By Erika Hobbs
It’s never too late to follow your dreams — sounds like a cliché, right?
Not if you ask Chicago Heights resident Ramon Ayala. The father of eight who owns his own local remodeling business is doing just that by launching a new career as a muralist.
Ayala, 45, unveiled his first commissioned piece this week on a cinderblock wall at Armand Metal Work in Lynwood.
“This turned out a thousand times better than I ever thought it could be,” said Armand Salin, the shop’s owner and Ayala’s friend. “When people walk in, they stand back and say ‘wow, that’s bad a**.'”
Ayala is a bit more modest. “I’ve always wanted to paint,” he said. “I finally got a chance to do it.”
The sweeping mural in midnight hues features a magical, statuesque woman against a galactic background. Energy — Ayala’s and the universe’s — runs through the design.
Salin, who also creates metal works of art, gave Ayala free reign to paint whatever he pleased. Ayala knew his vision included the silhouette of a woman. He also tried a welding mask motif to fit the nature of the business, but discarded the idea because it didn’t feel right. The rest came from flow and inspiration.
“This was fulfilling,” he said. “Relaxing and fulfilling.”
Ayala, a Brookwood Middle School and District 206 graduate, said he’d always painted, and that he had always admired ’90s graphic novel illustrators Marc Silvestri, Jin Lee and Todd McFarlane
But with raising eight kids—Isabel, Roman, Evette, Arial, Brianna, Alyssa, Julius and Alexander—he needed to put painting aside for a while to put food on the table. Art, however, helped knit his family together. He and the kids often drew and painted at the dinner table alongside each other, he said.
Now, however, he said with a grin, the kids are grown. And he has more freedom to do as he pleases.
A few years ago, he earned the chance of a lifetime, he said. Chicago muralist Robert Valadez asked him to assist with a piece he was working on in the city. While working with him, Ayala said, he knew he found his calling.
“He’s the master,” Ayala said. “He inspired me and he’s the one who pushed me to jump in and do it.”
Ayala plans to fill Salin’s shop with more murals that cover every available inch, including a corner stairwell.
He also scored a second commission to paint a mural in a bar on the North Side of Chicago.
Ayala, however, credits his wife, Maria, with his ability to live out his dream.
“Thanks to my wife’s support and backing, I am able to pursue a life in art,” he said. “She is my biggest fan.”
Ayala is still putting a portfolio site together, but he can be reached on Facebook.