We’re excited to present our Summer Artist Interview with painter Emilio Villalba!

After his solo show at Hashimoto Contemporary and attending his Zoom Portrait Painting Workshop, I thought what better artist to feature for Pastimes‘ Artist Interview Blog than San Francisco-based painter, Emilio Villalba!

Emilio graciously accepted the offer for an August Artist Interview blog. But first, here’s a little background about the artist, courtesy of Hashimoto Contemporary.

Emilio Villalba is a Mexican-American painter living in San Francisco. Born in Chula Vista and raised in Southern California, he grew up interested in drawing and art.

He created a career in Los Angeles as a visual effects artist where he animated television commercials and film. After two years in the industry, he left for San Francisco to study fine art. He’s now focused on exploring painting figuratively, pulling inspiration from both old masters and contemporary artists— from Velazaquez to Alice Neel and Basquiat.

Now without further ado, I’d like to introduce our guest artist, Emilio!

JS: What is your style of painting referred to? For our art students, would you please describe what this style means or represents?

EV: My paintings are made using oil paints, and mostly painted on canvas.  I paint in a representational style, meaning painting objects from observation or photographs, not from memory.  Occasionally incorporating elements of the figure my paintings end up looking like painted collages.  These paintings are visual journals or clusters of objects and ideas that appear or have appeared in my life.  I’m not interested in creating a single story line, so I cluster and scatter the objects around to create a non-linear storyline that can be uniquely interpreted by the viewer.

JS: Very unique. I love your collage work. Much of your recent work features expressive portraits and still lives of shoes, candles, statues, and cars. What is the story or inspiration behind your choice of subject matter? Do you create the paintings off the top of your head or look at reference photos?

EV: Most of the objects are objects that are found inside of my apartment or on my daily walks around the neighborhood.  All of the painted objects are painted from observation, either from life or from a photograph.  I start with a simple idea. For example, I pick four objects that have somewhat of a common theme, like being reflective, and paint those, then continue to add to the composition. I go through phases in my work where I’ll want the objects and the overall painting to feel like a self-portrait and other times where I want the objects to be familiar to me, but have a disassociation with the overall composition, where the painting could be about anything for anyone.

JS: Very creative approach. Our students are interested in the latest tools of the trade. May I please inquire, what is your preference for paints and brushes? Do you use oils or acrylics? Do you paint on canvas board, panels, or…? Do you finish with a varnish or leave as is?

EV: I recently have been painting on pre-stretched canvases by Fredrix, and using bristle brushes by Isabey and Utrecht, mostly the Chungking in Filberts and Rounds.  I only use oils at the moment and no medium, though I wish I knew how to use mediums properly.  I haven’t been varnishing my paintings for a few years now, but I think I will begin to once again.

JS: Good to know. Thank you for sharing your intel. BTW – congratulations on your current solo show People & Things at Hashimoto Contemporary in NYC! How did you become acquainted with this Gallery? How long will your work be exhibited for? Is there an Online Catalog for our readers?

EV: Thank you!  The show will be up through August 7th, in New York, and it was such a great experience working with them and developing the work for the show.  As usual, I wish I had more time to create more work, but I am more than happy with the exhibition, I haven’t felt this excited to continue painting ever, immediately following an opening and completing a body of work.  I will be featured in a group show with Hashimoto this Fall in their new Los Angeles gallery, which I am really excited about.  I have known Ken, the owner of Hashimoto for a few years, and frequented his gallery here in San Francisco.  I have many friends that have shown in his space, and was thrilled when he invited me to participate and to exhibit work in his New York gallery.  The online catalog is available here.

JS: That’s great! Thank you for the story and link. Linda and her students will have to check out their new gallery in Los Angeles. For our students, what do you believe are the pros and cons of gallery representation?

EV: Well, I am not currently represented by anyone, so it does feel a bit like floating in space.  There is some stress of whether or not I will be showing any time soon, but I am mainly focused on my work.  I would be painting whether or not I have a show to look forward to.

JS: Love it. Paint no matter what! At what age did you realize you wanted to be a professional artist?

EV: I think I was 29 or 30, and decided to focus on painting seriously.  I made a decision to paint every day, and haven’t stopped, that was in the late fall of 2014.  The decision was made by really looking at where I was at in my life, where I was living, my lifestyle etc. and I had a conversation with my friend and painter Daniel Ochoa, who inspired me to really think about how I wanted to spend my time every day, and I started painting.

JS: Very inspiring! Did anyone try to talk you out of venturing into an art profession? How did you handle it?

EV: Well, I am very insecure to begin with, so any time someone tells me to do something different or quit, it has an affect.  An ex-friend of mine once told me to give up and move back home and live with my father.  At the time I was barely making rent here in San Francisco, and not really sure who I was as a painter.  This was before I painted every day, but I definitely had some ideas developing at that time that I see in my work now more than ever.  I am a very slow learner, with everything, and painting is just something that I know will take me a long time to get good at, and not just on a technical academic side, there’s the composition, approach, philosophy and purpose etc.

JS: Totally understand. As an artist, it’s hard to beat the insecurities, especially with artists posting on Instagram and Facebook daily. How did you end up settling in San Francisco? Do you find that the city influences your artistic approach or subject matter?

EV: I was born in Chula Vista, CA, which is essentially a border town to Tijuana.  I only lived in Mexico for about a year before our family moved to Los Angeles.  My father was born in Mexico and raised in Tijuana for most of his life, and my mother was born in Los Angeles, but raised in Mexicali, which is the capital of Baja California, Mexico.  I grew up traveling to Mexico frequently, visiting for holidays, birthdays etc.  I remember always wanting to live in Tijuana, I was in love with the environment, the architecture, the colors, and most of all spending time with my cousins and fam etc.  When I first moved to San Francisco, there were many ties for me that reminded me of Tijuana, from the hills to the way some walls and homes were painted on with layers upon layers.  I’ve been a fan of works by Diebenkorn for quite a while now, but only recently been a fan of the Bay Area figurative movement, and looking at works by David Park, Joan Brown and Paul Wonner.

JS: I’ve been to Mexico once and would love to go back! I’ll have to check out those Bay Area artists. My boss is a fan of Diebenkorn, too. Thanks to Zoom, I’ve taken some of your recent portrait painting workshops. Very inspiring. Do you have any Zoom workshops lined up in the near future?

EV: Thank you!  I will most likely have a class either in late September or early October, I will be posting about it soon.

JS: Great! I’ll keep a lookout for the info. What is some advice you can give the young artists studying at Pastimes?

EV: Paint what you want!  Trust your gut and your instincts, learn as much as you want or as little as you want, filter it and make it your own.  Your paintings can be an extension of your thoughts and personality.  Everyone has a unique voice, and it can be expressed through painting or any other artistic medium.

JS: Sound advice. Thank you. Art can touch people’s lives, bringing happiness and hope. For example, my boss Linda Wehrli, partners with CoachArt to provide free art classes for families impacted by childhood chronic illness. Is there a charity you are fond of or support, that you might like our readers to learn more about?

EV: I have recently purchased art from Creativity Explored in San Francisco.

JS: Lovely! I just research their website and discovered they are a studio-based collective in San Francisco that partners with developmentally disabled artists to celebrate and nurture the creative potential in all of us. Very cool. Thank you for your time, Emilio!

To learn more about this rad artist, please enjoy visiting his website and Instagram.

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If you enjoyed this interview, please feel free to share on your favorite social media to get the word out about this great artist! Thank you for your support.

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Pastimes For a Lifetime Art and Piano School is located in Valley Glen, California. 818-766-0614. School is open Tuesday – Saturday year round, except major holidays.

You can learn more about Pastimes for a Lifetime’s Art Curriculum and founder/instructor Linda Wehrli by clicking the links or feel free to explore the website.

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