For Alexander Mijares, the artist behind this year’s Coconut Grove Arts Festival poster, a future in art seemed inconceivable three years ago.
The Miami native had just received an MBA from Florida International University and planned to go into his family’s sheet-metal business. Unable to find affordable artwork for his new apartment, Mijares, 29, bought supplies to create his own.
Although his first effort was less than stellar — he accidentally painted the wrong side of the canvas — he could see himself creating art as a career. And, with no formal art training, he has realized that goal with surprising speed.
Mijares was picked as one of the 10 most influential artists of 2013 by Elite Daily, a website with more than 400,000 Facebook followers that bills itself as “the voice of Generation Y.” In December, he had a show at a Wynwood pop-up gallery during Art Basel Miami Beach. His work has been displayed at the Coral Gables Museum and painted on the facades of buildings in Wynwood.
He has attracted more than 36,000 followers to an Instagram account that chronicles his ventures: a Lamborghini Gallardo he painted for a client (featured on the BBC show Top Gear), a collaboration with a Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey circus elephant (a stunt, he explained, that earned Miami Heat tickets for 100 kids at the Overtown Youth Center), the 2014 Miami Marathon medal he designed — and then wore after running the 26.2 miles.
Mijares, a Gulliver Preparatory School graduate who grew up sketching and doodling (“and briefly dabbled in graffiti,” his website reports), says South Florida has shaped his sensibility.
“I love being by the ocean, and my painting strokes are always fluid like waves,” he said. “You will never see any sharp rigid lines.”
His bold, street-art style acrylic paintings are also influenced by his heritage, he says.
“My style of painting is very Spanish and Cuban mixed together,” said Mijares, who looked for inspiration during a trip to Spain last year. “It has a stained-glass feel to it.”
Mijares was relatively unknown to Coconut Grove Arts Festival organizers. Festival president Monty Trainer asked him to submit a sketch for the poster competition at the suggestion of an acquaintance.
But Mijares had another idea.
“The first time I create something is always my best,” he says, so he told organizers he would submit a finished piece. He decided to drive around Coconut Grove for a few hours for inspiration.
“I wanted to take in all of the colors of the greenery, ocean and architecture, all of the way down to the blue-green of the park benches.”
Mijares returned to his studio in Miami’s Edgewater neighborhood and incorporated the vibrant colors of Coconut Grove into the design, which is painted in bright reds, blues and yellows. Thick, black lines outline the painting, with a sailboat as the focal point.
When he returned to show organizers his submission, titled La Brisa (“the breeze”), Trainer was so impressed he immediately congratulated him on becoming the youngest artist to design the winning poster.
“I thought it showed the energy of Coconut Grove, especially with the sailboat in it,” Trainer said. “The colors just kind of jump out and grab you.”
The 51st edition of the festival, which opens Saturday, will feature 380 artists — including Mijares, a first-time exhibitor.
Previous poster artists have included marine wildlife artist Guy Harvey and Miami Beach pop artist Romero Britto. Trainer believes this is just the beginning for Mijares.
“I think he will do absolutely fantastic in Miami,” he said.