Juan Villegas is our newest Art of Austin artist! Get to know more about him and his work!
AoA – How long have you been in Austin and how did you find your way here?
Juan – I’ve been in Austin for about 4 years now. I originally moved from Colombia back when I was 17 years old, thanks to my mother who had been living in Houston so I ended up there first. Never really liked the Houston atmosphere, always heard Austin was the place to be in Texas. After 10 years of living in Houston I ended up moving to Austin, had a lot of changes in my life then and a great opportunity to start over. This city and its art community has been nothing but supportive and welcoming.
AoA – When did you realize that you were an artist?
Juan – Since I was very little my father always encouraged me to draw, his side of the family had painters and musicians, he even drew a little himself. He would buy these large newsprint pads and colored pencils and he would sit with me and show me what he could draw, then I would try and draw those things too. He says I quickly started drawing better than him, and started calling me “el lapiz magico” (the magic pencil). I spent all my middle/highschool years drawing in class, making caricatures of my friends and teachers, classmates would pay me or trade me stuff so I could draw for them. I also picked up the guitar when I was 14 and fell in love with music, started quite a few bands with friends and had a lot of fun playing. I didn’t start painting until my senior year, but I always felt it was my calling to embrace and pursue art.
AoA – Can you speak to your art training?
Juan – Fresh out of high school I moved to Houston, and started art school at San Jacinto College North at the end of 2005. I wasn’t really into school, but found myself in a new country and didn’t know anyone, thought it would be a great opportunity to meet people in my field, expand my knowledge, and better myself with the english language. Though I had gone to a bilingual school in Colombia, I needed to polish my ear and my tongue with native speakers. After being there for a few years, I moved to Huntsville, Texas, and transferred to Sam Houston State University where I received my bachelors in Fine Arts in 2010. My main focus is drawing and painting, though I also dab in printmaking, photography, sculpture, and have worked at a few galleries where I learned to stretch, frame, and hang work. Ever since, I’ve taken it upon myself to continue studying on my own, always trying to better myself and my skill set.
AoA – Who are some artists that you look up to?
Juan – I’ve always had an affinity for visionary art. Finding out about the power of Surrealism in school and the many visionary artists throughout art history really opened my mind and made me feel a sense of identity. Some of my favorite artists include Hieronymus Bosch, Pablo Picasso, Rene Magritte, Francisco Goya, Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, Dorothea Tanning, Frida Kahlo, Octavio Ocampo, Georgia O’keefe, Alex Grey, Mark Ryden, Odd Nerdrum and many more.
AoA – Where do you derive inspiration from?
Juan – From my own dreams and experiences, my work is very personal and it comes from within. The mind and the subconscious have always fascinated me, the mysteries and enigmas inside us or beyond what we have yet to comprehend paint a nice picture in my head.
AoA – Can you tell us a little bit about your work?
Juan – My work combines elements of Surrealism and Figurative Art, portraying dreams, paradoxes, and allegories about the burdens of the human condition. Death, love, fears, and the unknown are subjects of great symbolism, and wide interpretation, they are constant in our lives and we have no choice but to cope with them. This is my way of bringing awareness, a little healing for the soul, and transcend the world we think we know.
AoA – Can you talk a little about your creative processes in creating?
Juan – As a visionary artist, my process starts in my head. I carry a sketchbook everywhere I go to sketch out ideas and visions that come into my mind, influenced by my emotional state. Nature and my surroundings play a big role in my artistic settings, they lay out the tones where my visions are carried out and monumented. From my sketchbook my ideas are transferred onto canvas, where I work in layers, from background to middle ground to foreground, the uniformity of layers create a nice illusion of depth. Drawing always comes before Painting to me, and it is where technique and fluidity come together, so as a (somewhat) figurative painter, I always try to use references to make sure my imagery is accurate, and the messages translate well.
AoA – Where can we find your work? Do you have any shows planned for the future?
Juan – You can find my work online through my website www.juanvillegasart.com and my Instagram. Visit Cherry Cola Dog! I usually have work up for everyone to see/purchase. Will be having a show at the Bouldin Creek Cafe in late February/early March of 2018, be sure to check it out!
Connect with Juan!