Interview with the young, talented and thoughtful San Diego artist– Jorge Gutierrez. Besides offering a description of the artist’s own work, this interview presents a wonderful in-depth look at the creative process!
Welcome to Our World Interviews. “Today for our bilingual English and Spanish interview I’m sitting in a North Park cafe, Claire de Lune, and I’m speaking with a young San Diego artist, Jorge Gutierrez. Mr. Gutierrez describes his work as representing his obsession with the “symbiotic nature between reality and the often unknown dimensions of the mind.” He describes his “figurative work” as the “outer vision, the way he sees “the people around him”; his more colorful surrealist work though represents the examination of the ideas that arise from the “deeper hard to reach unconscious mind.”
“Good morning Mr. Gutierrez, welcome to Our World Interviews and thank you for meeting with me today.”
Question “You know it’s interesting because I looked at your art before I read your description of it and at first I was struck by the contrasts between your portraits and your more surrealist paintings but then as I thought about it some more I realized that you are searching for a sort of truth in both types of work. Can you tell me about how you are looking for a truth, or a reality if you will, in your portraits, as well as your graphically stylized work? Maybe you can talk about your powerful portraits first and then your other stylized surrealist paintings”
Jorge’s summary: For the portraits (los retratos) the technique I use is done just by mark making, marks (las marcas) of paint on top of more marks of paint; up close the marks resemble gibberish, and then you take a few steps back and it becomes a more unified bunch of marks that make up a face (una cara); it becomes something real. There is a deep duality of chaos and order that works as a link between the two and becomes something more. That something more becomes a sort of truth, and it relates to life itself; and how the world is torn apart by good things as well as bad– dark and light. The surreal work in contrast—differs from the portraits not just in subject matter but also in technique, they contrast from one another, as if different people made them; but they are actually from the same source. Painting connects me in a deeper level to what is real to me, and in doing so I tend to find a truth of some kind.
Question “What do you enjoy most about creating your art—starting the work, thinking about it ahead of time, the whole process, the finished product, the reaction of the people that you paint for sometimes? How would you describe your feelings about this whole process—what do you like the most?”
Jorge’s summary: I like the ending, or rather imagining how a piece is going to look like because it never ends up looking like what I pictured in my head (mi cabeza). I like the fact that what I end up with is never what I imagined, from the moment the idea materializes it’s already evolving and always becomes something different– it’s inevitable. Sometimes the palette I have in mind for a piece completely changes mid painting, which is why at times I don’t really prepare for a painting–I just dive in. In life things never go as one plans, things happen, but as long as you get to where you have to be that’s all that matters.
Question “Are there any important professors in your life who have influenced the artist you have become?”
Jorge’s summary: Yes there is, Wayne Hulgin my professor at San Diego Community College—SDCC. Before his class I didn’t like painting at all; I liked drawing but kind of hated painting. My first semester in Wayne’s painting class I had a very hard time, I was really immature and impatient back then and was not able to manipulate paint the way I did graphite–this really did a number on me. That semester was a hard one. Fortunately the uneasy feeling I had of not achieving my goals in painting, was the motivation I needed to practice and get better. Wayne was very patient and supportive of me in those times. He introduced me to the world of painting and showed me many artists that I had never heard of–two of them in particular have definitely become my greatest influences, Lucian Freud and Jenny Saville. I can certainly say without Wayne’s dedication I would not have ended up loving and breathing painting the way I do now.
Question “So, I wonder if you could tell us how, how do you begin painting a portrait?” Your portraits are so powerful and almost intimate. I’m curious how you begin this process of creating these really compelling portraits?”
Jorge’s summary: The way I like to start a portrait (un retrato) is by choosing my subject, choosing the person for a piece could be triggered by simple things that are happening in time that I just happen to notice and think about. It’s also usually someone I know, or that I have at least personally met before. If I choose a woman I tend to choose a more natural look as opposed to someone that wears make-up (el maquillaje); in truth I prefer painting men because there are more angular shapes in a man’s face compared to that of a woman’s– so for the technique I use, a man is more interesting to paint. In the last year I have practiced painting women a lot more, so I paint both genders equally more or less now. Once I have chosen my subject I start by doing a pencil sketch to figure out my highlights, shadows and my composition, then I transfer it to my panel and start the first layers of paint blocking in major parts. I try to use color to indicate lights and shadows instead of the simple mix of the base color with black for shadow or white for highlights, my professor taught me to mix colors to make my own sort of black, and to try never to use just plain black at all. When the first layer of strokes have dried I’ll start adding more and more strokes on top and slowly the mess of marks start forming a face. After that I spend a few days with detail and background. I find the detailing phase the most enjoyable. It’s the part in which I get to bring the painting to life in a sort of way—I love that feeling. I also paint artists and fictional characters from time to time. But for me, painting a portrait is more enjoyable if I take the photograph myself, sketch it myself, transfer it myself, and of course paint it myself; it feels more like mine that way. That’s more or less how it happens.
Question “Okay for our last question. I wondered if you can tell us more about your surrealist paintings and also where people can find out more about your art?”
Jorge’s summary: The surreal paintings I make are very different from my portraits. The portraits are what I see around me, whereas the surreal work is more internal and based more on symbolism. The character in these paintings is the physical manifestation of the unconscious mind; that place in one’s mind that is deep and dark, yet everything we know, say or do comes from this place. Many people call this character a monster or an alien; which is quite natural, because human nature turns to the obscure and evil when it is presented with something it doesn’t understand– especially when it comes from darkness. To me darkness is the opposite, I find that darkness is simply a place or thing that holds infinite potential; there is light and truth to find within darkness. This character in these paintings can change forms and travel wherever he desires– whether in space, or to strange beautiful worlds or dimensions. Many of these paintings are based on something positive and uplifting, but every now and then there is one that is based on a darker matter, not everything is merry and positive. People make up their own interpretation with a work of art. I like that the audience makes up its own stories about my paintings. It might be totally different from what I intended, but it’s that connection and wonder people have when they see my work that makes things interesting. Whether it is the surreal works or portraits, I try to make something that is full of feeling and emotion, things that people can easily relate to.
People can find out more about the artist’s work on his website jorge-gutierrez.com
Some of his paintings may be viewed in the following locations
TPG3: 330 A St, San Diego, (Thumbprint Gallery) http://www.tpg3.net/
Remington Tattoo and gallery: 3436 30th St San Diego CA 92104
Electric boxes located at these two locations in North Park: on the corner of North Park Way and Ray Street and in National City: 880 National City Blvd National City, CA 91950, in front of Southwestern Community College