Although Mendez works in a representational style, each of his paintings begin as an abstraction. Squinting to blur his vision, Mendez imagines his subject as nothing more than a broad collage of flat shapes and tonal values. After brushing in a loose sketch on linen canvas or gessoed Masonite, he identifies the subject?s predominant hue (for example, blue in a seascape) and blocks in every spot of the picture plane containing that color. At this stage, he mixes his oils with a standard blend of damar varnish, turpentine and linseed oil. “Many artists start with a gray, monochromatic underpainting, then build color on top of that,” he says. “My approach is the opposite. I want to start with a big, strong statement, so I begin with clean color.”
Fruits and Flowers (oil, 30×30)
Using this initial base color as a springboard, Mendez branches out into related colors. For example, if his dominant color is blue, he moves to other colors in that family, such as blue-greens or blue-violets. “Painting color passages is a process of relating and comparing. It?s easier to check values and temperatures when you?re relating blues to blues or reds to reds. You simply pinpoint which blue is darkest, lightest, coolest or warmest,” he says. As he completes each color family, he moves to the next until the entire canvas is covered with abstract shapes.
As the range of values and temperatures expands on Mendez?s canvas, three-dimensional forms begin to replace the flat shapes and grayed tones appear in shadows and transitional areas. “Through the process of modeling, I automatically gray colors down because of the complements,” he says. ” It?s much easier to do this than it is to pull bright color out of a gray start.”