with Miguel Angel Avila, Fine Artist Painter
Conducted by © Rocío Heredia De la Paz. August 2004
us something about yourself, where you grew up, and when you were a little
boy, what did you wish to be?
I grew up in the city of Monterrey, in northeast Mexico. A very large,
modern and industrial city; surrounded by awesome mountains. Right now
I live in Houston, Texas; where I work as an architect during the day
and as a fine artist during most of the evenings, late nights, and all
weekends. To be honest with you I really don't know exactly what I wanted
to be when I was little. I just remember I didn't want to be an engineer
like my father. Don't get me wrong, he is a great person; I just don't
get along with numbers, and his books never had any drawings on them,
just letters. I do remember however, I was fascinated with books and magazines
about different people, far away places and cultures, history and art.
I could spend hours looking at the flags of the world, their designs,
details and colors.
What is your formal
I first went to the University to study International Relations, but it
didn't work out as I expected. On the bright side, that's where I met
the beautiful person who would later become my wife. After that I moved
to Architecture school and graduated with honors. I had a really good
time there by the way.
I understand that you are self taught. How do you feel that not
having a formal art preparation has affected you as an artist?
If you have the love and passion for art, the only thing needed is hard
work; which, if you think about it, is actually a direct consequence of
that love and passion for what you are doing. And not even the best art
school in the world is going to do that for you. That is up to each individual.
I do not consider the fact of not having a formal art training has had
any important effect on me really.
If someone has a gift of art, should they go to art school and
Well, yes… If you can, I think you should. For two reasons; first, it's
obviously a lot easier to have someone there who knows about techniques,
mediums, materials, and so on to share all that, or most of it with you;
rather than what I've been doing for a few years now which is learning
that on my own, asking around…I mean, that is a good thing to do even
if you're having a formal training in art…and I don't regret it, it's
been a lot of fun actually. But I think it would have speed up the process
for me a little bit.
And second, I believe art school is a place where you can make very good
contacts, professors who might know curators for example, or collectors
or dealers; people who might be interested in giving you an opportunity
to create art, willing to support your artwork. I'm not saying that happens
all the time but is a starting point.
What was your first
painting? Do you have a photo of this painting?
I've been drawing since I can remember, but a painting where a brush is
involved… that was about 11 or 12 years ago. It is an oil painting, very
different from what I do nowadays as you can imagine. It depicted a very
traditional landscape. It's at my parent's house in Monterrey; unfortunately
I don't have a photo of it. Actually I thought it was lost, but every
time I visit my folks in Mexico my mother has another of my old paintings
hanging on a wall. Sometimes it surprises me that I don't even remember
painting some of those canvases. I don't know where she finds them but
she keeps making discoveries every so often. Some of them unfinished,
even like that she hangs them. During one of my visits last year I recognized
that painting, it's so funny…you can definitively tell I was learning
to use a brush.
Do you have awards that had an effect on your career?
No, at least not yet. But to be honest with you that is not something
that keeps me awake at night. To have the opportunity to paint, to participate
in exhibitions or to have someone asking me for a painting means a lot
more to me right now.
Are there any specific artists that you admire?
Well if you ask me about contemporary artists… I like the deconstructed
animated figures of Inka Essenhigh; I also like the very simple characters
of Yoshitomo Nara and Kojo Griffin's compositions. I do not think there
is one specific artist that I consider a strong influence on me… But I
do get different ideas and admire different things from the masters: like
Magritte's illusions; Hopper's simplicity; Basquiat's freedom; Ernst's
vision; Mucha's lines; Haring's energy and colors; Kahlo's own reflection;
Van Gogh's brushstrokes; Varo's magic; Bacon's brutality…
Which art movements have you been influenced by?
That is probably easier for someone else to tell. But I would say Surrealism
is definitively a strong influence on my work. I am very fond of Pop art
too, so I guess there is a little bit of that somewhere. The use of free
brushstrokes by the impressionists is something very attractive to me
What is the relationship that exists between your artwork and
your cultural heritage?
That's a good question; I feel that my cultural heritage is always present
in my work. Somehow it finds its way into my compositions, in the form
of objects or ideas. Since I was a kid I was always very aware of the
concept of culture and country, I don't know why; probably because even
then I remember trying to somehow establish my "Mexicanity".
I was the only one amongst my family and friends with a foreign citizenship,
but ironically with the deepest love for Mexico. So, I guess it was natural
to me to drain that into my work. Culture means a lot to me indeed. Furthermore,
I've always said that when it comes to culture, Mexico is a first world
country, part of the G-8.
How has your training as an architect affected your artwork?
I don't know if this has anything to do with it, but a good number of
my paintings, curiously enough, either bear architectural elements within
them or use a physical, recognizable space as the main background; elements
such as a stair, a bridge, an elevator, a window or an opening on a wall,
or even a bathroom or a bedroom.
I feel is sort of a balance between the two, because when I paint I am
totally free to express whatever I want. No restrictions of any kind whatsoever.
And on the other hand, much discipline comes from being an architect,
due to the fact that the craft implies working with a lot of people in
order to reach one common goal (that is the completion of a quality project
within time and budget); where a lot more things and variables are to
be considered. In both, at least for me, attention to detail is critical.
What is your favorite medium and how does it influence your creativity?
I've been working mostly with acrylics since I moved to the States; reason
is I don't have too much space available here just yet. My studio is rather
small and ventilation is not good enough to work with oils. So in a way,
now that I work almost exclusively with acrylics I can work faster because
my layers dry quickly. It's a little bit more difficult to create color
transitions and shades compared to oils but I can achieve bolder colors
faster. Considering the way I work, where a lot of things can happen along
the development of the piece, the use of acrylics helps me focus more
in the composition and the overall effect of my work.
What technique do you use in your work?
I have sketchbooks with me all the time. Whenever I have an idea I make
a quick sketch of it. Sometimes I end up using different drawings from
different sketchbooks in one painting. I do not develop the original sketch
too much really. It's just for me to get a general idea and keep a record
of my "thoughts". So whenever I have time to start something
new and my head is blank (which happens by the way) I can go to my drawings
and get something out of there. On the canvas I use a pencil to locate
the main actors of my composition; again, not too much detail on that
just yet. After that I start using paint, and I go from there. Anything
can happen now.
Please define your style. Would you explain how you have developed
it to its current, very unique status.
That's a tricky question right there. I would say is sort of a postmodern
figurative eclecticism. I say it's a place where you can find a myriad
of objects and images living together on a bright colored contemporary
living space or a landscape; depicting daydreams as well as nightmares.
I guess sometimes artists try very hard to find an easy recognizable style.
And chances of anyone figuring that out overnight are very slim. I tried
since the beginning not to worry too much about a style. My hope was that
if I worked hard the style would find me eventually. And I'm still working
on it I believe. But I do not want to confine myself to the repetitive
use of certain elements or ideas in order to preserve or pretend to have
a style. If I feel like doing something different tomorrow I won't hesitate
and I'll go for it.
Tell us about your use of color. Do you have any preference for
any color, if so, why?
I love to use bright colors in my paintings, and oftentimes I have large
areas of a painting covered with one single flat color; I later start
detailing those spaces with little lines or tick marks that create bi-dimensional
textures which in turn become shadows and hues. I also like the contrast
of various colors to enhance their visual and psychological power. To
me color means life, energy.
What is the inspiration behind your artwork?
I think everyday life and the things that happen around me have the capacity
to inspire me, even simple little things that most people don't pay attention
to: All the music I listen to; Imagery and food as cultural reference;
The myriad of designs that can be found in a woman's shoes; A window that
opens up to a beautiful landscape; All the graphic designs in a shower
curtain; the fact that sometimes you can find a sky painted in violet
or orange; my own memories; Architecture; The desire to create beauty
in a chaotic world.
What goes through your mind while painting?
mmm... so many things! It is a very private moment I would say, most of
the time I am listening to music. I like to be alone when I am working
and I enjoy enormously those moments.
Which of your paintings has given you the most gratification of
During the final stages when I am working on a painting, I spend more
time looking at it than doing actual work. For me it's the best painting
in the world (I know it's not, but it feels like that). Then I work on
the next one and I feel the same again.
I don't think there is one in particular. Each one of them means a lot
How does audience play a role in your creative endeavor?
For me it's always interesting to find out how many and how different
are the interpretations people can give to a single work of art. The work
of art as a trigger of emotions can serve as a mirror to the spectator
as well. I remember a solo show I had, while I was still at the University
in Monterrey. A day after I finished hanging the paintings I went to the
Central Library where the exhibition was taking place; in order to check
a few things before the opening. By then there was already people looking
at the art. Since they didn't know I was the artist, I was able to walk
around and listen to their comments. I was amazed at how people would
pick up on things or ideas that I myself hadn't seen or notice before.
What is your most important dream as an artist that is yet to
To be able to paint at any time of the day; to have a big studio and,
I'm sorry, how many wishes do I have?
In what ways do you think the Internet affects your art in today's
world or in the future?
The internet can provide a lot of exposure to my art and also very good
feedback and ideas. I launched my website almost 10 months ago (www.maavilam.com).
And the experience has been great. Many people have logged in and contacted
me. It's difficult to get the picture of what exactly an artist stands
for based in just one work, so having a permanent gallery open 24/7 showing
my most current work, as well as an archive section provides a very much
clear and broader photo of what I do. I think some people involved in
art still need to get more connected though, and catch up with technology.
Slides for example; why? I can easily email you a good quality image file
of any of my paintings; so much faster and easier for everyone! I know
it's a system that works well for galleries and competitions, but it does
not for artists.
Are there any details of your upcoming projects that you'd like
share with us?
Just to keep working. I also recently got an invitation to participate
in a group exhibition in Italy next year. So that is kind of exciting
because it's going to be my first one in Europe. Hopefully I'll be able
to go myself and meet the other artists; well, that only if I can get
Finally, what advice would you give a painter who's just beginning
to pick up this medium?
Well, I am a young painter too, and I have a long way ahead of me; but
I would say work, then work some more and if one night you feel like nothing
is coming out and your talent is gone, do not panic; go out and do something
else, just remember to come back the next day.
Visit his Website :::
Interview © June 2004-2007 Rocío Heredia.
All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is forbidden. Photo
Miguel Angel Avila. Interview pubished
at BTDesign Art Gallery - September 2004 - Used with my Permission. .
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