“What I find exciting is to deviate from direct observation in exploration of territory that challenges and surprises me: ideas that relate to the psychology of our inner selves or the interplay between the conscious and unconscious aspects of our existence,” says Dorian Vallejo, in The Artist’s Magazine (November 2013). Vallejo’s images are dreamlike and haunting, as you can see for yourself below. Learn more about Vallejo’s figurative oil paintings in the following excerpt from the feature article “Dream Maker” by Louise B. Hafesh.
Vallejo is in a constant quest for visually exciting or unconventional possibilities to spark his imagination and engender ideas that coalesce into forms as he paints them. And once the thread of an idea takes hold, he’s driven to identify narrative and compositional elements, as he begins to create an extensive series of drawings (see Sleep Movement Study, below). “I’ve found that my initial ideas are usually the most obvious,” he points out, “so working out sketches is a good way of getting past that to something more unique and carefully considered, which is ultimately what appeals to me.”
Focusing on what best reflects his vision, Vallejo creates different color studies in an attempt to find the right notes and set the tone. Following that, the search is on to gather all the elements needed for the final painting, and since he has already envisioned many of the details in advance, to duplicate them as closely as possible. That would include purchasing any wardrobe pieces or, if needed, hiring a seamstress to sew something original. As for the model, also defined in his mind’s eye, she will be chosen from his perennial favorites or through an agency.
With all the components in place, Vallejo sets up a photo shoot. “As an individual, every model is special,” he says. “On the day of the shoot, I share my sketches with her, describe what I have in mind, then begin to take photos. If the shoot is outdoors, I’ll have already scouted an area and done a test shoot with notations about the time of day, so I know what to expect. If studio lighting is required, I’ll set up everything before the model arrives so we can use our time efficiently.” At this point, by doing as much preliminary work as possible, the artist is able to maintain control over the process. “If I go directly to the camera, without my sketches, a certain amount of randomness enters the equation,” he points out. “This can be fun, but the process switches to one in which I’m looking for a good photo that inspires me instead of using the camera to flesh out an idea I’ve already developed.”
Finally, having orchestrated down to the last detail, Vallejo makes a composite of all the elements, prints out a reference, and begins painting directly. Blocking in to a point of approximately 80-percent completion so as to assess the whole, he then reworks the entire painting to completion.
Ever advancing his skills and exploring new techniques, Vallejo has a passion for drawing; his work ethic is astounding. He is never without a sketchpad or art supplies on hand just in case the muse should beckon, and he draws every morning before starting marathon studio sessions from life. “It’s often from this practice of drawing that the seeds of ideas for paintings are planted,” he says. He likens the experience of developing ideas to chasing a butterfly in the fog. “Something beautiful emerges and I give chase but it’s elusive and difficult to capture, disappearing and reappearing. More often than not, it gets away. However, I still give chase because, like a child, there’s some inner force that compels me. It’s exhilarating.” ~by Louise B. Hafesh
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