Albert Alves, a Berkeley High School (BHS) safety officer who is usually stationed at the A-Gate, has a passion not many people know about — he loves to draw.
Alves grew up in the Bay Area and first began drawing when he was in elementary school. As a young child, he was inspired by the work of Ezra Jack Keats, an American writer and illustrator of children’s books. Some of his favorite books by Keats include Snowy Day, Whistle for Willy, and Goggles. “They showed an urban experience with the first black characters that I’d ever seen and I loved how his paintings made me a feel a certain way through their different colors and contrasts,” Alves said.
In high school, one of his teachers taught him the fundamentals of drawing that Alves still uses today. The two did not always see eye to eye, and Alves acknowledges that. “He taught me a lot of things, especially about how to shade and how to color and use contrast,” Alves said.
After graduating from high school, Alves continued to draw because it allows him to express himself. He especially likes to draw portraits. “I love to see how people light up when they see themselves on a piece of paper,” he said. He enjoys evoking strong emotions in the viewers of his art, for example, by detailing the lines in an older person’s face to portray wisdom. Alves focuses on charcoal and black and white drawings since he believes stark contrasts can offer deep and meaningful images.
Alves classifies his drawing style as unique. “People often say to children that certain aspects of their drawings are out of proportion, but I think once you have your signature style you should keep it and not let anyone take it away from you,” he said. It is also important for him to have a good relationship with the person he is drawing. “When I draw someone, I have to like them, because when I don’t like them I’m not enjoying what I am drawing,” he said. Alves therefore draws mostly for his friends and family, and does not sell his art.
In his work, Alves likes to explore new frontiers. He regards drawing as an ongoing learning experience and stressed that he learns something new every day, whether it is a new technique or a new concept. Alves loves being part of the BHS community. “I see some of the amazing artists we have here at Berkeley High and I admire their drive and artistic experience. Many of them can really do something with their art … They inspire me,” Alves said.