Exclusive: The man behind MIMIK (Leo Alban)
Joseph Bruen- How did you first start with the artwork? Did you always have the passion?
MIMIK- Yes, art has always been a passion more so than a hobby. It ran in my family. (My uncle, who recently passed within these past 2wks, was the only other relative that had any artistic skill). I started doodling & drawing cartoon characters as a kid. Some of my favorites to draw were the members of KISS. They’re obviously musicians, but to me they really were “characters” in those outfits.
Joseph Bruen- How do you decide who you are drawing next?
MIMIK- I decide to illustrate my (wrestling) subject/portrait depending on the talent appearing at a particular event. Its good to know way ahead of time who’s going to be where so that i’m well prepared. There has been a small handful of moments where I’ve had to pump out a piece on short notice. There’s so many superstars out there attending these events, it’s difficult to illustrate each & everyone that I've broken it down to who would I really like to meet &/or who would look good as an illustration.
Joseph Bruen- Walk us through the artistic process from the idea to the final product.
MIMIK- The process in creating a painted portrait is to first, select the subject matter. According to the talents gimmick (if any) sketch out ideas, design a nice composition emphasizing the talent. After that, search online for photo references depicting their mannerism (if any). I would so much rather enjoy shooting my own images, of course! (Who wouldn’t, lol). So I select images with alot of shadows to give a mood. Then comes the light, pencil, sketches onto the board. Rarely is it to be satisfied w the pencil lines/sketches on the first attempt. Such an example was when I recently painted Stone Cold Steve Austin. Applying layers of watercolor or gouache is next. And lastly, add any extra details in color pencils or ink to help strengthen or tighten the image & voila!
Joseph Bruen- How long have you been a wrestling fan?
MIMIK- I’ve been a wrestling fan for as long as I can remember. Luckily, catching episodes of Saturday Nite’s Main Event actually led to my first WM where Hogan body slammed Andre. These two immense characters, a hero & a villain clashing for the sake of righteousness, just like in the comics "came to life” so to speak is what made me a wrestling fan.
Joseph Bruen- Do you draw other things not tied into wrestling? If so shed some light on the other projects.
MIMIK- Yes, I freelance draw/paint/illustrate various other subject matter not tied into wrestling such as comic/cartoon/anime related as briefly mentioned. Typographical or graffiti orientated mural illustrations, some light graphic design. Although in light of my portraits I’d like to indulge some more into martial arts & musician related subjects. I also like to dabble in some photography & w all these new devices it makes it really easy for anyone to be good behind the lens, lol. Yet still it helps to have a third eye & view things in different perspectives. And not too many know that I also work in the public school system where every now & then I can teach a little bit of art to special ed students. I’m lucky to have a small group of friends/teachers that make this possible.
Joseph Bruen- Tell us the story behind all of the photos you have shared with us. Give us a little history on each one.
MIMIK- Let’s go right to where this all started. One of The Samoan Dynasty’s greatest & Hall of Famer: Rikishi.
I’ve know him for about two decades now & this man has put me over on various occasions w/o fail. He & his family have been the greatest supporters of my work. My first project w Rikishi was to paint an illustration of his recently departed cousin (at that time), who the world knows as Yokozuna.
There were some smaller, fun, stuff I’d do for The Island Boys who were making a name for themselves before becoming Three Minute Warning
I will never forget they mentioned to me that they were going to make their t.v. appearance soon & during an episode of RAW, Superfly opens the show & 3MW storms the ring & there’s Rosey wearing the airbrushed t-shirt I made for him!!! I completely lost it!!! I mean how cool is that?! Recently Rikishi gave me a call w something in mind & I’m always happy to oblige. The end result was the Samoan Dynasty logo
which they’ve used for banners, shirts, etc, etc & again i’m at such awe & humbled. Because of my presence in the wrestling community I’ve had the chance to meet other greats such as Stone Cold Steve Austin who said my work was “badass!"
& Dana Warrior who broke out in tears as I spoke about The Warrior visiting our local gym that we painted. We hoped he’d return for another visit so I could present him w a piece of artwork, but that day never came. So when the fortunate, once in a lifetime, opportunity arose to meet her, who better than her to be the recipient of the portrait?!
Dwelling into other genres & establishing these illustrations as my calling cards I discovered that film star Abella Anderson, who’s a fellow native from my hometown, would be doing a signing I figured “why not?” Her smiling expression meant I had done my job & continued to acknowledge the effort with a hardy fist pump, lol!
This past January I exhibited artwork at my first martial arts expo in Atlantic City. Having great admiration for the Japanese culture & being a former Aikidoka (practitioner of Aikido) I chose to illustrate one of Japan’s iconic film star, Toshiro Mifune, who’s works i’ve enjoyed such as The Seven Samurai, Sanjuro, & Yojimbo. This piece
has definitely become one of my personal favorites. The remaining pics are samples of other works i’ve done such as the scenic landscape located in an office setting on Wall Street, NYC. Even having help from my crew, The Fresh Collective, it still took a two day span to complete right after Christmas, a 16x20 X-Men illustration
or a comic con I participated in artist alley, & last is a graffiti mural completed by several, united muralist, including myself, for Art Basel in Ft. Lauderdale.
Joseph Bruen- What other hobbies and interests do you have?
MIMIK- Other hobbies & interests include some activities mentioned briefly prior such as comic collecting, although I don’t have the time or space to collect as I once did, but definitely keep up on some storylines. I enjoy frequenting/exhibiting at comic cons to see the latest artwork from the up & coming talent. Martial arts is another. My Sensei is also a “crossfit” trainer so I double up when I have sessions w him. If not, I train or exercise on my own & honestly don’t stick to the program. How can someone ask a Cuban not to eat rice?! Lol! Ive always been affectionate (as stated prior) of Japanese culture due to my Aikido studies/training. Recently i’ve set my mind on visiting Japan hopefully soon so I’m trying to pick up on the language. I attend concerts as much as possible. The excitement & energy from both the bands & the audience is a great feeling. And last but not least, spending time w my son. It’s cool watching him & develop similar interests, but he picks up on where my generation left off.
Joseph Bruen- What advice do you have for others just getting involved in art or those who are thinking about getting involved?
MIMIK- Some advice I could offer to others interested in following an artistic career is to be prepared for the long term. If its in your blood or your passion give it 110% consistently because its a skill/trade that may come naturally, but will take time developing. Be familiar w every aspect of being an artist. The times have changed & will continue to change. On a technical sense, perfect practice make perfect. Mistakes will be made, take criticism humbly & be patient.
Joseph Bruen- What are your favorite pieces that you have produced?
MIMIK- Some of my favorite pieces have to be the 1) Toshiro Mifune: the admiration for his films & it was offset to what I usually paint. 2) Rikishi HoF: not because we’re friends, but I stumbled upon a new way of using one of my tools for shading. I’m very critical w my work (such is w every artist will tell you the same) so I would put those two at the top of the list. Other honorable mentions would be the 3) Paige: she actually got out of her chair to hug me for it. 4) Macho Man: sprinkled glitter to the headband & robe to add extra visual effect to the piece. 5) Sting/Undertaker & 6) Rey Mysterio: these two just came together almost effortlessly.
Joseph Bruen- Tell us about the experiences of being a vendor at all these events and conventions and other peoples reaction to your work.
MIMIK- Experiences as a vendor at the events/conventions has been a learning process. Im on the other side of the table. Im not just a fan now so I had to factor in the business aspect as well. It’s all a part of growing. I’m a new face to the convention scene as a vendor even though I’ve been doing this for longer than others may think so the audience’s reaction slowly came about. The more events I participated in the more positive reactions I received. The audience began to familiarize themselves w myself & my work. I came up w the FWO (Fresh World Order) which is my take & homage to the NWO. If I’m not participating in an event, my friends & I will still attend the event because we’re still fans/spectators & hopefully interact w the crowd. And I must say I’ve made some very good acquaintances & friendships that support what I do & I’m very grateful, appreciative, & humbled. All I/we can do is to keep things FRESH.