Artist of the Month: Alex Garcia

10 Aug 2008

 This painter, who works in egg tempera, creates figurative work that taps into themes and relationships both personal and universal.

by Naomi Ekperigin

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La Esperanza
2007, egg tempera, 11 x 14.
Collection the artist.

“My subject matter at the moment involves people. They are portraits-- but more than just portraits,” says Texas-based artist Alex Garcia. Born in Puerto Rico, raised in Pennsylvania, and now residing in San Antonio, Garcia’s paintings focus on moments of contemplation that resonate with viewers on a personal level. He works in a representational style influenced by such masters as Andrew Wyeth, Diego Rivera, George Tooker, and Paul Cadmus.

A lifelong interest in art led to a B.F.A. degree in painting from Kutztown University, in Pennsylvania, where he primarily painted in oil and acrylic. After a few years of post-graduate painting, Garcia felt stuck. “My failures in oil and acrylic were frustrating, and I was unsure of what I wanted to do with my art,” he recalls. “I remember being introduced to the work of Andrew Wyeth back in high school. I just loved the detail and imagery—and the idea of painting with egg. When I started looking for a change, I revisited the work of Wyeth and other artists who painted with egg tempera—such as Tooker, Cadmus, and French—and I thought I’d try it.” He found the medium allowed him to retain rich color and suited his temperament. He taught himself and learned through trial and error, adjusting and refining his process with each piece. He now has a method with which he is most comfortable.

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El Viejo
2007, egg tempera, 8 x 6.
Collection the artist.

Working in his studio from reference photos, Garcia first creates a line drawing of the scene and figures. He transfers that onto a gessoed panel and develops an underpainting in India ink to help establish the values. “Egg tempera is generally a translucent medium, so any underpainting will affect subsequent layers,” he notes. When he is done, he decides which section of the piece he will work on, usually going from broad to specific and painting in the larger areas first. If, for instance, he wants to focus on the sky, he will divide his egg medium and mix it with the dry pigments needed for that section. He will then begin to slowly and carefully layer the paint to create the desired effect. “The way I use egg tempera involves a lot of optical color mixing,” the artist says. “I create colors and values indirectly by layering warms and cools and complimentary colors. The beauty of egg tempera is that it dries almost instantly so I can continue to work by layering stroke upon stroke to achieve the desired effect.”

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La Despedida
2006, egg tempera, 14 x 11.
Collection the artist.
Hombre Quebrantado 2006,
egg tempera, 8 x 6.
Collection the artist.

Although his process may seem clearly structured, at the root of each work is an emotion that is not initially clearly defined. “It begins with a seed of an idea that surrounds something I may be going through at the moment. I then start to consider imagery that best represents those ideas or feelings.” The immediacy of Garcia’s emotions does not prevent him from painting realistically-- thanks to egg tempera he is able to combine deep emotion with a taut style. “Egg tempera is a slower medium; you have to slow down and build the painting in layers stroke by stroke, as opposed to pushing paint around as you would when working in oil. For that reason it can be frustrating to artists just starting out, but I encourage them to be persistent.” Garcia’s persistence and careful layering, combined with his deep connection to the subject enable him to achieve his goals with every piece. “On a fundamental level, I want to create beautiful images that are visually appealing but also engage the viewer emotionally.” As his work shows, he is succeeding with every stroke.

Garcia’s work was recognized in the spring of 2007 by the International Museum of Art, in El Paso, Texas and by The Artist’s Magazine in its 2006 Portrait and Figure competition for new artists. He was featured in the Best of American Mixed Media Artists & Artisans Volume 1. For more information on Garcia, contact him at alex@alexgarciafineart.com, or visit his website at www.alexgarciafineart.com.

Naomi Ekperigin is the editorial assistant for American Artist.


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Comments

clary wrote
on 1 Nov 2007 9:14 PM
Congradulations Alex!!!! You were an artist when u were concieved...I am very proud of you.. Clary
RobM wrote
on 9 Nov 2007 3:44 PM
Well done Alex.........your work matures with each new painting RobM (UK)
Dennis H wrote
on 10 Nov 2007 6:51 PM
Fantastic work, Alex. And, thanks, Naomi, for the great article on a deserving artist. DH (Athens, GA)