3DValley Featured 2D Artist for November 2008 – Douglas Alvarez. Douglas is a painter from California, US. He studied Graphic Design at the California State University and became a full time graphic designer after graduation. His passion however is painting and he is fortunate enough to be able to spend his day doing what he loves most. He paints with acrylics on both wood and masonite and shows his work in various galleries in the US. Please check out Douglas website or MySpace page for info at which galleries his work is available. Please read our interview with Douglas below to get to know him and his work a bit better.
Christa: Can you tell us a bit about yourself: Who you are and what you do in your daily life?
Douglas: My name is Douglas Alvarez and I’m a painter from Los Angeles. My childhood was basically normal (whatever that means) filled with skateboarding, arcades and collecting Star Wars cards. The only unusual part was being the son of a preacher but I never turned religious as a result or inspie of. My passion is painting but it has only been a few years that I’ve been actively showing work in galleries. Prior to that, I’ve worked as a graphic designer. After dedicating myself to painting, I’ve been much happier. My daily life always begins with coffee (guess I’m addicted) and I never make it at home. After spending an hour drinking coffee and reading the paper at one of my favorite coffeehouses, I start painting.
Christa: Do you remember the first time you knew you wanted to be an artist?
Douglas: Subconsciously I wanted to be an artist since elementary school. I always enjoyed visiting local fine art museums and admired graffiti on the walls. Unfortunately, I had no real direction. Later in life, I wanted to attend law school. After struggling with the LSAT test and acceptance to some not so great schools, I followed my heart and enrolled in art school.
Christa: Where did you go to school and how did they prepare you for your career?
Douglas: I graduated from California State University, Northridge. My focus there was graphic design and they have a great program. I became a full time graphic designer after graduation and made a comfortable living. Although it isn’t directly related to painting, graphic design courses have helped me tremendously in my development as an artist.
Get your own
Christa: What kind of materials do you use for your artwork?
Douglas: I enjoy painting with acrylics on both wood and masonite. When I’m in the mood, I use a jigsaw to create cutout artwork. I do find myself applying paper and other materials on the surface of the paintings. Don’t tell anyone but I’ve been exploring stencils, wheat pasting and spray paints.
Christa: Can you tell us a bit of the way you work on your art?
Douglas: My work tends to lean towards realism so I first find my subjects by the collection pictures I’ve taken. It’s expensive to paint live models so I take pictures of friends or random shots of strangers. I also visit the local zoo for animal shots. I prepare the wood by sanding it before adding gesso to the surface. If I’m not painting a theme or a commissioned piece, I will visualize the painting in my head and start sketching the surface. I’m never certain what the painting will look like or the ultimate meaning. I may have an intention to paint, for example love, but end up painting something completely different. The piece develops as I paint it. Sometimes it’s a struggle due to a general lack of direction. I’ll add elements and later paint over it. What I noticed is that the more I struggle, the happier I am with the outcome.
Christa: Do you have a favorite piece of your own artwork and if so why?
Douglas: I do keep a very few pieces of my own work because I have trained myself not to be attached. I find fulfillment when a collector buys a piece. Not only do I get money but also the collector may find a deeper significance of the work. When I decide not to sell a piece, it’s usually a transitional painting, meaning a piece that represents a shift in my expression.
Christa: Who or what would you describe as having the most influences on your work?
Douglas: What influences my work is contrast in life. I love it when an action challenges my perception. When I see cute furry animal turn aggressive or a pretty girl spitting in public, it’s like wow, didn’t expect to see that. Such events echo in my work, like when I paint a squirrel lighting a dynamite stick or a girl aiming a double-barreled shotgun.
In the company of sheep
Christa: What inspires you to paint and how do you keep motivated when things get tough in the studio?
Douglas: Music is constant fuel for motivation so I play the radio all the time. I also have a small collection of art books or visit art sites that can trigger a desire to paint. Nature is a huge motivational source. Fortunately, I live near hillsides and take long hikes. When creativity is super low, I’ll just play video games, sleep or watch a movie.
Christa: What is your favorite place and time to create art?
Douglas: Actually, live painting is a great time/place to paint. It’s a great opportunity to feed off the energy of the audience and receive feedback.
Christa: Which areas of creating art do you enjoy the most?
Douglas: After all the contemplation, I really enjoy the clue in my head and start applying paint. The act of painting is happiness.
Summer fun with Benny lee
Found his friend’s head
Christa: I’ve read online that you prefer to paint on masonite or wood surfaces, can you tell us why? What is the different with painting on a canvas?
Douglas: Absorption of acrylic paint by the surface of wood or masonite really appeals to me. When I need to render shading, I feel the smooth surface is easier to work with than a canvas. Wood carries its own character that reflects the paintings, adding an extra dimension by its flaws and knots. I also love the durability of the medium and ability to recycle a found object and paint on it. It’s frustrating when canvas becomes damaged during transportation or the corner of table creating a dimple. I’m not a very careful person.
Christa: You use a lot of color in your work. Can you tell us some more about the way you choose your colors?
Douglas: I tend to use colors found in nature (brown, green and blue) and find a balance of being colorful without overwhelming a painting. I do consistently paint my human subjects white and add streaks of magenta, yellow and cyan over their faces. It’s a clownish element that remained when I had a clown girl series a while ago. My peers and collectors consider it a signature look.
Christa: Can you name a career highlight?
Douglas: Fortunately I’ve had many over my short painting career but I really enjoyed traveling to New York for a group show. New York was fantastic and the energy from the audience was noticeably different then other cities. New Yorkers are very informed art lovers who demand great art and rightfully so due to the amazing history the City posses in the realm of painting. I received wonderful feedback and made a few friends during my stay.
Going to California
Christa: How did your online portfolio and your Myspace page helped you to promote your art?
Douglas: Wow, the online portfolio at 2Dvalley.com and Myspace are very important tools to promote work beyond the shows and a website. Lately, Facebook has generated some new fans. Amazingly, people from all over the planet have viewed my work. Without these sources of promotion, I probably would have never been able to reach such a wide audience. I’m always surprised when people from another country make the effort to e-mail because of a curiosity of my work. And, on occasion, I have sold work through this medium. I highly recommend an artist to utilize these free sources to promote.
Christa: How do you handle the business side of being an artist?
Douglas: I’m slowly learning the business side of art. Beyond commissions, art sales and worrying about the percentages of galleries take, the potential of earning is wide. In the near future, I want to explore designing limited design shirts, prints and other byproducts of my art. I’ll be searching for an accountant before long.
Christa: What would be your dream assignment?
Douglas: I would love paint portraits of my favorite musicians for the cover of Rolling Stone.
Christa: Can you tell us where you are currently working on?
Douglas: I’m currently working on a series of deviant animals of innocence. I’m playing with the religious notion of animals having no soul and are sinless. However, I’ve witnessed moments when animals act on impulses that appear too human. Beyond painting, I’ve found myself curating and co-curating art shows with a small loose collective of friends in Los Angeles called LA Lucky 11.
Christa: Besides 2DV, which other graphic sites do you visit regularly?
Douglas: Yeah, I enjoy visiting gallery websites that feature works from Van Gogh to Banksy. YouTube and MySpace are also great sites to check out artists. I like visiting Giant Robot, Juxtapoz.com and Hi-Fructose websites. I know there are about a million and half more sites I would enjoy visiting but not aware of. I hope readers out there can contact me and recommend more site.
Christa: Is their something you can’t work without?
Douglas: I like to believe I’m not dependent on anything to create art. If I were deprived of everything found in an art store, I could picture myself drawing on sand or stacking rocks; however, it would be a serious challenge to painting without music or coffee.
Christa: What do you do when you’re not working or creating something?
Douglas: I like to ride my bike, hike, read, photograph odd things, travel (when I can), and drive around town. I also play video games and watch DVDs. Spending time with friends and family is becoming harder to do. Everybody lives such busy lives.
Christa: Thanks for your time and the interview Douglas!