Art is My Cata7yst: Sitting Down with Alli Bautista

It’s quite a common occurrence, when inquiring about someone’s story, to be met with a pregnant pause and a heavy, “Oh… where do I begin?”

So we’ll start here. At the beginning. The beginning of Cata7yst.

Cata7yst at Polite Provisions

Here, where floors are lined with (yes, actual) nickels and sirens with a secret stretch out dimly lit orbs to illuminate choices of good drinks amid poorer choices of too much to drink, I await my date. Here, where French doors stretch from ceiling to floor inviting passersby to peek, and even climb, on in to catch up on the day’s events with a seated friend. A fountain of spirits on tap begs to be poked, played with and pulled behind mixologists moving in sync with quick hands and even quicker eyes. Music blares above our heads – hip-hop jazz to Johnny Cash – and the drink selection varies as eclectically as the crowd itself: from chatty girl friends, to cozy girlfriends; keen older men, to much younger Kens. All smile tonight with laugh lines around their eyes.

It appeared to me that this bar, the fresh but already famed Polite Provisions, was one of those places where anything can happen.

It is here where I met my first test subject for Cata7yst: the ever creative Alli Bautista.

Teetering on the edge of scatterbrained and focused, Alli compounds chaos with structure as an artist and event organizer in one. An aspiring graphic designer, the story of this 26-year-young San Diego native begins in scribbles and continues strong thanks to hope and heartbreak. Today, she’s determined to put San Diego on the map as the unsung mecca of art.

Cata7yst: So, you’re an artist, and an event organizer. How did these two things come together?
Alli B.:
Art brings that pure creativity out of my head – that frilly randomness. As an event organizer, I get to curate art from others, which satisfies my organizational skills.

C: Where did your journey as an artist begin?
A: I’ve been drawing and painting since I was a kid. I’d enter drawing and photo contests, win all of them, but never realized I could “do art.” After high school I met a woman at a graphic design firm and thought, “people do this for a living?”

I threw my first art show in 2010 when I was 22 with help from a friend. And I’ve been going since then.

One night, while I was out, I met Mee Shim – a local artist in Little Italy. She was talking to another world-renowned artist about the most they’d ever made on a painting. $40-$70k! And she didn’t start seriously painting until she was 24 or 25. I met her on my 25th birthday. It felt like a big neon sign blinking, “It’s not too late, you can do this.”

It felt like a big neon sign blinking, “It’s not too late, you can do this.”

C: Time to make your thousands.
(Laughs) I mean… it was so humbling that these two artists, who’d traveled the world in high demand, said my amateur paintings were good.

C: What paintings are you most proud of?

A: “Jellylady”. The concept for it came randomly, but then I painted it. It was the first time a vision in my head was fully realized. Usually I have a concept or idea in mind and as I create it, I’ll make mistakes, and  it’ll become something else completely.

“Jellylady” represents women. Jellyfish are very fragile; they look feminine and gentle, but if you come close to one, she stings you and it hurts. Women, too, look fragile, gentle, and delicate, but if you get too close they can really hurt you. I sold this piece, but it was to a friend, so I still get to see it.

The first piece I ever sold is called “The Truth“. I painted the words “The Truth” on a white

canvas and used a clear gloss to write “is often a shade of gray.” If you look at it head on, you see “The Truth,” but you have to look at it from a different angle to see a different version of the truth.

It was an easy piece but it had a lot of meaning.

C: Tell me about the art you brought today.
These are called mandalas. I’ve been drawing them since 2009.

The mandala is an old Tibetan art form, achieved by creating perfectly even, geometric shapes on the ground with sand. It’s all freehanded.

The concept is people trying to find their own balance. It’s a form of meditation. You get in the zone doing the same thing over and over again… and you come out of it with a beautiful pattern. My mandalas are far from perfect, but they’re very centering for me.

Alli Bautista Art Pieces on Cata7yst
C: We’ve talked about this before, but the art scene in San Diego is lacking. I know you’re adamant about putting this city on the map.
Yes! Shepard Fairey was in San Diego for 8 years until he got big by moving to LA. Andy Howell started out here, too, but didn’t blow up until moving up north either. Dave (Persue) is successful now but he started out as a launch artist creating logos for skate brands.

I want to launch the art scene in San Diego. The talent here keeps leaving.

I want to launch the art scene in San Diego. The talent here keeps leaving. It ebbs and flows, but I think things are on the rise. We only expected 300 at Parachute Factory… 1300 came! I think that set the tone for 2013. People are starting to become more aware of art in San Diego. Hopefully the momentum continues.

C: What is your advice to aspiring artists?
A: Be proactive. Find the right people to talk to about it. Be consistent; continue to practice your art. Don’t be scared to be vulnerable. You have to be real. Otherwise, you’re just blowing hot air, and people can tell when you’re not being genuine.

Also, showcasing your art online is great, but piracy is rampant. One of my friends found out that his art was being sold on t-shirts at Urban Outfitters. Some other “artist” changed the design slightly and sold it. Sites like Big Cartel, Etsy, and Society 6 can take your art and sell it legally.

Are you an artist in or near the southern California area interested in re-energizing the San Diego art scene? Contact Alli here, and follow her on Tumblr



  1. Go Alli, make it big!! I really the Jelly Lady and what it represents — very creative!!

    And to my BB whose passion is reflected in her writing, keep going! – momsy


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