West Orange HS alumnus flourishes as ‘The Art Alchemist’

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange High School Class of 2009 graduate Elijah Minton, aka “The Art Alchemist,” is enjoying a flourishing career as a muralist and painter regionally and nationally. Minton, whose talents include fine art, original art, illustrations, portraits, acrylic painting, murals and logo designs, was drawn to art at an early age.

“It all began in preschool when the principal’s daughter scribbled some graffiti on the dry erase board,” Minton said. “I thought it was really cool, and after that I guess my parents could tell I liked art because I always had markers, pencils and art supplies as far back as I can remember.”

While at WOHS, Minton was involved in several sports, including football, track and lacrosse, and was an AP art student. 

“It was great to have the double period to relax and draw,” Minton said. “I would say that Mrs. (Diane) LaPenta was the most impactful for me because she brought in an artist named TMNK, aka ‘the me nobody knows,’ and he explained how he had quit his job a year prior and was showing work at MOMA after street vending for a year. He was the first example of success in the arts that I had ever seen, and I constantly went back to his website for years even when I had decided to pursue finance. I followed his example by dropping out my senior year of college and quitting my job as a pharmaceutical rep. It took longer but following his lead has worked out for me.

“When I got started I didn’t know anything about the art world,” he continued. “I’m still pretty unfamiliar with the formal galleries and the vast landscape of opportunities that exist. I didn’t know how to paint, so my plan was to draw and sell my sketches, which was quite difficult.”

In 2015, a life-shattering experience put Minton on his current path.

“One of my best friends, Sharod Coleman, was murdered on the night of my birthday and I canceled all of my plans to paint a portrait of him for his mother,” Minton said. “Everything began after I did that painting. I instantly got commissioned for a larger piece and it never really stopped after that.”

Much of Minton’s work has been in the form of wall murals and paintings. His most recent project was for the nonprofit organization Urban Resource Institute in Manhattan; he painted the organization’s new Economic Empowerment Center, which provides job training for domestic violence survivors and a tech lab for the children.

“I truly enjoy creating work that serves a purpose,” Minton said.

Minton has done murals in Manhattan, New Jersey, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Houston, as well as at the World Trade Center and shoe designer Angela Simmons’ penthouse.

“My passion to create is driven by a desire to explore and be different,” Minton said. “I would like to discover a new art form, which is why I don’t look at other peoples’ art very often. I’ve recently discovered my passion for writing, so I plan on illustrating my own books in a few years.” 

When asked what advice he has for aspiring artists, Minton said, “It’s important to make sure you love your art before you ever start to worry about how anyone else feels about your art. When you’re too concerned with what everyone else will think, it’s easy to lose yourself. This is also why commission work is dangerous to an artist, because if you spend all your time creating for other people, eventually you won’t know what you want to create for yourself if money isn’t involved — I’ve been there.”

Minton plans to continue to use his talents to explore new avenues of expression.

“My reason for doing art is because I truly believe that I can use it to change the world. It is one of the last mediums left that cannot be censored,” he said. “I have a lot to say when the time is right.”

Learn more about Minton and see more of his work on his website at www.theartalchemist.com.