Artist Spotlight – Alia Pener, Illustrator

If you haven’t heard of Los Angeles’s Cinespia series by now, you’re missing out. Founded by former set designer and film student John Wyatt, the Cinespia Series is an outdoor movie experience that takes place at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Patrons line up for hours ahead of time in prep to score a good seat to picnic and watch some of their favorite Hollywood classics underneath the stars.

One of Cinespia’s iconic traits is its original movie posters, designed by LA artist and illustrator, Alia Penner. Known for her bold designs at the fashion label Obey and for her trademark psychedelic style, this Topanga Canyon native truly breathes in color. Alia’s colorful designs mark the Cinespia series with style, as each guest gets to take home a copy of the movie posters. Read on to enter her colorful world and view more of Alia’s work here.

CULT: Tell us about yourself! What are some of your favorite mediums to work with / how did you learn to work with them?

Alia – I’m a California Girl born and raised. I grew up in Topanga Canyon and went to Otis College of Art & Design. Ever since I can remember I wanted to be an artist, I was always drawing and making things. I’m kind of a Jill of all trades and like working with all kinds of mediums; collage, acrylic, oil paint, spray paint even balloons! Working with any medium takes practice and it’s good to remember to let your style come through, I just got an airbrush so I’m trying to learn new ways of making art.


CULT: What is your process like, from conception to completion?

Alia – I like to let the colors tell me what to do. Most of the time I start with a photograph to paint on and I can see what pattern or feeling they are emanating in my head. If I put fire red down first then I add contrast with sublime green, then bright blue to balance it out. I don’t like to sketch things out, I like to make a finished piece of artwork.

Even if it doesn’t come out right the first time and I have to make something new, I’ve learned something along the way.


CULT: You utilize bright colors, patterns and 60s/70s-inspired themes in your work – tell us about your inspiration!

Alia – My favorite artists are Niki de Saint Phalle, Sonia Delaunay and Yayoi Kusama. All are strong women with a beautiful sense of imagination and color.

CULT: The one artist’s tool that you can’t live without?

Alia – My paint pens. I love coloring on everything with them. I have an on going series called #aliascoloringbook on my instagram @alia_pop where I color on IT GIRLS in new magazines. I like transforming a beautiful black & white photo into a technicolor dream.


CULT: You also do the artwork for LA’s Cinespia series – what do you love about redesigning some of the most iconic movie posters, and how do you put your own spin on it?

Alia – I love getting to make artwork for all these iconic movies we love to watch over and over. When I see my poster projected on the big screen at Cinespia before the movie starts and everyone is taking home a signed print, I get to be a part of the magic. This year we have been doing all silkscreen, limited edition posters.  For Wizard of Oz I went with a more “Dark Side of the Moon” vibe with Dorothy’s ruby slippers kicked upside down into a black sky with a big bright rainbow.

I also art direct all the sets for the free photobooths we make at Cinespia every weekend. We have recreated the gritty streets of New York for Taxi Driver, hand painted cartoon baby devil wallpaper for a nursery at Rosemary’s Baby and decked out the iconic flower shop from Hitchcock’s Vertigo. I dress up a model each week to fit the theme so we get a great photo, and now our patrons have been anticipating our sets and come dressed themed for the movie too!



CULT: Do you have any favorite films that personally inspire your aesthetic and/or work?

Alia – I really love ‘What A Way To Go’ starring Shirley MacLaine. She lives in a giant mansion with everything completely painted pink. She has so many famous husbands in the movie but ends up with Paul Newman at one point and he invents a automatic painting machine that’s truly insane. He designs these great dresses for her covered in these pop art faces, which are in real life designed by the great Edith Head. It’s my current obsession.

CULT: In the last 24 hours, what has inspired you?

Alia – I’ve been completely inspired by this new documentary The Wolfpack by Crystal Moselle. It’s about 6 brothers who grew up locked up in a tiny New York apartment with only movies and their lovely mother as their guides. They made all these amazing props and movie posters and know entire movies by heart, this led to them making their own films. I got to meet them all at Cinefamily and they’re very open and funny and have great hearts. The brothers are going to be super stars and everyone should see the movie.


CULT: If you could be any superhero, who would you be and why?

Alia – The original Jem and The Holograms. She battled evil with rock n’roll and stars painted on her face.

Words to live by:

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