Alright?” Would you describe it as an alter ego or simply a pseudonym?
Charlie Alright came from a lot of different places. For the longest time Chuck was a nickname I had as a kid. My stepdad had called me that, teachers had called me that, as I grew up it changed into Charlie, Im not necessarily sure why but fictional characters like Charlie brown stuck out to me, even though being the main character of his story Charlie Brown still experienced misfortune and was essentially a punching bag, part of me really found a likeness in that. The first time that Charlie Alright was used was the year following my traumatic brain injury in an art show, each student had been allowed to submit one piece to the gallery yet my teachers had pushed for more, so I had used Charlie Alright to get two of my pieces in. This past year my stepdad walked out on my family and revealed that he had essentially been living a double life. Part of me wanted to get rid of the name completely being that it had been partly inspired by him, but I couldn’t, I’ve kept the name, I’ve used it as a reminder that things may not be as they seem as well as working out of spite, kind of a “fuck you” to the guy [laughs]. It’s most definitely a pseudonym though, I’ve found more comfort in that name than I have with my own. Samuel Clemens’s best character had been Mark Twain, Charlie Alright is my Mark Twain I suppose.
Who and what are your biggest influences?
The list is starting to become too long at this point. I’ve pulled inspiration from artists ranging from Gustave Doré to Keith Haring, some of the more notable have been Basquiat, Takashi Murakami, Otto Dix, Giorgio de Chirico, and Hayao Miyazaki. Graffiti and Street Art have played a great deal of influence into my art as well, seeing just the madness, vivid colors, and most importantly the angst. My peers especially though, Im attempting to be an artist of my own time, I dont care what anyone says but I have drawn more inspiration from any other artists than those that are working towards the same goals and are developing their careers just as I am attempting to do. I find a lot of influence from a variety of avenues though, mostly religion, the idea of what another life could hold, and some of the unspoken rules of society and our interactions. And finally idea that we are all ourselves, individuals with our own story and life behind what may appear to just be another face.
Describe your creative process when it comes to starting a new painting.
My creative process has varied for every piece, I feel as if that’s important, to give more life to the work, treat them as an individual. I’ve moved houses over the past few months, I’ve worked from my attic, to my bedroom, the garage, and most recently I’ve started renting out the basement of my friends photography studio for my own space to work in. I usually listen to Miles Davis or Bill Evans when painting but I can drift into a variety of different genres of music as well, artists like Frank Ocean, Madlib, BADBADNOTGOOD, Tyler the Creator or Radiohead, anything that I can unwind to. Most importantly painting is my outlet, I try to reflect on myself when starting a new piece, I try to question myself and my decisions, or how I’ve gotten this far.
Photos courtesy of Kianna Senke. Follow her on Twitter Instagram at @kiana_senke
Back in September you posted some shots of yourself in a custom jacket you painted. First of all, it’s a cool ass jacket and it’d be nice to see you continue to work with fashion design. Have you been?
Thank you so much for that, and yeah I have a few projects in the works as of right now, a few with other artists and designers, but Im hoping to develop my own line eventually, realistically within the next couple years.
Besides painting and fashion, do you have any other creative outlets?
I wouldn’t say so. For years I had played the Viola and Guitar, yet now I dont feel as if I can convey myself as well as I can with art, I’ve shifted my focus entirely towards that.
What goals do you have for yourself down the line?
I would like to work with other designers and artists, develop a brand of clothing and continue to produce work. However I hope that others can find comfort in my work and question themselves the same way I’ve questioned myself. I hope to develop my work more and more, despite the fact I will never be satisfied with it [laughs]. To have kids look up to me the same way I had looked up to artists, influence future artists, make a lasting impression and share my vision with the world, those are the goals that I’m really striving for.