Danilo Alayon is a fifth-generation “Conch” born and raised in Key West, an avid diver, a self-taught artist and proud grandson of the creator-painter of the island’s famed Southernmost Point buoy.
Danilo has embraced a unique form of artistry: he converts old, nicked and rusty scuba tanks into sustainable and luminously colorful works.
Through his original creations, Danilo draws attention to the Florida Keys’ underwater marine life with brilliant paintings of marlin, whales, dolphins, grouper, sea turtles and coral.
Danilo hails from a large Key West–rooted family that includes a brother and 12 first cousins. As a student in the island city, he was known for winning school art contests.
After high school, Danilo held a variety of jobs that included working at a yacht club kitchen and his family’s plumbing business. Today, he paints during about half of his working time and also tackles landscape design projects.
Now 35 years old, Danilo began painting scuba tanks about five years ago after a client suggested it as a commission. One collector, who doesn’t dive, has purchased five. The artist also paints spearfishing guns, guitars and canvas works.
Inspired by internationally renowned marine life artist Wyland, Danilo has collaborated with Hawaii-based artist Walfrido Garcia on a dive tank project on the Big Island and Maui. Danilo also created a colorful abstract 4-by-7.5-foot painting in the lobby of the Wyvern Hotel in Punta Gorda, Florida.
“I believe art can be taught, but I also believe you are born with (a talent),” he said. “I’m self-taught, but always learning new things.”
Although he recently purchased property in Port Charlotte, Florida, where some of his family members are relocating, Danilo can be found frequently around town and at Art on Duval Key West at 714 Duval St.
He and wife Ashley have three children: Alina, 14; Danilo, 11; and Austin, 7. In the near future, he hopes to open his own gallery.
Keys Voices: When did you first come to the Keys and why?
Danilo Alayon: I was born in Key West in 1987. My home has always been Key West.
KV: What aspects of the Keys environment or way of life matter most to you?
DA: The preservation of our coral reefs. Without them, all life would cease to exist. The coral reefs are also what give the Florida Keys their special beauty.
KV: Who or what inspired you to become passionate about respecting and protecting the Keys’ natural world?
DA: My inspiration for creating my artwork is highly influenced by the creation all around us. I also have been inspired to create by spending many hours with my grandfather Danny Acosta, who is a sign painter and who has made his mark in Key West for many years. He is the original creator and painter of the Southernmost Point buoy that every tourist stops to take a picture with.
KV: How does that passion influence your work?
DA: When I create new pieces of art, it doesn’t feel like a job. I only paint from personal inspiration, without a deadline, so that the work doesn’t feel forced.
KV: What are some ways, personally or through your work, that you connect with or help to protect the local environment and unique lifestyle?
DA: I hope that people will fall in love with the marine life and seascape pieces I create and see the beauty this world has to offer. It may move them to recycle more or leave less of a carbon footprint. In one way, I am trying to do this personally by painting old scuba tanks instead of them being trashed into a huge landfill. I create works of art that people can enjoy in their homes for many years.
KV: What keeps you energized, challenged or focused on your path?
DA: My family and the natural world of the Keys help to provide inspiration.
KV: What do you hope your positive environmental actions will accomplish?
DA: Change, so that our children grow up and are able to experience the beauty of creation.
KV: What’s your favorite natural or eco-friendly activity in the Keys?
DA: Fishing, diving and spending time with family at the beach.
KV: What message do you want your actions and example to communicate to people you encounter?
DA: Awareness that we all can do a little — and if we all do a little, in turn we will accomplish a lot.