Local artist graffiti’s it up

Greg Feltes

A.J. Solorio is one of DeKalb’s most prominent artists, but his work is rarely featured on conventional canvases. Instead, the 31-year-old small-business owner favors electric guitars, T-shirts and even boats as his media of choice.

Solorio, who bills himself as a glorified graffiti artist, opened Gunslingers Airbrush, 150 E. Lincoln Highway, last March with start-up capital he inherited from his father, who supported his son’s desire to take the road less traveled.

“He knew I wanted to do this and wanted to support it,” Solorio said. “I started doing this in high school and really taught myself and then decided airbrushing was something I really liked doing. I had a couple of mentors, but I really learned everything on my own.”

Despite being self-taught, Solorio has a degree from the Illinois Center for Broadcasting. He admits most of that schooling was rendered worthless by his career choice, but Solorio has no regrets.

“College was the best eight years of my life,” he said.

Solorio met his wife, Colleen, 31 at college and is completely devoted to her, up until the point where he’s not afraid to ask for a little favor.

“Could you put her down as 22?” he asked.

Solorio and Colleen, 22, are proud parents of 7-year old Briana Solorio.

At Gunslingers, Solorio said unusual requests are, well, not all that unusual.

“Of the stuff you can print in the newspaper, the craziest thing I ever did was paint a pair of breasts on a shirt,” he said. “I painted them from various memories.”

And what is the craziest thing he ever painted that you “can’t” print in the newspaper?

“I’d have to say real breasts,” he said. “It was body art. I’m not a shy guy. So it was ‘all right, let’s get to it.’ It’s kind of funny. I painted a shirt onto the breasts.”