Work and Progress

July 4, 2017

Poster Concepts from Chicano Steel

Filed under: 2.The Studio Experience, 3.Events and Visits — Work and Progress @ 7:06 pm

Chicano Steel was a controversial yet successful fundraiser that was put on in October of 2016 in Highland Park, by a group of public practice and studio artists from the Los Angeles area on behalf of the Avenue 50 Studio. The event was influenced by “Monster Drawing Rally” started by the S.F. based, Southern Exposure.

The name Chicano Steel was decided based on the idea that there is strength in the community that comes through Avenue 50 Studio and we wanted our own people, locals to be apart of the monster-drawing event.

The name became controversial as some artist and patrons felt as though it may bring negative connotation to the community. Frankly, I found that to be the fuckin point. When does popular thought not make the Latino community controversial? Despite the brief debate we pushed forward with the name.

From there, I began to rough out some sketches and paintings to find the right image for the event. The following are some of the rejected, concepts for Chicano Steel, as well as the final image.

The fundraiser met it’s financial goal for the event as well as got coverage from some notable media sites.The image was posted and shared that season by media platforms such as KCRW’s 5 things to do, such as”, Artillery Magazine and the L.A. Weekly, to name a few.



Final Image used to promote show. We wanted an image that folks would stop to look at and connect with the event.


Chicano Steel reduction-block idea using Loteria card icons. Lino reduction on paper 2016. The reduction block didn’t really work but I had to start somewhere.



Frida at Ave 50 Studio, Acrylic on Panel, 2016.  This idea started out as the Mona Lisa holding, purchased-art from Avenue 50 studio.. but that resulted in a debate about colonization and gentrification, so I turned her into Frida Kahlo. but still….it got scrapped.


Chicano Steel Event Video by Genessis Martinez




Some of the crew 2016.




January 14, 2013

Sketchbook San Francisco 2013

Filed under: 3.Events and Visits — Work and Progress @ 7:38 pm

I have lived most of my life in Los Angeles, and had never spent time in San Francisco until this past winter. I was really surprised at the historical impression I got from S.F. It had that old America, industrial, quality (whatever that means) that I had only experienced on the east coast, like in New England or discovered in books. Los Angeles lives and dies by the new.  Lack of efficient public transport (although its getting better) and segregation makes it difficult to experience little nuances of the city. But the landscape of San Francisco really was inspiring. All the Diebenkorn’s I had damned as a student made sense after walking the hills Of S.F. landscape. Wayne Thiebaud  paintings become more vivid.  These are some  selected sketches from this brief trip(4 days).

Hill, ink sketch S.F. 2013
Trolly and Bus ride Sketches.
In front of Hotel TOMO Japan Town 2013

The San Francisco Landscape was the biggest inspiration during this visit but I did get a chance to work in some drawings of the family doing stuff.

Emilio on Mason St. in San Francisco 2013

Images of my son in the city as a backdrop are a motif that I seem to have developed in my current work.


I have all was been inspired by coffee shop culture  one of my favorite things to do is frequent a place with good coffee good tables and not so many people talking on cell phones. Basically the opposite of Starbucks.

Drawing hand
@ Gallery Coffee Shop on Mason St.

Mural Emo Ninja
Emo bundled-up

November 7, 2011

The Tarot Reading in Brooklyn

Filed under: 2.The Studio Experience, 3.Events and Visits — Tags: , — Work and Progress @ 9:29 pm

The Tarot Reading in Brooklyn 13.25" x 14" ,Oil mix media on wood, 2007

Table-top compositions have always inspired me because of there potential to depict the everyday narrative. I find it to be an excellent platform to tell a story of the human condition.  Artist like Caravaggio and Edward Hopper are two of my favorite painters who both depicted stories, symbolized through table-top activity.

1.Edward Hopper, "Suir Bleu" (1914) 2. Caravaggio, "CardSharps" (1594)

“Down and out”, folks having a moment of solace, reflection, indulging or plain taking a break.

I have always been fascinated by images that tell stories and the tarot cards are no exception to the standard. Every card has an image with symbols that connects meaning, relevant to the sitter. The tarot reader like a musical conductor, orchestrates the dealing of the cards to give the sitter an understanding of there “higher self” as spoken through their very energy (sitter) and translated into the cards.

My mother and her sisters learned to read the tarot as teenage girls and made it an event for their friends and family to get together on weekends. As a child I vividly remember the ladies gathering over appetizers, taking turns reading and laughing. On other occasions crying and consoling one other over money and love troubles.

This little painting (The tarot Reading In Brooklyn) will be on view at the AAC Discovery Tour Preview Exhibition @ Future Studio 5558 N. Figueroa in Highland Park  beginning November 12 from 7 – 10 pm. 

A.C.C. Preview Exhibition  on facebook

October 20, 2011

Robert Acuna at Michiko Gallery: In the Mix

Filed under: 3.Events and Visits — Work and Progress @ 7:08 pm

The language of painting for me is one of surfaces, a conversation in paint layers is  important. At times, as important as the image being submitted on a canvas. In the last several weeks, I have had the opportunity to visit the studios of several fellow painters/artist.

Two weeks ago, I walked in to Robert Acuna’s Rosemead garage where I found him busy airbrushing, silver flaking and varnishing, not custom cars, but custom shaped oak panels. Roberts painting are abstract and minimal.

The imagery is playful and refreshing almost “cartoony”, if you will. The contoured clouds and simplified landscapes move, similar to looking out a car window seeing the California sky and horizon . His paint layers are smoothed, taped off edges, laboriously built up with color combinations that are sophisticated and balanced.

His process involves a vocabulary of activity, most associated with a shop and garage businesses you would find thriving in the cultures of Los Angeles. “I have always had an  influence of that L.A. painting finish fetish… but honestly I just wanna make low riders and have always been too chicken to work at a shop.” He says.

Come out and see his new show. Opening reception October 22nd 2011


228 Main Street

Seal Beach, CA.


October 17, 2011

Studio Visit With F. Scott Hess

Filed under: 3.Events and Visits — Tags: , , — Work and Progress @ 12:30 am

Got a chance visit and to talk to one of my former instructors at Art Center College of Design, L.A. based artist F. Scott Hess about painting and his recent activity of streaming his painting process live on the internet during the making of  7′ x 12′ painting entitled”Transit”.

May 21, 2011

“Man in Chair” 1998, On view at VPAM

Filed under: 3.Events and Visits — Tags: , — Work and Progress @ 6:54 pm


man-in-a-chair 2My family drank, and drinking addiction is said to be a hereditary disease. At the age of 23 I addressed the issue with a body of paintings. “Man in a Chair” is from a series of painted narratives done in the late 90’s (Entitled “the Absinthe”) loosely based on my experience with alcoholic family members.

Naturally the Absinthe became a symbol for my drinking relatives. The recipe for my own approach was in the vein of the bohemian café’ culture of the 19th century.  I found inspiration in technique and content from artists like Degas, Toulouse Lautrec, Picasso (particularly the “Blue Period”), and Van Gogh.

Viktor Oliva, Absinthe Drinker, 1901       Pablo Picasso, The Absinthe Drinker 1901

During this time I was interested in narrative based painters – storytellers who used the figure as a symbol for something other than just classical idealization; Emotional, tortured, lonely, down-and-out folks who were affected by their own surroundings as much as the liquor.  I adopted the compositions of these classical painters and fused them with my own content.

September 8, 2010


Filed under: 3.Events and Visits — Work and Progress @ 4:27 pm

Jason Varone is a fellow painter and  my ex studio-mate from NYU Grad School. This past summer Jason was invited by Grand Central Art Station in Santa Ana,  to be an artist in residence and to take part in their August exhibition,  “Metadataphile: The Collapse of Visual Information.” (Begovich Gallery on campus of Cal State Fullerton). Jason’s painting style is unique because he fuses formal painting with projected digital images that move.

The exhibition showcases artists who utilize technological forms of art to address contemporary issues that are pertinent to mass technology.

Some other examples were, an art work that took video game soundbites and appropriated them into mixes and beats, and a sculptural piece that utilized projections to create the illusion of movement. All in all the show for me was refreshing, fun to look, and even interactive. (I found myself using words I wouldn’t otherwise use  like output, data, or my favorite hacking!) Interactive is something I’m not too used to doing as a painter, and maybe that’s a bit of the point.  Though I’m sure those who are interested in theorizing technology and social politics can find that in the exhibition as well. Being from Southeast Los Angeles, I don’t make too many detours into Orange County or Santa Ana, but after seeing the Metadataphile exhibition, I need to start reconsidering my Saturday gallery excursions.

I took an opportunity and sat down with N.Y. native Jason Varone, to talk about his visit to California artist residency, landscape video-making, and the art-development process. Here is how it went.

Find out more about the Metadataphile exhibition and

August 8, 2010

THE MAIL ART SHOW: Armory Center for the Arts

Filed under: 3.Events and Visits — Tags: — Work and Progress @ 6:34 pm

If your in the neighborhood of Old Town Pasadena, take a moment and visit the Mail Art Show at  The Armory Center for the Arts. The International exhibition showcases over 800 works sent in from all over the world, is up until 22nd of this month (8-22-10) really worth seeing all the eccentric  mail art responses to the open call submissions. admission is free.

Those of you who have been following my sketchbook archive you will find The Exquisite Corpse Project Cheryl Klein and myself donated to Judith A, Hoffberg Archive at the Library University California Santa Barbara available for view at the exhibition.

I tried to steer away from reading about the artwork so I could think of them objectively.

I ended up reading the letters that accompanied this work by accident.

A series of envelope paintings sent in by an penitentiary  inmate. the contents of the art  revealed some of the process of how the images were painted.

” All my colors were done with M&M and skittles candy. The brown in Mickey Rooney’s hair was done in coffee, Judy Garlands cigarette was done with toothpaste.

Someone mailed in a painted gourd, reminds me of a old football.

This piece seemed to be an envelope made of tiny smaller envelopes.

I called this one Hair Do trees. Great prints.

Someone sent this keyboard, I didn’t get it but I thought it was pretty funny.

This is a sketchbook accordion style that was splashed across the wall.

Cool little painting on  a manila bubble, envelope I didn’t notice where it was from though.

Cardboard insulation made to look like faux material.

Love cardboard work. And here’s Cardboard face.

I like this very delicate collage.

I was attracted to this because it looked like Fay Wray  in pointillism.

I’m Mexican so these little pieces reminded me of the Day of the Dead Bread, like spirits walking.

“Hey! I know that book.”, My son at the show.

I was happy with how they displayed our book, so people can flip through it.

July 14, 2010

Markets and Masks: Part 2 of 2

Filed under: 3.Events and Visits — Tags: , , , , , , — Work and Progress @ 8:23 am

The engine roared, quickly skimming over the river and misting water into the boat. Foreigners lost their balance and reached for railing as we skipped over waves created by oncoming traffic.  Standing on my tiptoes trying to see over an Australian family of 4 with hiking packs, I angrily mouthed “THISS! STOP!”  She pretended not to read my lips and looked away.  I did it again this time raising my hand over the crowd of people and pointing using my finger like an exclamation, “THIS ONE! HERE!” “Nooo! Its! Not!” she responded back angrily. The boat shook, sending everyone to one end of the vessel as it docked creating a walk-able path to the exit.  I said it one last time, “Here!” and stomped hurriedly past passengers. Reluctantly, she followed. I hopped off the boat and through the exit back onto the Bangkok strip.  “ This isn’t it!” she hollered. I continued to walk ahead without looking back. “And now we’re lost cause of you” she uttered. Then my son whimpered, “ I’m tired and bored.” I stopped walking, stared up toward the landscape and turned 180 degrees towards them. This has to be it! I thought to myself.  All of a sudden H’s eyes got wider and she pointed past me and said “look!”  A storefront filled with bejeweled Khon Masks. The sign read FOOK HIN Gifts and Gems Itd.  Slowly, I said  “ I don’t… wan-it……anymore.” as we walked across the street and into the front door.

The air-conditioning breezed past our body as we stepped inside the store. A lady behind the glass counter said “sawasdee ka.” The inside is filled with traditional Thai theatre paraphernalia: masks, jewelry, ceramic icons etc. They adorn the walls and glass shelves, some sitting along the floor in cardboard boxes and wrapped in bubble.

A customer (woman), with an English accent, lurches onto the glass counter inquiring about a Chada headdress. “Can you go down any more than 8000?” Thai Lady behind the counter speaks in a soft voice. She has glasses teetering at the end of her nose that are connected to a necklace she’s wearing.  H whispers to me, “ I think she’s trying to barter her down.”  H’s eyes peel back when she sees the price  (8,500 baht). “I’m sorry that is the best price I can give” The sales person remarks before turning toward us. “Hi, do you speak Thai?” she asked “H’.  “Oh… Not very good.” She responds with a smile. “My name is ‘Beth’.” The other lady finally leaves, “Thank you,” she waves.

H chats it up in Thai for bit before we ask to see some things. “These are so beautiful!” she remarks about a bracelet. Beth gives a little background on the piece and the maker.  “He is actually looking for a Hanuman mask,” H points in my direction. (I stand there with a guilty smile.) “Hanuman? Hmm…let me see.” She walks through a doorway covered by curtains. We can hear a rustling of soft materials, and I’m in suspense. She comes back with what looks like a beautiful white mask wrapped in bubble. She hands it to me. I unwrap it carefully.

There it is… bright, white, monkey face cast. Mouth is open wide as if letting out a battle cry.  Green trim, golden swirls, and gold leaf headdress. The decorations and craftsmanship are impeccable. I have to have it. ‘Beth’ begins to give us facts about the maker of the mask. “I wait for many months to get one mask because he doesn’t make them often anymore and there are only a few people left who know how to make the masks the traditional way. Usually apprentices learns from a master, but there are few masters now.”

“How much is this piece? I ask. “3500 baht.” I think to myself, “that’s more than anything I’d seen the entire visit,” and I’m ready to hand over my wallet. H chimes in (in Thai). They discuss the price a little, “O.K. how about 3000 baht.” I finally felt like it was a great price for a quality mask.

I learned that Bangkok gets an average of 8,000 to 10,000 foreign visitors a day and Thailand earns up to 1.5 billion baht from tourism on average per day.

The problem I realized I had before: I had gotten caught up in trying to save a dollar.

In the open market, when vendors would hike up a price and I knew it, by U.S. standards, it was still very affordable. It just wasn’t the place to find what I was looking for. Compared to 800 baht 3000 baht seems like a great deal more, but talking with someone who specialized in what I was looking for made all the difference. At the Fook Hin shop I received friendliness, historical knowledge, authenticity, and quality. I paid more than I expected for the mask but I finally got what I wanted. All shopping aside, our visit to Thailand was nothing short of amazing, the hospitality was delightful, and the people were warm. My Thai relatives were generous, inviting and made me feel as if I were home. If you have seen pictures of the ruins in Thailand or its countryside its all much better in person.

Markets and Masks: Part 1 of 2.

July 7, 2010

Museum Therapy

Filed under: 3.Events and Visits — Work and Progress @ 4:13 pm

Last Thursday I needed a break from staring at my own paintings and decided to spend the day away from the studio. I took the opportunity to hang around with some other artists and reboot my brain.

I spent an afternoon drawing with Luis Serrano and Peter Zokosky at the Getty Center in the Sketching Gallery. I also took a peek at the Jean-Léon Gérôme, exhibit of Master Works and Photographs.

Nothing better than good old philosophical conversation and seeing art with people who make art, I always say. The Ge’rome exhibit is technically impressive and worth seeing but I think the highlight of the day was taking in the sights, and having a relaxed drawing session.

I have a made a loose commitment to meet my friends every Thursday at the sketching gallery. Peter will be conducting the sessions all summer on Thursday afternoons. During the rest of summer, it’s not easy for all of us to get together, so I am going to take advantage of these opportunities.

I’m a habitual person. I enjoy routine. I enjoy my own routine. I like getting up early in the morning, having a shower, checking the email, having coffee and then, I am ready to paint.  I don’t necessarily want the same experience, however, when I visit a museum.  I have gone to look at art with Luis Serrano on several occasions and it’s always so much more inspiring to see work with a respected colleague. Museums have a lot to offer in the form of works of art, artifacts, modern art etc, and it can be quite daunting if you’re not sure what you want to see.  In my past meetings with Luis, we have always shown up with an agenda for what to see. Topics of conversation are never boring.  Our subjects stem from historical facts about artwork, political contexts of artists,  “process’s talk” or even moments of mutual silence for a work (we’re both Latino so there’s never any tears.) Nothing you can really get out of a docent. Sorry docents.

Luis, Peter and other sketching enthusiast at the Getty.

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