Trey Abdella’s cartoonish paintings are a textural joy

The New York based artist is inspired by the mundane and mixes together materials to create a cornucopia of textures and effects for the viewer 

“When I was a kid I did something that really pissed my parents off. I don’t remember what it was, but they grounded me,” remembers Trey Abdella. “I couldn’t watch TV, go on the computer, or go outside. They gave me some pencils and paper and told me to make my own cartoons. I guess I’m still doing that now.”

Based in New York, Abdella’s oddly fascinating paintings reference cartoons from his childhood and the video games he grew up on but the themes within them are mostly autobiographical. “I’m inspired by day-to-day things like waiting at the DMV, getting dumped, or drinking myself to death,” says Abdella. “I’m really interested in capturing the drama in the mundane.”  

Downhill From Here

Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary, the artist’s characters are absorbed in their own worlds and are depicted at candle-lit drinks, battling garden sprinklers and enjoying nature in the form of a spider and a worm. Before starting a new piece, Abdella works through ideas and thumbnails in his sketchbook. “After that I gather references off my camera, internet, bookstores, and libraries,” says the artist. “I plan out the paintings in Photoshop, then I let them sit on my computer for a while to see whether or not I hate them. When I start the painting I begin to figure out how I will mix things up with materials to move beyond my source of reference.”

This materials mash up is what makes Abdella’s work so compelling with cartoonish acrylic paints being mixed with almost hyperreal airbrushing and adding in collaged elements like sand, rocks and glass. “I use pretty much anything at this point, but it is primarily acrylic and airbrush,” explains Abdella. “I think of acrylic as a kind of kindred spirit, what with our shared lack of patience. I’ll be damned if I have to wait more than 15 minutes for something to dry!”


With Friends

As well as quick drying times, Abdella leans towards this textural blend to create variety within his artworks. “I am always trying to figure out ways to surprise myself with the work. I want the viewer to experience my work in a different way digitally and in real life,” he says. “I add these textures and materials almost as Easter eggs for the viewer to find when seeing the works in person.” 

Adbella’s works are rich with imagination, full of humour and express a unique perspective on the world. “It’d be great if someone got an existential crisis out of them,” he says. “But I feel like I’m lucky if I get a ‘lol’.”