Painting a non-conventional portrait

(Senior Sergio Lopez’s current work-in-progress incorporates abstract and realistic concepts. Photo courtesy of Sergio Lopez)

Before arriving at Framingham State, senior Sergio Lopez had never touched a paintbrush. As a freshman, he took figure painting and that’s where his passion started.

He took a figure painting class, and it was then that something clicked for him. “I started to do my figure painting and I just don’t know what happened, it was just like, ‘This is what I want to do,’ because when I painted it I felt like I had a passion for it.”

This year, Lopez, now a studio art major with a painting concentration, won first prize at the Fountain Street Studios art show for his painting “Indeed,” receiving a $50 gift card to the Post Road Art Center in Marlborough.

“Indeed” is a close up portrait focusing from the bottom of the nose to just above the eyes. The use of blues, purples and pinks of the painting makes the skin stand out against the deep purple background, while the details in the eyes bring a deep emotion to the piece.

“I wanted to paint the portrait in a not so conventional way, so I thought of maybe cropping into certain parts of the face, sort of making the paint abstract, like creating abstract forms with the paint, and using non local color like blues and purples and pinks and yellows and mixing them together and creating this abstract surface. But at the same time, there are realistic elements in the painting,” he said.

Lopez said he starts one painting and then moves on to the next, so within a few weeks he has four or five paintings ongoing at the same time.

“If one is not working, I’ll move to the next one, and they kind of feed off of each other. If you start them all at the same time, you’ll say, ‘Well, I see this cohesive aspect happening,’ so that’s how they all connect.”

He said he is “a very fast painter. If I slow down for even just a bit I start to get fussy, and fussiness is not bad, but I find that when I work very fast and don’t think about it, I feel like there is more naturalism in my work and in my figures than if I were to really perfect it because the paint just becomes stagnant.”

Lopez said he always paints at a “very high intensity level. You can ask anyone in here – it’s always an intense moment. There are moments of relaxed reflection, but when I’m painting and I’m on the canvas, it’s very intense and very concentrated.”

Lopez remembers loving art since he was 5 years old, using pencils or markers. “I used to draw and draw and draw. There’s a certain age where kids stop drawing and they don’t practice their skills, but I kept going.”

Most of Lopez’s paintings are portraits, and his main influences are artists Andrew Salgado, Jenny Saville and Lucian Freud.

“They paint portraits, but they change it up in the way they move the paint, and the paint gives a sort of emotion. It gives a sort of mood to a piece that otherwise, I feel like conventional portraiture doesn’t convey,” he said.

Lopez likes to use abstract and realistic elements in his work while also using non-local colors and a lot of paint. He said, “My palette knife is my best friend because it allows you to just glob paint on there.”

For most of his work – including the two pieces from the Fountain Street Studio art show – Lopez himself is the subject of the painting. He said, “I am my best model because it’s most convenient for me to just take pictures of myself. … These are all of me, but I want to drift away and start painting pictures of other people. It kind of gets old just painting the same face.”

Lopez also wants to expand to do the entire figure, since they “can have the same amount of emotion as portraits.” Currently, he focuses more on the facial features or zooming in on one aspect, such as the eyes or lips.

His senior thesis will be shown in the Mazmanian Gallery in May and it will be a series of portraits. “I’m still thinking of ways to spice it up,” he said.

After he graduates, Lopez plans to continue with painting. “I want to get into a gallery. I want to get a job in it. I might go to the New York Academy of Art. It’s something I’ve been thinking about. It’s a one-week undergrad program during the summer. … They deal mainly with figurative and portraits, so I think it would be good for me.”

For anyone interested in painting, Lopez suggests “you should always keep going. … You’re never going to do anything if you don’t work at it. You’re never going to achieve anything great if you don’t keep working on it – that’s something that I’ve been realizing as I keep working and I keep pushing myself to experiment with different things. Just let it happen.”

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