What's your background?
I’m from Mexico. I was born and grew up in a small town in Sonora, but I’ve been living in Guadalajara for the past 16 years since I came to this city to go to Art School.
I have been in love with painting ever since I was a little kid and, by a strange chance of destiny, an art book got into my hands. I had no other contact with art during my childhood. Nobody in my family is an artist or even an art lover. It was a happy coincidence that my orthodontist, back in the days when I was a nerd doing caricatures of my classmates in high school, was an artist himself who was willing to teach me my first drawing and color theory lessons.
Becoming a painter was my naive dream – it still is! But I was supposed to make my parents proud by going to college and, living in my town, I never knew that art schools existed. So, painfully, I went to college to study graphic design, only to eventually take an art history class from this amazing teacher who had a degree in arts herself.
Four years later I was moving to Guadalajara.
What's your medium of choice when you're creating art?
I use mixed media because I can’t decide on one medium. I just love them all, and I am still learning and re-learning how to use many of them. At this very moment, the ones I use the most are: pens, ink, watercolor and acrylic. I like that they all can be worked with only water, they all dry quick and I can get a very rich mix of textures and contrasts when using them altogether.
Here’s a detailed list of my favorite tools and materials.
- Pens: BIC ballpoint pens (only when sketching) and Micron pens (sometimes for sketching, most of the time for final artworks)
- Ink: Pelikan Indian Ink and Liquitex Acrylic Ink
- Watercolor: Winsor and Newton (Cotman)
- Acrylics: Politec, Winsor & Newton (Galeria), Schminckle College, Pebeo Studio, etc.
- Extras: Derwent Graphik Line Painter Pens and Liquitex Paint Markers (but, I must say that, after some practice, it’s becoming easier and more effective to just paint final acrylic details with a small tiny brush rather than those pens and markers, so I believe I will discard them soon)
- Palettes: Homemade wet palette for acrylics, regular plastic palettes for everything else
- Brushes: Cheap tiny synthetic brushes (used equally for everything), Pentel Arts Aquash Brush (for watercolor), and old rustic bristle brushes for some texture effects. I don’t use fancy brushes. Not even for watercolor. I usually forget to keep them separated and since acrylic ruins them all, I don’t see the point on spending too much money in them. As long as they are tiny and soft, they work for me.
- Supports: 300g to 400g acrylic or watercolor paper, and moving my way to canvas. I don’t use 100% cotton paper because it doesn’t work that well with the pens.
How did you build your creative habit?
In this area, I am a work in progress. I am constantly fighting creative block. Being impulsive, having a rebellious type of personality and many different interests and obsessions that disperse my attention – these traits don’t make my creative habit easy to maintain.
However, I can tell you one thing: creative habits are built like any other habits. I have read many different theories about habit building, and the one that seem to work best for me is also the simplest. I learned it from the book Mini Habits. Author Stephen Guise encourages us to set super small daily goals, so small that it would be ridiculous not to do them, even in the worse case scenario. Combine this with the “Seinfeld method” of making a big mark in a wall calendar for each day that we complete our habit until we eventually form a chain that we don’t want to break. And, finally, add my own twist (which is a recompilation from the other theories): perform the activity at the same time every day, preferably first thing in the morning or whenever is your biological energy prime time. This is how I have built many habits like exercising and reading, which I consider to be “keystone” habits that eventually lead me to drawing and painting more consistently.
My particular rituals and quirks that now help me fend off creative block are compiled into a thing that productivity people call “active/intentional procrastination” (which is not real procrastination, by the way), and it’s very helpful for creative-rebellious people like me. I don’t draw or do any art first thing in the morning. Instead, I make my bed, I exercise, I serve my cats, I clean the house, I take a nap, etc. And if that is not enough, I will also watch a movie (preferably horror) or read something. After all this, I will be so sick and tired of “mundane and human” chores that I just want to go deep into something more fulfilling, like art.
But be warned. This is a last resource tactic and can lead to real procrastination if you are not careful. So don’t try this unless everything else has failed.
When you find yourself in a creative rut, how do you get out of it?
I don’t consider temporary falls from energy real ruts. We all need to take breaks to reenergize ourselves. So a rut is not a rut until it starts to grow in a disproportional way, bigger than our previous effort.
There are no quick tips and hacks for something like that. And everyone is different, so not all advice is going to work for everybody. I was in a massive rut from 2007 to 2015. And during those eight years, I went from doing 24" x 32" multiple-media paintings to not being able to do a simple doodle on a napkin.
Having a tendency to suffer from depression, I got disappointed in the artistic world while attending Art School. I was feeling inadequate and overwhelmed, and I abandoned art for longer than it is acceptable.
I have always been a bit of an introvert, so it was easier for me to turn to books instead of people for help. It was through reading that I learned how to build some sort of discipline, and I realized that I was in fact able to become someone who I didn’t hate. I also learned that art didn’t have to be a path full of suffering, and I was shown how to put myself back in that path again.
“…when we move out on faith into the act of creation, the universe is able to advance.” I believe that Sktchy was brought into my life by this mystical force of the Universe that Julia Cameron talks about. It was from a random act of serendipity that I found out about it and, when I joined, it gave me the source of support and inspiration I was lacking at the time. I will always be grateful for this opportunity to love art again. I still have my ups and downs, but my love for art has not diminished since that January 20, two years ago, when I posted my first sketch.
I would like to share with you this list of book recommendations, and I hope that you can get inspired, or get something out of them, since they were such a huge help for me when I needed it the most:
- Mini Habits by Stephen Guise. A very simple way so start to form habits. The simplicity that overcomes resistance.
- The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Spiritual guidance, and therapeutic exercises.
- Daily Painting by Carol Marine. How to paint in a daily basis, and a lot of technical advice from mixing color to setting up your studio.
- Essentialism: the disciplined pursuit of less by Greg McKeown. Highly recommended when you feel overwhelmed. Lessons on prioritization.
- The 5 Second Rule by Mell Robbins. Another simple tactic to overcome resistance. I recommend getting the audiobook instead, she is an amazing speaker that is worth listening to.
- The Creative Habit by Twila Tharp. She talks extensively about the specifics of creative habits and overcoming ruts. If you can read only one book about the subject, read this one.
- The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. This is THE book about habit building. Talks about all the elements involved and gives all kind of examples.
- Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. When your emotions are conspiring against your own interests, the best weapon to have is to understand them. This is also a great reading for those who have kids.
- Steal like an Artist by Austin Kleon. Don’t be afraid of looking at other artists’ art anymore.
- Deep Work by Cal Newport. If you have trouble focusing and getting into the state of flow, read this book.
Which of your recent Sktchy artworks most expresses who you are now as an artist?
I have three favorites, each one for different reasons. This one is very personal for me, and I keep it at home with no intentions of ever selling. Even when I didn't use my own photo, this is basically a self portrait, because it portraits the way I was feeling at the time, too afraid to end a long term relationship that was not good for either of us, and figuring out the courage to get out of the closet (still halfway). Technically, this was also a challenge because I used canvas instead of paper, without my usual initial layer of pen work. I had to get out of my comfort zone in order to advance to a kind of work that I want to enroll in the (near) future. In many ways, this piece reminds me that I must be brave to embrace the things that are truly in my heart.
This was some sort of a commission and also a team work. I donated this original artwork to a charity local auction, and it was made especially for that end. I had several challenges in the making of this piece, going from the subject (which was not initially a favorite of mine), to the technical skills (I did acrylic things that I never did before), all while working on a very tight deadline. I must say that I also consider this a team work because my muse, Jennie, was not only very supportive but also helped me with a lot of information that I didn't know about the character I was trying to emulate. After all the hard work, I felt very proud of the result. It's not perfect, but I improved and learned a lot while doing it.
Aesthetically, this piece is not a favorite of mine. However, it made me feel like a professional: I had to do research, read books from a writer I never read before, make a lot of studies and sketches and I even had to look for professional framing to get it delivered to an exhibition. It's also the first thing I did that got published in local newspapers. So crazy. All new things for me. It's going to be tough to meet expectations after this, but I love all the discipline that this work has taught me.