Interview by Annabel Ascher
Roberto Ugalde was born in and raised in Mexico, and became an artist early in life. But he had been painting for nearly 30
years before achieving the success he has today. He came to the United States hoping to make a living as an artist, and he has done so, but not right away. I could write about the delicacy of his painting style, the richness of his colors, or the beauty of his sub- jects, but instead, I will leave it to him to tell his story.
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE THAT YOU WERE AN ARTIST? DID YOU GET ENCOURAGEMENT FROM YOUR FAMILY OR DID YOU HAVE TO BREAK OUT TO ACCOMPLISH YOUR GOALS?
All I remember since I was a kid is drawing from my text books. Many times a day I got my ears pulled by the teachers when they found me drawing instead of paying attention to the class.
When I was 12 my dad got a health problem that kept him around hospitals for over 20 years and it was very difficult to stay at school. I wanted to be an architect but my brain is good only on the right side so I put all my attention to art and staring taking art classes at the INBA (Institute National de Bellas Artes) in Queretaro city. I was trained very traditionally and I was painting like that for many years, but I never was happy with what I painted.
YOUR PICTURES ARE SO EVOCATIVE OF A NATURAL WORLD THAT SO MANY OF US HAVE LEFT BEHIND.
WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO NATURE?
My connection with nature is the most important influence in my art I grew up around trees rivers and water falls and I
love hiking and camping more than anything else. When I walk in the forest I can see hundreds of paintings around and my main source of inspiration.
HOW HAS THE CHANGE IN CULTURE FROM MEXICO TO THE USA AFFECTED YOUR ART?
When I was in Mexico my art was very classic with old master’s influence but I never was satisfied with my art, and I remember the Southwest Art Magazine was my favorite art book because the art was so bright and colorful. I had that love for native Americans and their culture, and the landscapes were amazing. Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico especially Taos. I wanted to be in those places so badly, so I came to the USA to find it’s very difficult to make a living being just an artist. Some relatives got me a job on the oil field. Thanks to that I supported my family very well and I paved the way to become a full-time artist without being a starving artist. (Too sad to see so many talented people suffering.)
WE ALL CARRY FORWARD THE WORK OF OTH- ER WHOM WE ADMIRE AND RESPECT. WHO WERE/ARE YOUR ARTISTIC MENTORS? WHO INFLUENCED YOU THE MOST?
My influence was an evolution just like art itself, Sargent, Monet and Van Gogh at the beginning then Richard Schmidt was a huge influence but I was still not happy with my work.
I knew I needed something more aggressive and I staring experimenting with action. I was painting based on Jackson Pollock ‘s style but I couldn’t stay away from nature since is my biggest inspiration. So I tried to paint landscapes using pallet knife and drop- ping the paint over the canvas at the beginning I used acrylic ‘s but it was very difficult to manipulate the colors. Then I moved to industrial liquid oil paint but it still having many problems because the canvas can’t stay flat with so much paint on top. Then I started using wood panels to keep the same level, and the wood absorbs the paint faster and dries quicker.
WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU IN YOUR WORKSPACE? ARE THERE SOME THINGS THAT YOU NEED IN ORDER TO WORK?
I need inspiration from nature more than anything else. Even when I paint abstracts, they are based on nature.
Sometimes I use photos for reference but I end up painting something very different. Because if the paint reaction some colors are more heavy than others and when I throw them on the panel they just disappear and I just let them decide whatever they want.
YOU HAVE ACHIEVED A GREAT SUCCESS. WHAT IS NEXT FOR YOU?
I don’t think I have achieved very much yet. I still have a long way to my goal and thanks to people like Michael McCormick and Jamie Garrison and my friend James Bollmeyer who have a lot of faith in my art and encourage me to keep going, I will get there. I don’t know when but I will. n
Roberto Ugalde’s First One Man Show will be at the Michael McCormick and Sons Gallery Saturday, July 1st 2017 at 4-9 pm with an open house Sunday, July 2nd at 12-6 pm.