It is often said that the day we stop learning is the day that we die. In fact, maintaining an attitude of perennial student—always seeking to learn new things, to improve and gain new insights—is what allows us to continue growing and moving forward. No matter how experienced we may become in any field, embracing the life-long learner within us is what allows us to awaken every day with a new sense of purpose and potential. Art Motif Magazine’s next featured artist, Alex Chavez, is doing just that. Take a look at our interview with Mr. Chavez below to see how he has embraced the role of perpetual learner with utmost grace and gusto as he elevates his artistic game to a whole new masterful level.
How do your background, cultural roots, and/or sense of identity manifest in your art? Most of my paintings are skeleton figures or persons dressed as skeletons. This is my reflection of the Day of the Dead festivities that take place in Central America. My father’s side of the family migrated to the United States from Mexico. The celebrations there honor those who have passed away by remembering them with constructed altars from October 31st through November 2nd every year.
I think it is important to think about death. It gives me a greater appreciation of life. My goal is to create images of death that a person can hang on their wall and live with as a reminder to go out and live a life that they will ultimately be proud of.
How has your artistic practice changed over time? I started out as a graphic artist in Los Angeles, California freelancing as a portrait painter and muralist. At age 30, I married and shortly after we moved to Taos, New Mexico, the town my mother was born in, to raise our kids. There is a huge art scene in Santa Fe and Taos which cultivated me as an artist, forging my own style and working in Digital Collage as my medium.
I only recently began using oil paints for the first time in my art career. I have always admired figurative art and this is the subject I decided to master as an oil painter. I feel very confident in choosing this medium and subject matter. It has been the most challenging endeavor I have taken on as an artist. I have studied with Kerry Dunn, Milt Koboyashi and Zin Lim. This is a new beginning for me as an artist and I see improvement with every painting. It is a very exciting time in my life.
Do you have a preferred genre/style/medium? I am very interested in the bravado brushstroke style of many old masters and contemporary figurative painters. I get very excited when I see brushstrokes in any painting medium. The more expressive the better. When it looks like the artist dropped his wet brush on the canvas and it forms a hand or the hair of a human figure, for me, it is very Zen or like Jazz improvisation. The happy accident is no accident at all. It takes years of practice to fully understand your medium and to be able to paint this way. Let “paint be paint” as I like to say.
What is your creative process? What does a typical day of creative expression look like for you? After coffee and a bite to eat about 8:00 AM, I look through my morgue of photos until something strikes me. I mostly paint from my iPad and get most of my reference photos from Instagram which I manipulate and enhance. The object is not to capture a person’s likeness. I’m more interested in the pose, expression, and values in the photo. I sometimes paint from magazines, especially if my iPad is not charged. Right now I like Interview Magazine which I find in used book or thrift stores.
Still experimenting with color, I have not developed my own pallet yet so I will use a different combination of colors every two to four paintings. Then I clean my pallet and squirt out a different combination of colors. My painting style is very spontaneous but getting more methodical as I discover new techniques and aspects in my paintings. I mostly work alla prima (or wet-on-wet, a painting technique used mostly in oil painting in which layers of wet paint are applied to previously administered layers of wet paint). I keep getting better with every painting. So I have no problem wiping out something I finished and reusing the canvas. Many of my canvases and panels have 2 or 3 paintings underneath.
What piece of advice would you give other aspiring artists? When it comes to the visual arts, just keep doing it. In fact, you should be driven to make art. Only after many, many hours of trial and error will you develop your own unique style. And when you have a consistent portfolio, you will find people who gravitate to your work. Always step up the quality of your images and your final product. It is also helpful to find a drawing group and ask people whose art opinion you value to critique your work.
Who are your favorite writers and/or poets? Charles Bukowski, Edgar Alan Poe,Albert Camus, and Franz Kafka.
Who are your favorite painters? John Singer Sargent, Pablo Picasso,Francis Bacon, and Jackson Pollock.
Who are your favorite musicians and/or composers? Mark E. Smith, Son House, Steven Reich, andFrank Zappa.
What is your idea of happiness? Happiness is designed to be fleeting so that we may continue to persevere in our quest for survival.
To learn more about Alex Chavez and purchase or see more of his work, click on the following links: