Daniel Alayson, a Key West native, transforms old scuba tanks into original art. AMY PATTON/Keys Weekly

By Amy Patton

Have you ever wondered where old, battered scuba tanks go to die?

Local artist Danilo Alayson has at least one answer to that question: Why not paint them?

Now on display at the Art on Duval gallery, 714 Duval St., are colorful marine scenes painted on discarded scuba tanks that have been restored by the Key West-born Alayson. His acrylic brushstrokes have replaced the scratches and dents on the aged aluminum air cylinders formerly used to sustain divers underwater.

Some of the repurposed tanks and refurbished hardware that serve as the artist’s canvas are decades old. 

“They’ve lived their lives in the water,” Alayson said last week during a reception for the collection at the gallery. Images of manatees — those gentle giants of the sea — as well as sea turtles, luminous blue and green coral reef underwater landscapes and clown fish now adorn the container’s exteriors.

Alayson’s connection to the island city goes way back, with artistic talent hardwired into his DNA.

 “My grandfather is the original creator of the Southernmost Buoy,” he explained. `“I grew up with art expressions all around me.”

The tanks selected for painting, he said, are “decommissioned” from their original use and each one is numbered with an identification code engraved into its aluminum shell. Now comes the hard part: As the artist creates the original pieces mostly to be displayed on a collector’s wall, the tanks are laterally cut with a motorized (very sharp!) saw. “What’s involved in this is cutting, prepping, painting and sealing,” said Alayson. A resin pour over the entire painted facade helps render a glass-like finish to the piece – what he describes as a “candy apple” glaze.

The metal materials for the work are sourced “from dive shops from here all the way up to Port Charlotte,” said the painter. “This way I get all their used tanks. Then they can’t be recertified for use in diving.”

Art on Duval’s proprietor, Michael Procaccini, has lent his full support to the projects on display. “This whole thing has evolved into something special,” he said. “Almost everything we have here is done by Florida-based artists. We’re big supporters of local talent.”

For now, Alayson is happy to have his marine image scuba tank work in front of potential collectors who browse the shops on Duval.

“Obviously the dream of every artist is to get into a big gallery,” he noted. “Having wall space is the hardest thing to come by. You could throw a rock here and hit a hundred galleries and they all have the same thing. Because of this concept, my work gets a chance to be seen and hopefully taken home by someone who will love it.”