They say artists paint their environment. Often I'm asked how does my background correlate with the kind of art I make. This is a question that stops me dead in my tracks and makes me reflect on my story which I'll share with you briefly here. I will attest that my past does not reflect my current state nor where I'm headed.
Being of Spaniard and Cuban descent my parents, Evelio (RIP) and Virginia Perez, fled the Castro communist regime and exiled to Spain in one of many stops with hopes of reaching the United States where my aunt and grandfather had already reached. While in Madrid, my mother became pregnant with me. A few months later they had to leave for Costa Rica where they could achieve a visa to get into the US much easier. I was born in Alajuela, Costa Rica, a busy working class city near the capital San Jose. Six months later my parents were granted the visa for the US and moved to Chicago where the rest of my mom's family was at the time. After a year, my parents figured the cold climate didn't suit me well, so they moved to Miami where the was an abundant Cuban exile community and the language barrier was not as strong. So as you can see, my inherent quest for adventure and discovery started in my DNA creation.
Having grown up in the working-class urban town of Hialeah in Miami, Florida. I was often exposed to many negative things, including drugs, violence, child abuse (not my own), and gangs. My parents always taught me right from wrong and so I often retreated to art as an escape from my surroundings at an early age. I can remember as far back as kindergarten coloring a cow in a coloring book, and my teacher called the other teachers to look at my work and saying he's going to be an artist, not sure if that triggered something in my mind that stayed with me. In the 70s and 80s before the internet became mainstream, I recall riding my bike to the public library to get my fix of art books and just spending hours researching all types of illustration and fantasy art books from the likes of Frank Frazetta
and Boris Vallejo
and much more. Again, having grown up in an urban town, I got into graffiti and painting in alleyways in the warehouse district close to home with some friends. I got arrested at age fifteen when I took it further and wanted to be like the New York graffiti artists and painted a train. I was crushed that I let my father down, and I never picked up a spray paint can to do that again. I was still fascinated by leaving a mark and creating something beautiful without ever touching the surface. I remember going to the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair
and seeing for the first time an airbrush artist creating artwork on T-shirts. I was fixated, to say the least! My cousin, Frank got word of my experience at the fair and bought me an airbrush starter kit for my birthday, and that triggered a decade of artistic exploration and early Entrepreneurship.
While in Jr. High and High School I was learning how I can use this tool to mimic what I had seen the artist at the fair do, and so I started wearing my creations to school. My classmates all asked for me to make one for them, so I started selling them in school for around $12 each at the time. That was my first experience to commissioned art, and it lit a reality that I could make money from something I loved. All along my father was very supportive of my artist desires and encouraged me to propose some designs to companies like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and a few others. He wanted me to be happy and have a successful career, so he steered me in the direction of working with a stable paycheck. After high school, I got into airbrushing and painting custom vehicles such as motorcycles, cars, and trucks as well as speedboats. I was also faced with the decision of where to take my life. I wanted to explore the possibility of becoming a graphic illustrator, so I did a campus tour of the Miami International University of Art & Design. When I asked them what kind of a salary can I expect to make in such a career they replied to expect around $30k. The reality of a slim salary discouraged me, and I started attending general classes at the local community college while I figured out my next steps. In that time, I married and had my son, Christopher. I was awoken to the reality that I needed to get my act together at this point to raise this new gift, and so I did the "responsible" thing and got serious into an "acceptable" line of study, computers.
So here I was 22 years old, working a full-time job at a bank in the financial district of Brickell Ave., going to school in the evenings and airbrushing motorcycles in a tin shed in the back of my house til l2 am. every night. I knew this was not good for my family, but I was trying to provide and grow my salary. We moved to a better opportunity in Boca Raton, FL, an affluent city in Palm Beach County Florida. I had ceased the airbrush business to concentrate solely on climbing the corporate ladder, what a mistake! Shortly there after my daughter, Katherine was born and having started to gain momentum in my career I was feeling a sense of accomplishment until I went through a very hard divorce. Needless to say, I went into a deep depression and did the typical thing divorced guys do, hit the gym, get in incredible shape and start living the bachelor life I didn't have at an early age.
For eight years I didn't create any art till one day I was telling a co-worker, I used to custom paint motorcycles, and he asked if I would do something on his and so I did. That sparked great feelings of creation within me again, and before you knew it, I had a mini body shop business going out of my garage painting bikes and cars while still working for fortune 100 companies like AutoNation, Tyco and Office Depot by day. I started to get so much business in the early 2000s that I launched out on my own under the dba Airbrushworkz thinking I'd open up shop one day. Luckily the love of my life now, Michelle was supportive. I was soon faced with the reality that child support didn't care if there was a gap in revenue flow and gradually I started to fall behind on child support. I found myself in front of a judge sentencing me to 6 months in county prison despite making every effort to pay. Thankfully my cousin Juan got me out that same day by paying the fines.
Enter corporate America again; I was feeling bitter, and angst that I had a burning desire to use the talents God had given me for art and I was enslaved to a certain lifestyle to meet my obligations. I continued to airbrush on the side painting motorcycles, winning local and national awards, while I worked by day. With that turmoil going on inside me, one day I was fed up by the dirty laborious side of the prep work and having customers that were not appreciating the art for art but rather to scratch an egotistical itch to show off their vehicles among peers I had enough and decided to concentrate on fine art.
I quickly found out that traditional art establishments were not readily accepting of airbrushed artworks, so I set out to learn traditional oil painting on my own. I'll be honest; it was quite disheartening to be at the top of your game and have to start over. Regardless, I pushed on created a body of work and entered a few shows with some success. I became a member and exhibited with the Boca Raton Museum of Art Artists Guild
as well as did several street art festival with limited success. I had made the decision that I needed formal training and was making arrangements to leave to Florence Italy to study at either Florence Academy of Art
or Angel Academy of Art
when I learned of a new Atelier that had opened in Miami called Chiaroscuro Studio of Art
. The Atelier is run by husband and wife Elkin Cañas
and Milixa Moron
; both studied at the previous Florence schools mentioned. Having been with them nearly a year part time now I've realized it was the best decision as I've been able to keep my day job, stay close to my kids and fund their college. I have learned much more in this time than I have in the last five years on my own.
Sometimes we believe we have the ideal path planned out in life, but there is a divine plan, call it destiny, God's plan or what you might, we are not always in control. The one thing I've learned to do is enjoy the now, appreciate the people in my life and be grateful for my blessings. Everything comes with time.