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Julio Rodriguez

TheInnerLife-2Tell me about your background and how you got to this point in your life.
I was born in Holguin, a province in eastern Cuba. My city is very artistic, where cultural events happen daily and the people take to the streets to enjoy all kinds of art. I studied fine arts at the school in my city, where I focused on technique and drawing, as well as art history and artistic currents. I was always a student, surrendering directly to my profession. I enjoyed the artistic ambiance of the school and drawing. Beautiful events started happening to me in my professional life from those moments.
I graduated in 1995 and began to teach drawing and painting at the art school in my city. In 1999, I began looking for my own creative line, my own stories, and my own views. This is what I have focused on all these years.

When did you move to the United States, and what made you decide to move?
I came to the United States in 2007 with my family, and it
was a decision that began brewing in me long ago, due to the insecurities in Cuba. Art always served me as a mode of social escape from everything that was happening around me. My approach was bringing forward my art in all ways possible. Cuba had long since become a prison-shaped island, and that was not the future I wanted for my work and my family.

How would you describe your art?
I describe my work as a mixture of figuration with an air
of surrealism, where I project my individuality as a creator poetically and philosophically. I am interested in the connection between man and nature and everything that connects to both. I recreate this in a symbolic way: all those elements, both natural and organic, and convert them into a scene with characters in ambiguous situations.

When was your first show?
Being an art student, I participated in numerous exhibitions and festivals of art. My first personal exhibition happened in 1994 and was entitled “Drawings,” where I showed 100 drawings and sketches, mostly portraits of friends and family. From
that moment, I decided to expose my art every year, with new projects and works with a theme increasingly more personal.

You have shown your work all over the world. Is there a particular country that has inspired you the most?
I lived in Cuba until I was 31 years old. I studied and was raised there along with my art. Having lived in a country so surreal, in a way, helped me to express myself out of the ordinary. I think, if anything, I am inspired by my life in Cuba: by the beauty of its people, its culture, and lost dreams.

How has your work developed since your first show?
Passion, technique, drawing, poetry, depth…in my work there has been an evolution in all creative aspects. Being an artist, it is a process that takes a lifetime. It is in every step we take that is magic, an opening to our inner world, and then [that] is reflected in the eyes and minds of others.

What do you use as inspiration for each piece?
The inspiration sometimes becomes a pretext to love again and to reflect on that inspiration…I believe that living each day is a source of inspiration for each artist. My ideas happen when I least expect, or sometimes in my mind, I am drawing a sketch of what I want to illustrate images or phrases that are poetic. Each piece is a soul that comes alive even when you are not in front of it, elaborating every detail. My works are a reflection of my stay in this world.

Can you share your process for creating a piece based on such inspiration?
The mystic [quality] in each image, the symbolic depth, the human condition, the semantic duality, the art of staging your stories and characters from your own self…I think this is what I tell my muse when she comes to me.Theinnerlife-3

You have said that after graduating, you dedicated yourself to finding your own true line of art. How did you determine what this true line would be?
The art is in constant motion. In my case, I have been finding myself to say the things I want. I have focused on painting  the way I like, and above all, [I strive] to be original and true to myself because that is what people need to see in art. I surrender in each work; it is my religion, and people say the last word.

How long does it take for you to complete one painting? Do you take breaks in between paintings to seek inspiration?
Each work asks me what is needed, depending on the complexity of the idea, the details, and the size. When beginning a piece, I focus on giving everything as an artist, and then the work itself tells me when it is finished. I do not usually paint two or three pieces at the same time. I give it all in front of a blank canvas. When I finish a piece, sometimes I have thought about what the next piece will be, sometimes I have not. I am driven by the time, and at some point there is a new idea, although sometimes you have to force them to tie together. That is the magic and charm of artistic creation.

A number of your paintings depict faces. Are the faces based on people you know or have seen? Or are they just figures of your imagination?
Life is a huge theater, full of characters and stories. For each story, we have a word to say, and for each word, we have a mask. So I try to show the different images that come to me in everyday settings. We are all characters in stories. In mine, I talk about the fusion of man with nature, our existential condition, the mystic who is behind it all. That is why for me, the artist is
a magician who can transform, hide, and disappear any item to make it more subjective. When I paint, faces are masks, actually. I write a script to illustrate my view of the nature of man.

Many of your paintings illustrate facial expressions or hiding of the face. Do the various facial depictions represent your mood while working on that particular piece?
When I work [with] the human figure, I like to get involved in their lights and shadows, shades and textures. Every feature

Many of your paintings illustrate facial expressions or hiding of the face. Do the various facial depictions represent your mood while working on that particular piece?
When I work [with] the human figure, I like to get involved in their lights and shadows, shades and textures. Every feature of stress or delicacy gives the piece a unique and expressive force or state of mind. I studied a lot of the world’s great masters of painting, and that helped me to find the essentials in each representation. In my case, each piece is unique. Each piece absorbs these feelings and projects them on people who appreciate [them]. The visual image is very powerful, and has implied a state of mind. I can tell stories of my life through my work. They are my window to the world.

Your pieces also depict some sort of human form, nature, or both. When you begin working on a piece, do you know the direction you are going, or does it come to you as you begTheInnerlife-4in painting?
In my work, there is an inseparable connection between nature and human: that is our condition. I paint those ideas that occur to me all the time, or only those that I find really revealing— symbolic and mystical messages. When I start a piece, I have only a vision of what I want, not how it will be in the end. When I am painting, I acquire new symbolism and expressive elements depending on each work. At the end of each work, the paintings are brought to life and make me fly to new horizons. Everything becomes a feast of colors and shapes. My artwork speaks for itself.

What, in your opinion, is the hardest part of creating a masterpiece?
One difficult part of creating a piece of art is designing it, assembling the anecdote, and painting all of the expressive elements. After that, it is then difficult to decide when the work is finished and if you are missing something. For me, to finish a piece of work is an interesting process. It is tiring, but a piece like no other is created in the end.

What are you trying to communicate with your artwork?
I think we all have a need to communicate, and how we choose to communicate differs. I was born with a brush in my hand, and that was a blessing. I try to be myself, and my painting is a reflection of my inner life, an interpreter of images and forms. We are all windows into another world, and my paintings are my windows. Theinnerlife-5

Do you ever get frustrated while working on a piece? What do you do to overcome the frustration?
If I feel frustrated for some reason, what I do is get away from the work, perhaps for a while, or maybe days. When I return, my vision is different, and this helps me to refresh the idea of what I am projecting with such work, and if I need something more or not. This is why I say that sometimes it is better to move away from work for a while to refresh our minds…The artist’s everyday life belongs to the real world, but his soul and his mind is elsewhere. That is why we actually end up in love with our work. The artistic creation is magic.

What is the most essential item in your studio?
The light.

What is the best piece of advice you were given as an artist?
Be a slave to the drawing, lights and shadows.

What project are you working on now?
Right now, I do not I have a specific project. I just want to paint for when this happens. I have a project in my life, and this is to be a painter.

What has been the biggest crossroads in your life?
My biggest crossroads has been overcoming the distinction between art and everyday
life and everything that has touched me since I left my native land—fear, sadness, but also joy and satisfaction. I have the blessing of having a beautiful family, a wife and two kids, and that makes up for all that life has given me. When I am painting, I go for hours without realizing it, and it is a time when I feel myself. My work[s] will always be a reflection of my life; they will be hung on the walls as memories, our best moments, because in the end, they are essential
parts of our history. I think that the biggest crossroad in any person’s life is to remain true to yourself, wherever you are.


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Spotted on the floor: Charlie Brown of Karlie
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