I'm done and there's quite a few things that I'm happy with... Hope you guys like it.

Laguna, 120 x 180 cm.


On the easel

This is something I'm currently working on...

And this is the one that I've been showing finally finished



One of the things I'm horrible at, which is probably the one thing that has become a nuisance when I hope to be represented by a gallery, is that my work is visually inconsistent. I rarely envision what my paintings should look like when they're finished... I try not to anticipate and trick myself into thinking that I prematurely know what the painting needs... I just try to be alert while I paint, and I hope that I'm willing to make the necessary changes, whatever they may be. This, one may say, is probably true for every painter out there, but what happens in my case is that I end up sacrificing the "unity" if you will, of my work. One painting may be painted in one manner while another, which may very well be painted at the same time, is treated completely differently.

This of course is something that galleries detest. Well, it's something they don't particularly associate with figurative painters at least. It shows (to them) that I'm not really worried about creating a recognizable image, an image that may be associated with my name. And I kind of have to admit they're right. While I'm painting, the last thing on my mind is having to subject what I have to say to what I've said previously.

The other day I was reading a book edited by David Evans, Appropriation, a concept I'm very much drawn towards. I felt  somewhat relieved when I read a Richard Prince interview with Peter Halley, where Halley was asking Prince why some of his rephotographing of images seemed to have a different approach. Prince's response really hit close to home.

Halley You don´t  feel like you're assigning each work, as well as yourself, a role?

Prince It's not that worked out. It's more like I'm conducting an affair or relationship. Each set of pictures has different considerations. In order to produce the effect of what the original picture imagines, you have to play the picture, you can't play yourself. 

I guess all of this is a preface to put in context the changes that this painting endured. One of my biggest fears is to find myself painting just to finish a painting. And when I'm referring to finishing something I'm alluding to a technical aspect, a stylistic choice. There were things in this particular image that while I thought were well painted (at least as well as I can paint them), they just felt bland. Like I was in auto-pilot. And I absolutely hate that feeling. If a painter is detached from what he or she is painting, the viewer is going to recognize that immediately.

So I painted, and repainted, and while it looks overworked, it's not a bad overworked. I'm able to exhale and feel comfortable when I'm next to the painting. And there's nothing quite like the feeling of being honestly content with something... when I don't like something I simply can't function properly. 

So fuck style. I'll do whatever needs to be done to satisfy the needs the image requires.


On Originality

Rather than throwing accusations around, and presumptuously acting like I’m exempt from all of this, I’ll start by stating that I’ve suffered, and continue to struggle with this every day.  I’ll give you guys an example…

Felix de la Concha is a terrific painter. His electrical posts (like the painting depicting the twelve apostles) are just full of personality. They‘re a fresh blend of Hockney, Antonio López, Rackstraw Downes…  anyways, when I saw his electrical posts, all I could think of was “damn, I’ve always wanted to paint one of those posts, and here comes a guy that paints them better than I could’ve ever imagined…” 

So after cursing him out, I naturally just HAD to paint a damn post. 

And so I started painting a post. I tried to convince myself that if I made it greyer it would, without a doubt, immediately make it my own. Needless to say, that was hardly achieved…  Literally halfway through the painting, I realized I was painting an electrical post that could only be described as a post that was painted after a painting of a post painted by a better painter…

So after feeling like an unoriginal piece of garbage, I decided I would alter the lower half of the painting. The painting was representing an inanimate object that was set outdoors, so I would now paint, in the lower half, part of a figure that was set indoors. The post was a vertical shape, the figure would have breaks in it. Then I thought, it needs something in the bottom… shoes! So I painted a pair of shoes… then I noticed it looked like a lazy pyramid composition and way too symmetrical (nothing wrong with symmetry, but wasn’t working for this particular image).  So I painted out a shoe and painted a purse instead. Then I thought, “one shoe… like Cinderella…” (yes, thank you, crazy imaginative)…Then I thought, “well… it’s an electrical post from Bogotá, let’s just title the painting “Bogotá Cinderella”.  Top that off with some clumsy stenciling to try and desperately connect top and bottom half, and the painting was done…

A sense of urgency was born from feeling unoriginal and the painting was modified until it sort of became my own.  Now, I’m not saying that from now on nobody can paint an electrical post because it’s been done so well by de la Concha. In fact, obligating one's self to paint objects that one can relate to a particular artist, could make for a great exercise.  Although I think, at least in this particular case, that I would be so worried about trying to make it different from de la Concha’s, that the exercise would just be one of strictly distancing one's self from the original image.

While this particular struggle ended up with a capriciously contrived painting, I was also indelibly tattooed by one of his paintings of pillows… so naturally I went ahead and painted a pair of pillows. This one was just blatant robbery. I thought his paintings were so damn cool, and again, I cursed him because for the longest time I had thought about painting my pillows. I thought that by depicting how the pillows ended in the morning after me and my wife had slept on them, would be a nice portrait of us. Once again I was grasping for straws… another futile attempt at making someone else experience my own.  Granted, I made them greyer and somewhat moodier, but they’re essentially the same painting. (These bottom ones are de la Concha's)

These are just a couple of examples of how much I struggle when I look at something I respect. And quite frankly, all this came up when I saw some images of paintings the other day.

I’ve always felt that painting like someone, however talented he or she may be, doesn’t quite make sense.  Painting, in my opinion,  is such a private process, that unless you are in your formative years, where you are shown, for example, a very specific way to approach painting, that it seems like a waste of energy to try and paint like somebody else.

Granted, sometimes we are enamored by the how. How in the hell did he achieve that surface? Or how did she solve those eyes? Or how did he mix that tone? If we as painters were not curious about these things, then we might as well paint walls. And yes, many times these questions drive us to try and solve paintings in manners which are not our own. I’ve often referred to these actions as an effort on our part to have that same experience that the artist who painted the original image had. Or at least our interpretation of that experience, because we never truly know how an image was executed just by looking at it. If you think differently, then please try and copy a Rembrandt. 

I’ve always seen work that you could trace to its teacher, be it my teacher, who I respect enormously, Steve Assael, or great painters that have done countless workshops and have aided students for years, like Silverman, Schmid, Leffel , or more recently, painters like Collins. The thing is, these type of influences should be strictly formal; they should illuminate students in manners of technically approaching paintings. But I seriously doubt that these teachers, even though they all share a huge respect for figurative art, would want little armies of bastard painters that will never be as good as them. Once again, Rembrandt comes to mind.

It worries me to see the influence that great painters like Alex Kanevsky and Sangram Majumdar are having nowadays. Now, I’m not going to put images of painters and compare them with these two talented painters, because I think it’s kind of pointless. The object of this is not to rat them out… partly because I’m sure that the painter that is content with painting like someone else, already knows that he or she is painting like someone else. And quite frankly, who am I to tell a painter what their true objective should be? Maybe a person’s goal in life is to try and see if she can paint skin like Assael’s, or if he can paint drippy buildings (sorry Alex) like Kanevsky’s, or if she can paint cakes like Uglow’s.

Maybe, just maybe, getting close to those images that they hold so dear is enough. But what if this is not just a whim or not just a couple of paintings, but you suddenly become the poor man’s __________. What if a gallery starts looking at you like a cheap Cecily Brown, or an affordable Freud. Your life has now become the scavenging of somebody else's efforts. And that… is just sad.

Again, if I was going to call someone out, it was going to be me. No shame in recognizing that. I feel fine with it, because I know that those paintings I have done are pages I have turned.  They are experiences that I have painted through, and I have moved one.  They were stepping stones in understanding who I am as a painter. I am not implying that other artists can´t have these same experiences and have them also become launching pads, but it worries me when galleries are quick to offer people a spot in their roster with work that feels awkwardly foreign.  

When you think about it, painting like somebody else, albeit not exactly like somebody else, is not that hard. What is impossible to replicate is the reasoning behind the paint strokes; the emotions that become decisions. Those will always be unique to each painter. That is why I’ve always felt that we as painters should just surrender to our lives and accept ourselves as exceptional beings with the potential of sharing fascinating ways of looking at the world.


Embracing Limitations

Even though I'm quite respectful of the type of training an artist chooses, I can't help but feel odd when I look at people working at Neo-Neo-Neo Classical academies. Among the feelings I get, is an accusing sensation, self-imposed I'm sure, pointing out how badly I draw and paint. I feel terrible when I look at how disciplined and controlled is the manner in which those drawings and paintings are executed. I can't tell you how I felt when I glanced at my palette after I saw the Michael Klein video. While you could have open heart surgery on top of his, mine looks like something that was dug out of Pompey.

While I thought about my technical short-comings, I realized something. I actually appreciate that my drawing ability is not as high as these highly talented people. I don't mind when I find that I messed up proportions, or dirtied colors, or altered my composition. The thing is, I've always seen art as a struggle. Now, that's not to say that sometimes, SOME times, wonderful things happen effortlessly, but most of the time, at least for most of us, it's something akin to labor. And by labor I of course mean childbirth.

In my case, and I'm obviously not saying that this should be everyone's manner of work, painting is a horrible experience. I paint, and scrape, and repaint, and curse the heavens, go to bed frustrated, paint again, look at a good artbook, get depressed after looking at a good artbook, go to bed thinking fuck it, paint again, start feeling confident, fuck it up a smidgeon, hopelessly and frantically try to fix it, give up, frame it and sell it.

So every time I look at these Zen classical draughtsmen, I always feel I have a responsibility towards myself and the sanity of my family, to think clearly, to draw more accurately and to paint cleanly. And I try, god knows I try...

but I can't.

That's when I realize, fuck it. I'm not as good a draughtsman as these guys, I'm not as good a colorist, and I can't make the clear and confident decisions they make... BUT, I embrace painting. I absolutely adore the process of uncertainty, of self doubt that accompanies every image I make. I like that it's not easy, that I can't grasp concepts firmly, that my paintings reflect struggle. I'm ok with that.

God bless these guys working in those ateliers, because I genuinly enjoy looking at the stuff they do... mainly because I'm not capable of doing what they do.

So here's a painting I started a bit ago. It's a bit clusterfucky, but it'll get there. Where you may ask?

... I'll get back to you on that one.


What good is it?

I was remembering the way  Robert Hughes ends the Mona Lisa Curse documentary by pessimistically stating that if the current Art world isn't capable of answering the question of what it's good for, then we should pretty much just wrap it up. Art and the market of Art are not separate worlds anymore, they have melded into a media-thirsty pot, where it is now indispensable that the artist becomes a recognizable brand. And while I do agree that the business of art has opened doors that are going to be difficult to shut, I question if this apparent new direction is really all that different from the one that came before it.

It is true that there are more wealthier younger artists than before, and perhaps most of these artist will not stand the test of time, but I wonder if their motives are significantly different from the ones of artists centuries ago. I know people just love the starving artist stereotype... how Michelangelo had to write letters saying he was broke, how Poussin asked a patron if he would be so kind as to commission a small work because he needed the money, how Sorolla described the difficult times he was going through when he was a young painter, or the ever-popular Van Gogh sob story. We could say that the difference is that the artists used to work for the sake of their art and not for money... maybe so, but that doesn't mean that there were no wealthy artists. Velazquez, Rubens, Van Dyck, even Rembrandt who squandered all his money, were very, very wealthy at some point. In Rembrandt's case, lets not forget that one of his works is not known for its title, but for it's marketing merit- the Hundred Guilder Print. So lets not hurriedly state that the way art was viewed before the 1960's was untouched by the art market.

What does hurt, is that Art is becoming solely about money. The market, which was once an after the fact extension of a work of art, has quickly become an unavoidable conditional in the execution of a work of art. Hirst, which would've been born if Koons and Greed had had a baby, states his view of the Art world with one simple statement - If you were given the chance to own the Mona Lisa or the Mona Lisa's reproduction rights, which would you own? Obviously he would've been banking on the t-shirts immediately.

Hughes, again in the documentary, says an absolutely wonderful line when referring to Hirst's Virgin Mother - "isn't it a miracle what so much money  and so little ability can produce (...)" . Just wonderful. But again, I wonder if artists before Hirst were not selfish. I mean, if we believe in l'art pour l'art then there is no other reason but selfish reasons for creating art. Whatever they may be, how ever pure or unpure they may be, they are selfish in the sense that an artist does a work of art only to satisfy himself. Now, this is obviously understanding that a vast majority of works of Art were created under some sort of directing patronage. But regardless of the fact that an artist may have worked within parameters, he or she always found a way to self-express within those limitations. It almost made for a more gallant effort in pursue of selfishness.

So I wonder... so what if those selfish needs involve money? What if those self-serving desires, when coupled with money, produce a wonderful work of art? Should we despise it for its intentions? I guess when it comes down to it, the decision to succumb to the tempting money gods, rests inside every artist. What I can't accept, is an artist who repeatedly betrays his or her creative desire to say what he or she wants to say, by constantly tainting the process of creating art with some pecuniary whim. It's even sadder when the attempt to create a commercial piece fails even at that.

I can understand that a lot of us, if not all of us, will be faced at some point with tough decisions in terms of how much we decide that our economic needs will affect our work. And I'm sure many of us will make work that we're not entirely proud of... the important thing is to remember, at least from time to time, is that Art is selfish... a good selfish if you will.

So what good is egoistic Art? Who the hell knows... Art just poses questions. Sometimes even questions that don't need to be answered. To think that Art is good for something, makes you think there's a preset goal when creating it, and that you're trying to achieve it efficiently. And I'm sorry but Art is not meant to be efficient... it's even at its worse when it's pretentious and pedantic.

So there you go... Art is selfish and useless. And those two things are the reasons I can't live without it.



I feel this one is done... I had a different intention when I visulized what I wanted to do originally, and I swear I have no idea how it developed itself into a sort of traditional portrait, but what's most important, at least to me with this particular painting, was achieved.  He had this look, this really specific look that I wanted to hint at (again, originally), because I didn't want to describe it. So god knows why I ended up describing the features, but I feel it was in an effort to go towards whatever I was hoping to communicate... (talk about being vague...) Aaaaanyways, it's done. Hope you guys like it.



 Ok... sooooo... I would've wanted this to show that I had the balls to take more risks.... but... I don't know... there was something not working out. Seemed like I HAD to try and get that really specific look or the portrait just wasn't going to work...

I know I said I really liked this painting's start... It was one of those things, kind of like the drawing I posted before, that I think is cryptically personal. I guess I was the one who saw some sort of potential in those initial gestures, even though a lot had to be redrawn. But the energy was there... that was the important part. The intention of the painting was clear, and sometimes, many times actually, that intention doesn't appear after weeks or months of work. Many times it doesn't even appear at all...

I'll keep at it until I feel it's done. I should've done a more detailed WIP, but I was struggling a bit too much, searching a bit too much to be concerned with taking photos. Sometimes a painting just solves itself through decisions that denounce the struggle that was involved. 



I like this start... which is annoying because once you like something you're not inclined to risk ruining it. And if there's something  I've found out about myself is that I have to feel like I'm right at the edge of messing everything up to really enjoy the act of painting. That's when my panic mode kicks in and when I truly feel like I'm doing something with paint.

Taking risks that ultimately pay off doesn't happen all the time obviously... more often than not, more often than I would like for it to happen, I take a safe way out of a problem. It's a shame...

BUT, I promise I'll take this small painting to see what I can do with it. I love this guy's expression, he's a student of mine... he's got an incredibly intense look... he looks like he could be a genius or a kid whose about to overdose... love it. I have to try and see if I can get that feel, not with small detail, but with shapes of paint. We'll see how it goes.


At least one...

When I'm done with a drawing session, I always feel that it was worth it if I find that one of the many drawings I did, was able to communicate what I was observing. Many times it doesn't even have to be one whole drawing, but a moment in a drawing. If I'm able to see that little bit of a drawing, and understand why it worked, I'm content with that whole session. And sometimes, it's not even a drawing session, but a whole sketchbook that produces that one little drawing. Now, other people may look at the sketchbook and feel that all the pages are consistent (I wish!), but I find that there's almost always one specific drawing that catched my attention and makes me feel that all those other drawings aided me in making that particular one.

So I drew this the other day, and I guess, for me, this is that little drawing... may be nothing specialto you folks, but to me it reminds me that when you're drawing and things come out well, it just feels like everything just falls into place. A line becomes a little puzzle piece that helps you do another line, and another and another, and when you're done, it was almost effortless. I wish this would happen ALL the time, but the truth is for every good drawing there are tens of bad ones.

I've always felt that while great artists are considered great because they're consistent, sometimes I wonder how many crappy drawings and paintings they did that are hidden from the publications and museums. Because, lets face it, we don't want to see a bad portrait when we open a Sargent book, and god bless him he's Sargent but he did plenty of, granted lets not say bad (that's blasphemy), not so good portraits. They were all human, some of us are more human than they were, but they had good days and bad. The important thing to remember is that the bad days always turn into something good in the future... may not be the next day, but if you feed enough of those crappy ass days  into your system, something good comes out of them.

Btw, here's a painting I showed a WIP pic, but never showed the finished version...



Sin Pan y sin Trabajo

I went to Argentina for vacation... Buenos Aires, Ushuaia, Calafate and Bariloche. Simply amazing. Even though I am horrible at painting lansdcapes, I had a huge urge to just sit there and try and interpret through paint what I was looking at... When you think about it, it's almost a curse... being a painter that is, not vacationing. Everything we look at, we paint; at least in our heads we do. I sometimes find myself trying to let go of being a painter just so I can take in what is there in front of me. The truth is it's impossible, painter and person are the same person, and we have to accept that. I decided to take photos... a REAL painter would've painted, but I opted for my camera... and I have to say I love taking photographs. When done regularly, the process of composing starts to come from your gutt, and in my experience gutt is good.

I was also in Buenos Aires, and had to go to the musuem of Fine Arts (MNBA). I knew they had a really nice Bouguereau (The First Mourning) and an emblematic image in Argentinian figurative painting, Ernesto de la Cárcova's  Sin Pan y sin Trabajo, which always reminded me of Bramley's Hopeless Dawn. Now both Boug's and de la Cárcova's work are absolutely wonderful. Boug's is much more subtle than the reproductions I´ve seen, and surprisingly de la Cárcova's painting is somewhat impressionistic. There are blues and purples in the hands... bits of broken color that are intelligently placed. All this would've been fantastic, if the museum would let people take photographs. But nooooo, only the most important museums in the world let people take photos, but here in LatinAmerica we don't trust ourselves yet. The reason they gave me is that the museum owns the rights of the works that are displayed so if I wanted something I had to go to the store. So I went to the store, and they obviously had nothing of de la Cárcova's work, no reproductions of the painting, no postcards, nothing. Their argument made complete sense.

So I realized that we hold on to whatever we can remember. Granted I could've taken notes on the painting, and sketched for a while... but I decided to look. And I stared at it for a looong time, and I tried to take everything in. I asked myself, not how he painted it (although that's an inevitable thought), but why it made me feel so connected to it... how and where is it that human emotion is so purely represented, that 100 years later,  when the world is completely different than the one they depicted, I'm still connected to their image. And so I looked... and I guess looking is almost rhetorical... I didn't come up with any answers, it seems a bit intangible. I realize people may dismiss these sort of works as overly daramtic, almost kitschy, but I'm drawn to them. That's all I know, all I care about.