Interview with multi-disciplinary visual artist Luciano Martinez

Luciano Martinez is a multi-disciplinary visual artist born from Mexican immigrants and raised on a ranch in south Texas. Now residing in Pasadena, California, Luciano’s work ranges from watercolor and graphite illustrations to art installations and wall murals. Luciano’s main influences come from his parent’s mix of religious dogma and Mexican mysticism along with a deep sense of alienation - a product of living a bicultural life in the United States.
Luciano’s work is currently being exhibited at “Low To Pop 2” in Lisbon, Portugal which will be available for viewing till mid December. In addition, Luciano will create a window art installation for the popular art gallery Flower Pepper in Pasadena, California. We were able to pull Luciano from his busy schedule and interview him for our website and this is what he had to say:
Hello dear Luciano, please tell us how you discovered the artist inside you? How long have you been doing art? Is art something that you always wanted to do?

Much like other artists, I have been doing artwork since early childhood. Some of my early memories doing art were when I would create drawings of the Virgin Mary (La Virgen de Guadalupe) for my mom on the back of brown paper bags from the grocery store. She really enjoyed them and she would say how wonderful they were and plant a kiss on my head. The affection I received from my mother based off these illustrations made me want to draw more of them for her. That was my first taste of what it felt like to create something that means a lot to someone else. Something emotionally charged.
I have always been into the arts whether it is in film, photography, design, sculpture, etc. I feel the most comfortable creating a visual language. Even though I love discussing ideas with other people, producing a visual piece is the place I would rather be.

What are some of your main influences? What inspires you?
I have so many influences. I am the product of growing up in the 80s and our generation had so much happening at the time. Everything felt fresh, new, and exciting. During that time my list of influences was new wave music, music videos, animation, comic books, magazines, and films. I think today I am more influenced by my cultural background. My parents came from Mexico from a small town in the state of Coahuila. For as long as I can remember, my world has been touched by shamanism and healers. I feel that my family is connected to a mystical realm and so I have adopted much of these ideas and beliefs into my work. In the past years I have been through so much and I am seeing and sensing things that I have never felt before. This state of awakening has really pushed me to work on pieces that represent this state of being.
Did you have any formal training or are you a self-taught artist? Do you think an art education is important or imperative for a person wishing to be an artist?
I graduated with a BFA in graphic design and branding from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Before that, I would illustrate on my own. I love comic books and science fiction and would often find myself illustrating scenes that were more fantasy than realistic. Even though I did take art classes at ACCD, I did not pursue the illustration track. During my time at Art Center, I was really fascinated with design and I really wanted to pursue a career in it. The funny thing about my career is that I was most successful when I used my own illustrations in my design. It took me awhile to embrace both my art and design skills and merge them giving me a unique voice as a graphic designer and visual artist.
I believe art school can be a great thing for an artist if they are open to it. I have met many artists that want nothing to do with any formal training and I think that is okay too. I feel that art school is just a tool. It helps an artist if the artist wants to use that tool. Otherwise, it’s pretty meaningless. I personally enjoyed going to an art school. I met many people who have become life long friends and collaborators. I feel that I learned a lot about myself and what I am capable of in art school.
How would you describe your style of work? What themes do you pursue? What is it that you hope the viewer will take away from your art?
I mostly work in graphite, colored pencils, and watercolor. I also work with three-dimensional sculptures using faux furs and various fabrics and sculpting methods. As far as themes, most of my work involves the blending of Catholicism and ancient Mexican mysticism practiced by Mexico’s indigenous people. The work I create is an investigation into my spiritual belief system and where I fit in the spectrum of the universe. My hopes are that my work will make others question their belief systems and possibly open them up to other spiritual practices.

Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet had the opportunity?
At the moment, I am sticking to the mediums I am currently using. I want to keep focusing on my technique and my construction. I feel that I am in my infancy when working with my current tools. Before moving to other mediums, I want to make sure I am great at the ones I am using now.
What do you love most about creating and being an artist? What does “being creative” mean to you?
I am very happy to be able to use various artistic mediums to work out the thoughts and ideas that come to me. I feel that the artistic process gives me a particular life perspective. Being creative is just part of the process of figuring out the best way to communicate what seems to be running through my mind.
Tell us more about your workspace.
I have two workspaces. Since I do a lot of design work, I tend to work in my computer studio daily and work in the dinning room area of my home when creating art pieces. Both spaces are filled with inspirational books, objects, and art materials.
What was the funniest or weirdest thing that has happened to you in your studio?
Part of my art has been to construct eight-foot furry Yetis in my home. There has been many nights where I have turn on the lights in the dining room area and jump when I see the Yetis standing in front of me. They are quite big and take up a lot of space. It has taken some time to get used to their presence.
What do you like to do when you are not creating? What (other) hobbies do you have?
To tell you the truth, I rarely have free time these days. I guess when I get the chance to leave the studio spaces, I travel to other countries with my husband, seek out natural habitats and explore them, eating at vegetarian or vegan restaurants, seeing live concerts, going to galleries and museums, and listening to audio books. I do feel that these are less of a hobby and more of a lifestyle.
What tough challenges have you faced as an artist during your art career?
I have had many challenges as an artist. I think the biggest one has been relatives and friends who do not understand the work I do or why I do it. This was very frustrating for me during the time I began to exhibit in galleries. I feel that once I began to get used to the idea that my work is not for everyone, I was able to really allow myself to express my ideas in a sincere manner. Now, I do my best to just create and not worry about criticism. Some people will like my work and others will not. I am okay with that.
(Work in progress)
What is the biggest lesson you have learned from them so far?
The best lesson I have learned was to allow myself to make mistakes and admit to them. This was an important lesson because I always aim to do my best. At times, some of my pieces did not come out the way I had intended and I would get really down on myself. So allowing myself to fail and keep moving has really helped me push forward.
What’s the best and worst advice you ever received in your art career?
Best advice I received was from the dean of the graphic design department at the Art Center College of Design. She said that I should work for myself. She felt I was more creative when I did not have someone telling me what to create. I think this piece of advice kept with me till this day.
I am not sure I consider any advice to be bad. I believe if one learns from it, then the advice was useful.
What do you dislike about the art world?
I don’t know if I dislike anything in particular. I love art and the people who create it. I think if I had to name one thing it would be that I am not too keen about individuals who seem to only care about themselves and no one else whether it be a gallerist, an artist, a journalist, a curator, etc. People who will trample over another just to get a break or to get ahead is a big turn off for me. I stay away from those types of people all together.
What is the hardest thing on being an artist?
I feel that many people see art as a hobby - so when you tell people In your life you have to work on some pieces they assume that you are having a “fun time” doing “your hobby”. It gets a little tiring to defend your career as an artist and how much work and thought it involves.
Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
I think living an artistic life can feel isolated but I don’t think I feel very lonely. I think being in a crowded room full of people who do not share my passions make me feel lonelier than I do when I am alone working on art. I feel that the process of creating new pieces makes me feel more connected to the world around me.
Where do you see yourself professionally in the future? What are some of your goals?

I have quite a few goals for various parts of my career. Recently I launched my bi-yearly art publication called BloPop Magazine. I curate, design, and edit the magazine myself. I am looking towards pushing the magazine further with each issue. I hope that in a few years time that BloPop will be synonymous to what’s new and exciting in the world of pop surrealism, lowbrow, and contemporary art. At the moment, BloPop is available in a digital and Print On Demand formats but I am working on acquiring funding for offset printed versions of future issues. This may be possible by 2017.
As far as my personal artwork, I will be working on mastering my techniques in graphite, colored pencils, and 3D modeling. I want to take time to investigate rituals and other spiritual practices from shamans and healers from various indigenous cultures. I am very interested in this spiritual world of existence and I feel that I have just scrapped the surface. So the next few years will be about creating work that resonates with this knowledge.

I would also like to continue collaborating with other artists. In the past, I have collaborated with my dear friends Edward Cao and Amy Van Gilder – both incredibly talented and thoughtful artists. Edward and I worked on my featured show at The Hive Gallery and Amy has worked with me for years including the window art installation titled ‘Another World’ for Flower Pepper Gallery.
BloPop has been one of your more recent art projects. Could you tell us more about how you came about to creating your own contemporary art magazine?
I was thinking of going back to Art Center and getting my Masters Degree but decided to take the years working for a master degree and instead invest it in a creative design/art project that I have been dying to do. So I decided to work on BloPop. I have been blogging about art for years and I felt that the magazine was a natural transition to my online presence.
In the art world, people can be quite competitive. I have been very fortunate to have some really wonderful designers and publishers welcome me to the publishing world with open arms. I am humbled to have this opportunity to feature talent that I personally admire. Even more grateful to be allowed to express myself through the magazine. I plan on pushing my design with each issue that comes out. To me, this is a very exciting moment and I look forward to featuring known and unknown talents from all over the world. I feel very spoiled.
Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others…possibly for beginning artists out there?

I am a firm believer that hard work in research, experimentation, and thoughtful analysis of a subject or idea in addition with mastering your techniques in a given medium is key to creating some really wonderful pieces. Never underestimate the details in presenting your work.
Your favorite art or life quote is…
 “Men?” she echoed. “I think there are six or seven of them in existence. I saw them, several years ago. But one never knows where to find them. The wind blows them away. They have no roots, and that makes their lives very difficult.”
- The Little Prince

Is there anything else you’d like to say? Is there any project you are working on right now or any ongoing event or exhibition you would like to share with our readers?
I participated in a group show at the Hive Gallery in Los Angeles last month. Now, I will be creating a window art installation at Flower Pepper Gallery in Pasadena for their December Anniversary show. I am also partaking in the Hive Gallery’s annual tarot card show. In addition to that, I am working on the next volume of BloPop Magazine which is set to be released early next year - so I do feel pretty busy. I am very humbled by the opportunities given to me by galleries and collaborating artists. I am hoping that 2016 will be a very fruitful year. There is so much I would like to do; I just need to find the time to do it.
Thank you dear Luciano, it was a honor to interview you, I wish you only the best for you and your art and already looking forward to see your new art works :)
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