December Artist of the Month | Steven DaLuz

Congratulations to our December artist of the month, Steven DaLuz! He was a finalist in The Artist’s Magazine’s 30th Annual Art Competition. His painting, Siren Song, is below. Keep scrolling to see what DaLuz has to say about art and life.

San Antonio, Texas ~

Siren Song (oil, 23k gold leaf and composition gold leaf on panel, 48x60)

Siren Song (oil, 23k gold leaf and composition gold leaf on panel, 48×60)

I suppose my earliest memories were abstract crayon masterpieces upon my mother’s walls.  I haven’t stopped drawing since.  I earned a BFA in painting from the University of Texas at San Antonio, though most of my practical learning came from countless hours of experimentation and work in the studio. When I paint, I primarily work with oil and metal leaf on panel, though I also work with encaustic (beeswax, resin, and pigment).  When I draw, I use charcoal, graphite, walnut ink, shellac–a variety of mixed media.

I developed a process using composition gold leaf, copper leaf, chemically-induced patinas, oil and other mixed media.  As light passes through the glazes of oil, it bounces off the underlying metal leaf, creating a glow that appears to come from within the painting.  At first glance, the paintings look normal.  The light bouncing off the figures, piercing the hazy atmosphere, and appearing as  cloud formations are actually gold leaf or copper leaf peeking through the paint.  The imagery for those works is manufactured in my imagination.  I used models for the figurative work; working from a combination of live drawings, sketches and photo reference.  The backgrounds are usually imagined spaces.  My color palette is dominated by ambers because of the properties of the gold leaf.  Typically, I use asphaltum, warm and cool version of the primaries, and titanium-zinc white.  When I work in oils, I typically use metal leaf selectively in the substrate. I prefer to work on hardboard panel, cradled with poplar. I prepare the panel with 2 coats of PVA (which is somewhat like a synthetic rabbit skin glue), 3 coats of gesso, and 2 diluted coats of red oxide acrylic (usually).  I use quick-dry sizing, and composition gold leaf, though I also use copper leaf and 23K gold leaf when the work calls for it. I  sometimes use a chemical concoction to induce patinas, an acrylic sealant, and then I begin painting with oils.  It typically takes about a week to prepare my surfaces.  I have used many different mediums, but I prefer Liquin for most of the work I do in this manner.  Concerning paints, I typically use the 150ml tubes made by Gamblin, though I am not a purist.  I use Rembrandt for certain colors, and a variety of other handmade paints. I have a large assortment of brushes in most sizes–mostly flats and filberts.

I spend between 2 weeks and 2 months on a painting.  This particular piece took about a month.  My process is terribly inefficient.

The act of painting and drawing is intoxicating.  I would do it if I never made a dime.  However, I suppose I am most interested in imagery that evokes a “feeling” within the viewer–whether figurative or non-objective.  Even if the viewer connects for only a brief moment.  While I like intellectual stimulation in a work, I am more concerned with sparking the imagination.  I aim for this usually with properties of ethereal light, elements of mystery, and the sublime.  Entwining images of light, serenity, and calm against darkness, tumult, and chaos is what I like best.  It presents a kind of metaphor for life’s journey.   Lately, I think spirituality has crept into my work.  Not religious per se but a kind of subconscious “yearning”.  I don’t fight it. For me, the pure beauty and power of art need not explain anything.

There are so many people to whom I owe a debt of gratitude.  Chief among them is my wife, hands down.  She bears with me, through my mood swings, self-doubt, and overwhelming compulsion to create.  She tells me the truth, even when I don’t like to hear it. She has been by my side through the tough times, and has always believed in me, even when I didn’t.

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