As he prepares for an upcoming exhibit at the Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum, Joaquin Garcia Quintana welcomed Beyond Arts magazine into his private studio in one of Matamoros, Mexico’s oldest neighborhoods. Quintana’s creative aura encompasses the space located on a roof top terrace reminiscent of prototypic artist studios from a distant past. Stacks of books and magazines, an impressive body of completed work, and neatly arranged brushes and paints compose Quintana’s dwelling. The fun loving artist opens up about being a professional artist.
Nydia Tapia-Gonzales: What does it mean to be a full time artist?
Joaquin Garcia Quintana: It means to paint all the time and not on free time. It is like being a circus’ tightrope walker with no safety net. One must be brave and have a lot of faith in oneself. It is having no place to fall back on.
Nobody chooses to be an artist, for art is a calling; a vocation. But art cannot be rushed. Nobody should expect instant success, for a college degree is only a license to initiate the process of maturing a skill. Talent and ability by themselves will not produce great work. ‘Technique corrects the sentiment’ is a phrase I love by Jose Clemente Orozco because it reiterates the imperativeness of education and practice. It takes time to discover a personal artistic language save very few exceptions. Instant success is seldom seen.
I’ve been blessed, for my work is supported by private collectors since the beginning of my career. In 1990, when 21 years old, I submitted my graphic designs portfolio to a national contest organized by the prestigious Mexican newspaper Excelsior. The move was bold, and a reflection of the relentless faith I’ve always had in my skills. I won first price and the incredible satisfaction of seeing my work published in a national arts magazine. The nomination attracted the attention of a Matamoros businessman who sponsored my first trip to Italy to continue my education. Additional sponsored trips followed and the number of clients seeking to acquire my paintings increased. This year I have been invited by Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Department to paint a mural and present a solo exhibit in Sidney, Australia.
NTG: You live in a problematic and violent-prone city in northern Mexico; does this have any effect on your work?
JGQ: It actually motivates me to do the opposite. My work provokes peace and contemplation. I seek to counteract violence and inspire a break in daily routines. Renoir once said that there are too many ugly things in this world to have to also paint them. It is a phrase that is ever present in my mind.
There was a circumstance in my life that somewhat shaped me. It happened while studying at the University of Monterrey. I ran out of money. I had no money to buy art supplies, so I used what the other students discarded. From pieces of paper, to charcoal, pastels, brushes and paint. Today, I don’t waste anything of creative value. I draw on every interesting surface I find, and never dispose books or magazines. My color palettes even materialize as original paintings, for when I paint, I’m actually producing two paintings instead of one. I call these actions the effects of the trauma.
NTG: Most of your paintings areabstract.What do you say to those who claim not to understand or care for abstraction?
JGQ: Art is communication and one cannot communicate with everybody. When contemplating art it is important to observe the feelings and reflections a particular image inspires. Sensibility comes before artistic education. Even people who dislike abstract art can feel attracted to it as a result of their sensibility connecting with the artist’s energy. Artists leave part of their essence and bits of life in their work.
NTG: What artist do you admire the most, and which one has inspired your work?
JGQ: I study mostly artists that epitomize a style – art movement leaders – like Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Cezanne and Picasso. But it is Picasso’s life I study the most. I am not talking about his work, but his life as an independent professional artist. Picasso was invention and not repetition; always creating and innovating. He utilized his knowledge of art and applied Greek, Primitive and French Neo Classic art to his own creations. Even though I do not agree with some of Picasso’s ‘macho’ attitudes – he lived in another time – I’ve learned how to conduct myself with art dealers and curators from studying his life. He had a resistance to failure, and an enormous capacity for unyielding hard work. Picasso and I share the last name Ruiz, and for a time I hallucinated over a potential DNA connection. Like him, I believe life is short, so we cannot stop working at leaving our footprint in this world.
NTG: What is your advice for young artists?
JGQ: Every career has risks. Look at it like a game. You are guaranteed to play without a guarantee to win. You have to keep the faith. Stop painting and seek a visual education. Study millennial pictorial traditions that originated with cave paintings. Respect and use what past artists developed. Art is an evolutive process that if stopped regresses.
NTG: Can you give us a preview of your upcoming exhibit at the Harlingen Arts & Heritage Museum?
JGQ: I have selected 15 to 20 drawings, acrylics and oils of birds inspired by Harlingen’s prolific birding habitat. These are not reproductions of birds, but my personal artistic interpretation of their flight, their colors and beauty. A collection of different works will be on exhibit through mid-September.
Garcia Quintana has exhibited his work in Mexico City, Queretaro, Oaxaca, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Madrid and in October he will be in Sidney, Australia.