Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Artist Interview: Adalberto Ortiz.

I'm a sucker for paintings.  Especially ones with extreme sources of light (think ala Edward Hopper), so when I first came across the Etsy shop, I was immediately smitten.  The artist, Adalberto Ortiz, was kind enough to answer my interview questions, so let's all get to know him better.

1. Were you always an art kid, or did you stumble upon it later in life?

You might say I was an "art kid." I had the advantage of growing up in a big city, New York. I went to the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan where art was a big part of the curriculum. I also was fortunate enough to live in a city where I can just take a subway ride to some of the greatest museums in the world. Looking at art on the web or print cannot compare with actually being inches away from it. You react differently to a painting or any art piece depending on its size. That’s also part of the art experience. You can look at an 8 by 8 inch painting of an apple, for instance, and feel one way but if you were to see the same painting at a different scale, say 8 by 8 feet, you would react differently. The meaning changes, the impact is different. The artist is conveying something else at that bigger scale. I remember looking at Picasso’s Guernica when it lived at the Museum of Modern Art (it is now in Spain). It was big, in its own room, surrounded with other smaller studies for the work. You could actually see the artist’s work process through the smaller studies right there in that room.

Dewey Grain Elevator.

2. What style of art is your favorite and why?

I really have no favorite. I like art for many reasons. Like everyone else, I like to look at art and respond to it emotionally, as when a landscape painting captures the time of day or season so perfectly, with just the right colors and light, that you just feel it in the painting, or a painting of a portrait that reveals what the subject is feeling or thinking. I saw a painting at The Wexner Center for the Arts gallery in Ohio by Luc Tuymans, a large painting of a baby’s face surrounded be a soft white blanket. The painting was called Silence. It just felt very quiet. I also like David Hockney’s painting of a flower in a vase in front of a blue Mt. Fuji (Mt. Fuji and Flowers). The flower looks like it’s rendered in 3d. It just pops out. How did he do that? How can I do that? But, I love to look at art conceptually as well. I like it when art reveals a double meaning. I like texture and composition. I like minimalism in art. I even admire the frame—how clean and perfect–around a painting or a simple white pedestal holding a sculpture. The presentation of art is also part of the joy.

3. What do you use for inspiration, or how do you generate ideas?

Well, you really don’t generate ideas.  They are discovered, mostly. I don’t look for a subject to paint. I don’t say “I'm going to paint a still life of a flower in a vase today.” Now, you might start off with your still life arrangement, but it’s unimportant. It is how the compositing sits within the picture frame, or the negative background shapes, or just the light that is important. Those are the elements that matter to me. The subject can be anything. You don’t wait for inspiration. Once you start doing–applying paint to a surface, if you are a painter, you will begin to see, discover. Anything, any object or scene can be rediscovered as art. Once you start applying paint to your canvas, the painting starts talking to you, it will suggest what to do next. In other words, you give to it and it will give back to you. One hopes for something unexpected, accidental, and surprising to occur in order to harness and shape it into something interesting as art. If I am painting an image of a house, I am really looking at the negative spaces, the surroundings, and trying to make those shapes interesting. Perhaps that is what’s important in the painting, the background, or maybe some object in the corner of the painting will draw my attention. You don’t need to paint the sky blue. It can be any color: red, black. You might purposely simplify parts of your painting in order to draw attention to something else on your canvas. In other words, nothing needs to be what it appears. In my painting (Red House) for example, there is a strong white horizontal line across the canvas. That is an element of the house, the fascia but, at the same time, because I’ve made it so prominent and flat, it attracts attention as just an abstract shape dividing the surface.

4. Walk us through your creative process from idea to finished project.

I carry a small notebook around to dash down ideas, thumbnail sketches. I also take digital pictures of anything that captures my interest and that I want to use as inspiration or to paint from. If I have an idea, say for a painting, I usually upload my image, however rough, to my computer. There I manipulate it. I introduce new elements, rearrange parts, eliminate areas, and simplify. I try out different compositions and color. With smaller works I sometimes make a print on canvas or paper with my home printer and start painting right over the print.  When you paint over your print it will sometimes pick up the ink pigments, resulting in unexpended color bleeds. This could be interesting. However, I often apply fixative to prevent this so that I have more control over my colors. I also desaturate the print so that it is just barely visible. Once I’m well into my painting, I take a digital image of it and upload it to my computer. There I try out different color values before going back to the actual work. I agonize over the work a lot especially when I need to get the perfect color and value. The computer makes this easier. I really dread mixing colors and don’t like to spend time gridding my canvas to transfer an image to it. Another way I work is totally on the computer. I sometimes use a 3d modeling program to create a still life or interior painting. I construct my subjects in 3d environment, arrange the elements in space, and digitally light it. I can endlessly rearrange things, light it in many different ways and use my software camera tools to compose a pleasant composition. I can use multiple camera angles and lighting to explore possibilities. I can also play with color and values endlessly. My paintings (Open Sky and Ofrenza) were created totally by this method.

Page Corner Print No. 1.

5. What is a typical day in your life?

Well, I don’t paint every day, but I do a lot of thinking about art. I will do several works in a short period of time. I’m always looking to see what in my environment, as I proceed through my day, I can use as a creative spark or idea for my next work. My series of magazine page corners (Page Corner #1­–#6) were inspired by looking through magazines. I noticed how earmarked magazine pages, when folded over, reveal the page underneath. I noticed that, together, the folded image and the partial graphic under created an interesting abstract single image.

6. What do you think draws you to other people's work?

I gravitate toward other people’s work because I often want to create art the way they do. I wish I had done it first. I am envious. I like to discover how other artists solve problems. I’m intrigued by how some artists take an idea and interpret it as art. I admire how some painters can use their skill with a brush to depict everyday objects, light, or garments so economically perfect. Think of John Singer Sargent for example.


7. What are your interests/hobbies?

I have an interest in theatre. I studied set design at NYU and have been involved in theatrical productions as a designer. I like building things. I am interested in 3d art and design. I also have a strong interest in architecture and product design.

8. Is this your full time job, or do you have a job out-of-studio?

Right now this is my job and interest. I’ve done graphic design and done commercial work designing TV newsroom and studios in the past. I am always open to doing commercial design work. I’ve done several book cover designs as a freelancer.

Page Corner Print No. 3.

9. What is your favorite piece you've ever made and why?

There is no favorite piece. If I had to choose it would be the one I’m currently working on. I lose interest in my older work. I often see things in hindsight that I could have done better. Sometimes, however, a friend or viewer will see something in one of my paintings that I never intended or planned. For example, I have a painting of an interior (Moonlight through Window) with a window and moonlight reflected on a wall. The light on the wall is painted with metallic silver paint. My son observed that when viewed straight on, you can see the metallic moonlight clearly on the wall, but when viewed from the side, the light disappears. The metallic paint color blends with the wall color. That was a pleasant surprise and added more interest to the painting.

Red House.

10. What advice would you give to an artist just starting out in the business world?

Don’t quit your day job. If you’re truly interested in being an artist, just stick with it. Over time, you really need to create a lot of work and have a distinctive style or concept that defines your work, if you want to exhibit professionally. I would highly recommend Jackie Battenfield’s The Artist’s Guide to read.

11. Describe your work space.

My current workspace is really unsuitable for creating art. Ideally, if you like to draw or paint at a desk you should be standing. And the desk should be high enough for that. While I like painting big, I have focused lately on doing smaller pieces. You can generate more art quickly and can develop your techniques faster. So I am using a desk that is totally unsuitable. Ideally, if I had a perfect studio, I would just staple my board/canvas to a wall or place on the floor and go at it. I think one has to have an unencumbered space to move around freely. Make a mess!

White Farm House.

12. Did you face any setbacks on your path to being an artist?

Yes. Unless you’re independently wealthy most artists have to make a living, somehow. I had to get a “real” job, leaving little time to paint. So choose your work and lifestyle carefully to allow enough time to do art. That said, no matter how much you love art, people and family are more important.

Studio Space with Messy Desk (my desk looks very similar).

13. What milestones, goals, or achievements are you striving for right now?

I like conceptual art. I like to paint bigger and use more unusual and unconventional subjects and material. I am drawn toward a more minimalist style of work. I am currently working on a series of 3d conceptual artwork (Surrender). I am taking several simple identical wooden chairs and creating a series of 3d conceptual artwork by altering, repurposing them in interesting and unique way (Artifact). Of course, it would be nice to be able to make a living with your art.

You can also find him:

Thank you so much for letting us into your creative process.  I really enjoyed your answers, especially about what draws you to other people's work because my answer would be very similar yours.  I wish you all the best with your future work, and I hope this little blip brings lots of new viewers to your work.

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