Q&A WITH VALLEY ARTISTS

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We sat down with artist Manuel Zamudio while he was working on one of his latest projects, a mural representative of Mission located inside of the Center for Education and Economic Development (CEED) Building in Mission. Born in Mexico City, Zamudio was raised in the Rio Grande Valley from the age of 5. He gave us insight into his creative process, background, and inspiration. Zamudio’s work will be featured in an upcoming exhibition hosted by Arca México at the Museo del Tequila and Mezcal (MUTEM) in Mexico City, D.F., on Dec. 8.

RGVision Magazine: How would you describe your work?

Manuel Zamudio: My work would be described as pop surrealist, low brow, with a hint of urban graffiti, although personally I’m not one for specific labels.

R: How long have you been doing this for?

MZ: I’ve been making art at a more serious level for about six years.

R: Why art?

MZ: I have never given myself another option. It’s always been art for me. Even at a very young age.

R: What is your educational background?

MZ: Self-taught artist. A formal college education was never an option. What I didn’t teach myself, I picked up from fellow artists on the way.

R: What inspires your work?

MZ: It’s hard to narrow it down. What I find inspiring are the mysteries of life — from something as simple as picking up a book on UFOs off my father’s bookshelf while being very young to something as introspective or difficult as death and religion. I find inspiration on a multitude of subjects.

R: Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve done?

MZ: I do not, but there is a particular piece which took me a few months to complete. It was actually the centerpiece for my recent solo show.

R: How often do you create?

MZ: I try to create everyday, although I do fall into artist’s block on occasion. Which I hate.

R: How do you overcome creative ruts?

MZ: I don’t believe there is just one answer for this. What I try to do and works for me at times is engulfing myself in a certain subject matter I find inspiring. Read everything I can on the subject or subjects. Watch whatever documentaries I can on the subject, etc. Until I’m inspired to keep working.

R: How do you approach your work? What is your process?

MZ: When I start in-depth paintings, what comes first is a sketch or an illustration, from that comes the color palette, highlights and lowlights. As far as subject matter, it really comes from whatever I’m fond of or researching at the time.

R: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about becoming an artist?

MZ: My most important advice for someone who is seriously wanting to push forward as an artist is: Just do it and don’t take negative opinions from anyone. We live in a culture where wanting to be an artist can come off negative or wasteful. Do what fulfills your passion and put everything you have into it.

Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 9.04.59 AMR: Name three of your favorite artists.

MZ: At the moment I would have to say Charlie Immer, Ridley Scott, Harry Bones.

R: Tell us about the mural project you are currently working on at the CEED Building. What is it about, how long have you been working on it, and what materials are you using?

MZ: My goal was to portray a simple, modern take on the history of Mission. Not taking anything away from the historical aspect of Kika de la Garza, just putting a fresh coat on it. Making it modern, colorful, and new. The media I’m using is acrylic and spray paint. I’ve already spent about 50 to 60 hours working on it and probably have another 30 hours to go. My good friend Alan Taylor West is making a timelapse film tracking my progress.

R: Tell us about your art aside from murals. What are you currently working on? What’s your preferred media?

MZ: I’m currently working on small pieces painted on wooden blocks. As for media, oil paint and spray paint. They go hand in hand. Each medium teaches you about the other.

R: Are murals or large scale projects something you do a lot of?

MZ: Not as much as I would like. There isn’t as much of an acceptance of it here in the Valley yet. Cristina Garza and Alex Meade of the Mission EDC have provided a lot of opportunities to create large scale works. I’ve completed about 20 murals in the past five years.

R: What is your dream project?

MZ: My dream project would definitely have to be a very large scale mural project, which would cover most cities in the Valley. I really do think the Valley could use lots of color in form of contemporary/street art murals. I’d love to show at some of my favorite galleries, including Thinkspace and The Seventh Letter out of LA.

 

To learn more about the work of Manuel Zamudio, visit his website at Manuel-raid-zamudio.com and his Instagram account @raid_33.

 


 

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Q&A with Artist Josie Del Castillo

A Brownsville native, artist Josie Del Castillo has been included in various exhibitions across the Rio Grande Valley including both Brownsville and Harlingen Art Walks, as well as Galeria 409’s “Hot Hot Hot” exhibit, which displayed work from emerging artists all over the Valley and Matamoros. We spoke with Del Castillo to gain insight into her vibrant world of painting.

RGVision Magazine: How would you describe your work?

Josie Del Castillo: My most recent work consists of portraits and figurative paintings of people that I am familiar with. The aspects that I consider when it comes to painting my subjects are: physical features, personality, and personal accomplishments. I compose these paintings by placing figures in front of abstract backgrounds, so one can appreciate both the contemporary realism and the aesthetics of both color and texture. My work also focuses on the journey of self-acceptance, and the appreciation of our roots and our culture.

R: Why art?

JDC: I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember, probably of the age of 5 or 6. I always took art classes from elementary to high school, and it was until I attended a university where I decided to continue higher education in studio art. I believe art is a universal language, one doesn’t have to explain it, just look at it, interact with it, touch it, and feel it. I have always struggled explaining myself, and my paintings have become my voice. All my emotions, both positive and negative, are painted on the wood panels, and I hope that the audience it able to feel them. I believe if I evoked someone with my art I have succeeded.

R: What is your educational background?

JDC: I earned a Bachelor in Art at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in fall 2016, and I am currently pursuing a master in fine arts degree. 

R: What inspires your work?

JDC: The people that I know, my culture, aesthetics and emotions, and of course other contemporary artists of today.  

R: Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve done?

JDC: There are a couple of pieces that I am pretty attached to. The first one is a portrait of my grandfather that I gifted to him on his birthday, months before he passed away. I decided to make that portrait of him in a larger scale, 4 feet by 4 feet, to show him how important he was to my family and everybody that knew him. I believe I captured his essence, and that to me is something that I am truly proud of. The other one is a nude self-portrait. As someone who has always dealt with low self-esteem, I decided to paint myself in that manner to learn to appreciate my body, as well to help boost the confidence of other girls who also have low self-esteem or no confidence in themselves.

R: How often do you create?

JDC: Well since I’ve been going to school for the past six years, I try to create as much work as I can in the facilities that are offered. About four to five pieces every semester. Unfortunately, during the summer, I don’t have the space to work at home, so the work that I produce is limited to small studies.  

R: How do you approach your work? What is your process?

JDC: It varies, but all of them eventually lead to the same process. If I first have a person that I want to paint, I start taking pictures of them in different poses until I find an image that I like. I usually always work with wood panels, so from there I start brainstorming on what background I would want to experiment with. I move back and forth with the figure and background, but I try to finish the background first and then the figure. Once I am developing the figure I start off very simple by just applying mid tones, then once the paint starts to dry off, I develop it with glazes and cleaner details. Basically, refining the figure until I execute the skin tones and details to where I want them to be. One of the steps I leave till the end is developing the hair. I enjoy painting hair by hair with a small but long brush by adding distinct colors that are not necessarily in the hair and highlights.  

R: What is your dream project?

JDC: Public art/murals. Eventually I would like to create art for the community by painting murals or create interactive installations. I’ve done one mural and one public art piece. I would definitely like to work with other artists and the city more.

R: Name 3 of your favorite artists?

JDC: I have too many, but the first must be Jenny Morgan followed by Eric Jones and Sarah Joncas.

R: How do you overcome creative ruts?

JDC: I am always looking at artwork on social media, there’s tons of inspiration everywhere, so I am always inspired by other people’s work. If I am truly stuck with a piece, I’ll move on to another one. I learned that is better to work with two pieces at a time rather than just one. While you’re focusing on the second piece, your mind should be clear when you go back to the first one.

R: How long have you been doing this for?

JDC: Once I started taking advance courses at UTRGV (back then UTB), I started becoming more serious about my work and wanting to create pieces that can be entered in competitions and shows. So, for the past four years.

R: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about becoming an artist?

JDC: You should give it your all, you should be serious about it, and it requires a lot of your time. It all depends on how far you want to take it. A lot of people get discouraged of pursuing a career as a professional artist especially in the RGV, since the only job they can acquire is to become a teacher. Even if they do go that pathway, they should continue to produce work no matter what. Lastly, I encourage them to become active in the community as well as support other local artists. Once you start attending art shows, galleries, and other local events, you’ll meet other local artists, and it will open windows to better opportunities.  

To learn more about Josie Del Castillo’s work, visit her Instagram account @josieleila.