Abel Marquez: The Artist’s Magazine‘s November 2011 Artist of the Month
Hometown: Miami, Florida
How and when did you get started creating art?
I recall how – when I was around four years old – I used to spend my mornings drawing on the only available paper I had: the margins of the newspaper that my grandfather, used to buy. I used to fill those margins with sketches of small houses, shoes, the sun and more. When we had company they’d see the newspaper filled with drawings, and it used to bother my grandfather a little, but afterward he’d laugh and encourage me to proceed. Another early influence was to watch my mother while she was oil painting; I recall getting near her palette and prying eagerly and feeling ecstatic and amazed when witnessing how she mixed colors, smelling their scents, seeing how she was drawing; everything seemed magical to me. My grandfather would also show me Life magazine where works of art were printed occasionally and I clearly remember when he showed me a painting by Pablo Picasso and said to me: “this painter is a Spaniard, just like me, and he is very famous!”
Allow me to tell you an anecdote which I clearly keep in my memory: when I was around six or seven years old, one of the tasks we were asked to do at school was an illustration commemorating Columbus Day. I submitted a drawing that I had made using a writing feather and India ink—which took me hours to complete—but, to my surprise and indignation, the teacher denied grading it stating, in front of all my classmates, that such drawing had no merit since it had been drawn by my parents! How much sadness and disillusionment! My ire was such that I decided to take my drawing under my arm and asked to speak to the principal in order to formally complain about the incident. The principal, who knew me, immediately realized that it was drawing made by me and he called the teacher in order to talk to her. I keep this incident deep in my heart as “my first defense of copyright.”
When I was 13, under the insistence of my grandfather, my mother searched for a painting instructor so that I could take art classes; that’s how I arrived at the home of Mrs. Enriqueta Algarra de Comerci, an elderly woman who gave me, in my first classes, a series of postcards with instructions to copy one of them. I chose one which showed a blue vase with roses, and I remember the instructor saying that it was very complicated and I recall her saying: “if you want to do it, go ahead, but no beginner can paint something like it, you will see that it is very difficult.” One month later, she began calling me “the boy of the roses” since, according to her; no other pupil of hers had painted roses like those. A few months later I wanted more of a challenge, and so I registered at a workshop for adults which was offered by the Municipality of the City of Trelew (Province of Chubut, Argentina), in charge of Professor Hugo Ahumada. It was here where I had my first contact with more conceptual subjects, such as visual language and composition. I abandoned my studies in medicine as I discovered the great classical masters. I was especially impressed by Caravaggio, Ingres, Millet, and Vermeer and, without any hesitation, the Chilean master Claudio Bravo.
Do you create art for a living, or do you have another occupation?
Up to the present, I’ve always had to maintain a day job in order to be able to continue dedicated to my artistic work; each day I try to make an effort to reach the best level of quality possible, so I can have more chances of completely inserting myself in the art world and of being able to live off the work that I produce; it’s not an easy task, but it’s not impossible either.
What media and genres do you work in?
I’m currently fully dedicated to work with pastel, but I don’t disregard other techniques. I’ve always been passionate for still life paintings, and portraits as well.
I firmly believe that in still life paintings we can find and research the most important themes of visual language; it is there where one can feel them closer to the space, the incidence of light on each element; in other words, we find ourselves closer to a world of relationships and thus we can observe it very closely.
What was your inspiration for this painting?
The main inspiration has been the Micoette box (which I found at my friend Mario’s atelier). Since the moment I saw it I had a hunch that a work of art would be born around it; all the other elements were placed there to keep it company, a visual company through composition and color.
Describe your process.
I prefer to materialize my idea in a very fast draft on a small piece of paper that could even be a napkin; it’s only purpose is to see how volumes can work in the composition. This couldn’t even be called a sketch, sometimes I look for the elements that could work with an idea, other times I choose the elements that I like and then arrange them for good composition and discard those that I consider useless.
I don’t like to adjust myself too much to a determined palette; I let the elements and intuition lead me to determine the colors. Once the work begins to grow, intuition goes hand-in-hand with reason in order to handle the palette in the most appropriate way possible.
How long do you spend on a typical painting? What about this one in particular?
I work on several pieces at a time, and time is never a limitation in the process of my artwork; if I have to dedicate 13 months between the beginning and the end, as I did for Micoette Box, then I go ahead and do it. If I condensed all the hours that I have worked in one single work and in continuous days, I could say that I spend eight hours a day for three months. Many times, the works flow without major complications, for which the time worked is not the same as the time spent when one comes across issues that are difficult to resolve.
Were there any surprises or difficulties along the way as you painted this work? What was your favorite part?
There were no major difficulties in this artwork, as I stated in another interview, this work is one of those that flow effortlessly from the beginning to the end, only the coloring of the background underwent a drastic change that was suggested by a friend. For me, the most interesting parts in the work was the color of the quinces and their relation to the background, and that the box ended up occupying the place of the “main element.”
What are you working on right now?
I am currently working on three paintings: in two of them I’ve incorporated a kind of flower which has always caught my imagination due to its color, beauty and the memento that links it to my childhood: pansies. Pansies are often portrayed in bouquets; I’d rather show it individually, so the spectator may observe it more attentively and thus be able to appreciate its beauty and may perceive it as “individual” and not necessarily as part of a whole.
What inspires you to create art?
The reasons are many and varied, some are simpler, others deeper. Some of them might even be analyzed from one’s conscience and others may be too hidden, after tasting a glass of good wine and letting my imagination fly away toward those moments of solitude that I used to love to spend by a brook or creek… I might find an answer.
The need to go through this life and to leave a positive contribution might be the closest reason; those who love and really dedicate their time to works of art can see life from a different point of view—neither better nor worse, but different.
Any unusual anecdotes relating to your art in general?
Among so many memories from my time at the School of Art of the National University of Córdoba, I remember when I was in the third grade of the painting course. Argentina was going through a profound financial crisis and I felt it as others did. Most of the time I used to walk some six miles in order to go back and forth to the university, since I generally didn’t have enough money for the bus fare. During the course of several days, classes were taught by the professor’s assistant, since this professor used to miss class very frequently. So in a very assertive manner I said to this assistant: “Please, tell the professor that I make a great sacrifice in order to come to class everyday. If he does not come to class I will drop this course.” I don’t know if this had an effect or not, but as of the next class the professor started to attend regularly and to get involved; I keep great memories from this professor and, after this occurrence, we had an excellent professor/student relationship.
Artists of the Month are chosen from finalists of The Artist’s Magazine’s Annual Art Competition.
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