"I was always in dreamland," said Silva, who has called North Bergen home for the last four years. "I loved creating fairy tales in my head. I was always drawing on the back of my schoolbooks in class. I was always imagining things and then trying to create them."
The artistic flair was especially enhanced when she was a freshman in high school and went to an art museum.
"The artists there really inspired me," Silva said. "I knew that it was something that I had to do."
So Silva then embarked on a career in art, painting, drawing, creating. She also got into photography as well and used the camera as a paintbrush.
"That was more dabbling then anything," Silva said.
But it was with the brush and the oils where Silva's talents really came out. It enabled Silva to become a professional artist, working out of her studio in her North Bergen home.
Near her home
However, Silva recently took on the biggest challenge of her professional life, creating a giant mural on the outside wall of a café, located on the corner of Broadway and 77th Street in the township.
It all started when Fidel Hernandez and Glenn Trickle, the former owners of the café, which was called Buster's, asked Silva if she would be interested in painting a mural.
"I was always open to fun ideas, but I never even thought of doing a mural before," said the effervescent Silva. "I've done big paintings, like door-sized ones, perhaps 30-by-40, but never an entire wall. And it was outside. I was so thrilled that they considered me. I really thought it was a great challenge and was so excited to do it."
So Silva set out a few months ago, trying to create something that would be fitting of the neighborhood and fitting of the café.
"I really felt like going with the 'Alice in Wonderland' theme," Silva said. "But there were other ideas that came out of it as well. I got into the Renaissance and tribal characters. I somehow got into Pocahontas as well. I was really inspired to use a lot of color and colorful characters."
Silva immediately went to town, painting day and night, whenever she had free time.
"A local fireman helped me by getting headlights to use," Silva said. "The entire neighborhood got involved. People were bringing me coffee and lights. It was a lot of fun. I couldn't believe the support I was getting. Everyone was curious as to how it would turn out. The neighbors really inspired me."
For five months, Silva braved the elements and headed out to the wall with paints and brushes in hand. Of course, ladders and scaffolding had to be put in place.
"Sometimes, the weather was bad and I couldn't work that day," Silva said. "But there were other days, like I'd get up early in the morning and there would be this beautiful breeze or late at night, when I would just listen to music in my earphones and go to town. It was like meditation to me. Everything was spontaneous, whatever came to mind."
Much like the images she would scribble on the back of her notebooks in school.
"When it started to come together, it put a smile on my face," Silva said. "It was incredible. There were about eight cats from the neighborhood who stopped and watched me paint almost every day, so I had to include cats in the mural."
There was a picture window right in the middle of the wall that Silva had to paint around, so Silva included the window, putting inside of a tree, much like "The Looking Glass" in "Alice in Wonderland."
"People can peer into the looking glass and see into the café," Silva said. "I thought it had a spiritual feel about it."
There are also an assortment of numbers and numerals in the mural. Silva said that she is big into numerology and sprinkled numbers all over the wall.
"There's numerology and spirituality," Silva said. "You can make it whatever you like."
If the weather and the elements weren't enough of an obstacle, Silva found another mid-project. Hernandez and Trickle sold their business to two women, Chris Smith and Maryann Skowronski, who turned the location into the Cozy Corner Café and Collectibles. Perhaps the new owners might not want to have such artistry on its wall. But that wasn't the case.
"To me, it was one of the major selling points," Smith said. "Fidel said that he commissioned Alison with me in mind. I absolutely loved it. It wasn't finished when we bought the place, but I knew I was going to love it."
Silva finished the mural on the same week that Smith and Skowronski opened for business.
"People stop and look at it," Smith said. "They stop and have their picture taken in front of it. Everyone loves it."
When Silva was completed, she couldn't believe what she had created.
"It was like, 'Wow, I did that?' " Silva said. "It was wild how everyone would stand there and watch me as I was painting. I felt like I was a theater performer, on stage every day, as I added a new character to the wall. People would stop and ask me about what I was creating, asking me about the characters. I loved that part. It made the whole process more social, more than I've ever experienced before. Usually, I'm painting and creating alone. This time, I got to know my entire neighborhood."
The finished product is called "Dreamland," which is perfect for Silva, the consummate dreamer.
The impressive, colorful and creative mural has drawn attention from other art aficionados.
"I have been commissioned to do other murals inside private homes because of it," Silva said. "I've received a lot of calls from it."
Silva was creative in another way. She included her phone number at the base of the mural, next to the signature, sort of creating a giant business card.
When she's not busy painting and creating, Silva can be found working in a Manhattan toy store, called Dinosaur Hill. Once a kid, always a kid.
Silva already has two art shows lined up in Hoboken for September and October. By then, she may have a few more murals to display along with her work on canvas.
"This was so much fun," Silva said. "I'd love to do it again. I loved meeting the neighborhood. There are so many talented people, artists, writers, photographers, who live right here, a lot of interesting people."
Silva thanked friends Lillie and Bill Hurst for lending a hand, especially with equipment and the generous firefighter known only as Thomas for providing the light at night.
"And the cats looking at me, they made it magical," Silva said. "It really was creating a wonderland. It definitely turned out better than I could have imagined. I feel like I'm the little pixie in fairy tales."