“I just kind of get into my little painting zone,” laughs Cecilia Romero, her bubbly disposition mirroring that of her rad color palettes. The LA-bred artist just wrapped up her latest project: a mural spanning a heavily trafficked Silver Lake, Los Angeles wall. Busy with people and emotions, the mural defines the area and its residents; for Romero, it’s all about those real life moments, full of feelings, personal energy and the relationships, real or not, between herself and the personalities she paints.

Have you always painted portraits or did you experiment with other mediums prior?

Portraits have definitely always channeled through me really naturally. I remember being in high school and loving to draw open mouth, screaming faces. I’ve just been growing up throughout my whole artistic journey and teaching myself and testing things out. I love portraits and I love capturing really awesome, dramatic faces that capture an awesome feeling that anyone can connect to. The life energy of being alive and laughing, maybe even screaming, expressing yourself—that’s authenticity. I want to capture that.

What’s it like for you looking at a big blank wall rather than a canvas?

It’s so inspiring just looking at a blank wall. You’re given the bigger space and your brain just grows. I’m given a huge wall and all of a sudden there are just so many more possibilities to create, so much more space and it’s just a really awesome sense of freedom—freedom of expressing myself on such a different level. It’s just so intriguing to work with that bigger scale. It’s almost like being in a band with all that space too—you’re moving your whole body around with your work.

I know you and your sister are also in a band together. How do the two arts combine?

Me and my sister have always been little song writers. The energy that we both contribute, the singing and the writing and playing the bass, it’s just so natural and kind of just flows through us. The music inspires my art and my art also inspires the music. But that’s why I need both. They’re both great outlets: art is a more calming and meditative artistic practice, and then playing the guitar and really singing from your heart is such a great release and a way of expressing yourself too. So they both have their own unique flavors.

What’s your process in choosing color palettes?

It kind of depends on what the face speaks to me. Sometimes I’ll sketch out a portrait and I won’t even know specifically what colors I want to use and then it’ll just hit me and I’ll be like, OK, it needs some yellow in the face, and I need some orange and some red. It kind of depends on the portrait I’m doing and I kind of just let it speak to me and kind of channel through me.

Out of the portraits you’ve created, which has been your favorite?

That’s a tough one. I painted a couple of my friends, and painting someone you know is just so special; painting them on canvas is like capturing this part of their life—it’s really meaningful.

I did one of my friends who has this really awesome, gnarly beard, and he came over to my place and I was like “OK, I need to get a picture of you,” you know, for my reference. He’s actually a photographer, so he brought over this really rad camera I got to use. And he’s used to being behind the camera and not in front of it, so I had to get him comfortable. I said “Scream or something!” and at first he was like “OK, dude…” and I was like “No, like really scream, let it out!” We had this awesome moment where he was like, “I’ll try”—and he has long hair too, besides his beard—and he whipped his hair from the left all the way over to the right and was like, “AHHRRRRRR!” The first or second shot I was like, “That’s it, dude!”

I freakin’ love that portrait; I made his beard orange, red and yellow and then his skin is this cool teal color with purple. He was super stoked when he saw it.

You’re from LA, live in LA, work in LA—how has the city inspired your artwork?

Oh my gosh. The city that I live in, man. Growing up in the city, like right in the middle of the city, has totally made me to be just a super real, down to earth person and I feel like it’s definitely impacted my portraits. I like capturing really authentic types of people, all kinds of different people. And I don’t do traditional skin tones, just psychedelic colors in the faces, because we’re all people, we’re all the human race. It’s like my more alternative way of doing portraits.

I feel inspirations everywhere: the beach energy at Venice Beach, going to downtown where there are all kinds of murals everywhere. So many different parts of the city trigger inspirations.