The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian (oil, 51×37) by Jorge-Alberto Gonzalez was a Portrait finalist in the 25th Annual Art Competition. Gonzalez is our February 2009 Artist of the Month.
Residence: Baltimore, Maryland
Start in art: I was about 5 years old when I started playing with colored pencils and made a conscious decision to become an artist. I remember telling my mother that I wanted to grow up to be an artist, a revelation she found most pleasing because she always wanted to study art but never had the opportunity to do so.
I credit my parents for nurturing my need to be creative. Although I had art classes in school, I didn’t have formal training until 1969, after graduating from high school. I studied at The School of Visual Arts in New York City, graduating in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. In 1991, living and working in Baltimore, Maryland, I enrolled at the Schuler School of Fine Arts, graduating in 1994. From 1994 to 1995 I studied under John Michael Angel in Florence, Italy.
Inspiration for this painting: St. Sebastian, a Christian martyr, is said to have been killed by the Roman emperor Diocletian in the 3rd century. He’s traditionally depicted in art as a handsome youth tied to a post and pierced by arrows.
Early on I decided to represent St. Sebastian in a more contemporary manner. Instead of the saint being tied to a post, I decided to have him floating out of the painting, emphasizing the saint’s state of ecstasy. To show the pain and mutilation of arrows, I used nipple piercing instead.
His process: I work in oil on board, and my genres are trompe l’oeil, still life and figures. I prefer to work from life but due to the complexity of the pose in this painting, I worked from photos I took of the model. After choosing the correct pose I added the background elements in Photoshop. This helps me see the completed composition before I start the painting process.
Although my color palette has gotten brighter as I matured as a painter, I don’t have a typical color palette. One thing I consciously do is incorporate the colors of the Cuba and the tropics, where I come from, by using dramatic sunsets and sunrises in my work when possible.
About this painting: I spend 168 to 210 hours creating a painting. Since most of the composition problems are solved in Photoshop, The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian was a pretty simple painting to create. I finished it in a record time of two weeks, working eight hours a day, seven days a week.
Why he creates art: I always had an intense need to create, to draw, to paint. I don’t think about it—it comes to me as easy as breathing or eating or sleeping. I just know that to survive I need to do it. I create art because I have to.