As a young man, Warwick native Alyn Federico didn’t go to art school to hone his drawing talents. Instead, he hit the road.
“It was sex, drugs, rock and roll and paint brushes,” he said. “It got me around the world.”
He painted his way across Europe and to Costa Rica in the 1980’s. He did street drawings in Florida and had some sort of unofficial artist-in-residence in Stowe, where someone traded him downtown studio space in exchange for creating art for the village.
“I’ve picked up a piece of coal in the street and walked up to a wall and made some mind-blowing art,” he said.
When the vagabond lifestyle got old, he started an airbrushing business, and for many years painted vans and boats on Martha’s Vineyard. “Airbrush, paintbrush, whatever gets it out of my head,” he said. “It was close to art.”
Now, back in Rhode Island and again focusing on finer art, Federico is finally receiving some recognition for his work. This summer, he is showing his drawings at the Wickford Art Festival. After a lifetime of doing street art and commercial work, this is his first art show.
“It’s nice to be recognized,” he said. “Who knows,” he added, somewhat as a joke but also clearly as somewhat of an aspiration, “after I’m dead maybe it’ll sell for a lot of money and my nephews will get rich.”
Federico works out of studio, strewn with both his work and the antiques he collects, at the Shady Lea Mill in North Kingstown, Rhode Island – just through the woods from the famous outdoor art show in Wickford.
A table in the center of his studio at the Shady Lea Mill is cluttered with photographs of strong, scantily-clad women, and the walls are doted with Federico’s drawings of these women.
“Each and everyone I fall in love with,” he said, showing them to a reporter recently. “I’ve always just loved beautiful women. Why not draw why you love?”
He rifles through a pile of pictures of naked women, searching for his next subject. They aren’t at all pornographic, they are more heroic. The photos show strong, willful women – often in action. Some are large women and others slender, some are sexy and others are scary. I wouldn’t want to mess with anyone Alyn Federico would want to draw.
“I’ve had girlfriend’s that were jealous of them,” he laughed. “They were jealous of graphite.”
When he finds the right photo, he’ll use an antique projector to enlarge it onto his wall and he’ll trace lines and mimic shadows in an attempt to turn the photo into a fictionalized black and white version. The idea is that the drawings are a simpler version of the photographs. “I don’t use artist’s pencil’s, I use carpenter’s pencils,” he said. “That’s not artist’s paper, it’s butcher’s paper.”
He’s been doing these drawings for two years. He went through a Marylin Monroe phase, done several incarnations of a three-year-old girl playing with bubbles and he’s drawn many depictions of Dorothea Lang’s famous Life magazine photographs from the Dust Bowl and the Depression.He does some fan art, he’s got a collection of Jerry Garcia paintings. And he also does architectural art, he once did a study of the mobile homes in Matunuck.
“You’re just looking, which one will work,” Federico said.