"CHALLENGE YOURSELF TO BE DIFFERENT AND RELEVANT."
Fernando Reyes (born in 1954) grew up in Fresno, California in a family of eight. His father was the sole bread provider leading a very simple family upbringing with very little influence in the world of art. Fernando’s interest in art started at a very early age drawing fantastical/fashion female models of the 60’s influenced by TV shows e.g. Laugh In, Lost In Space, Star Trek, The Jetsons, and comic books/magazines. Unfortunately, Fernando was not aware of museums or art galleries in his hometown of Fresno other than the Fresno Art Center where he first exhibited a pen and ink watercolor drawing through a high school project.
Although Fernando had an interest in pursuing art as a career, his interest was interrupted (or shifted) after obtaining a job with a bank in 1974. Through his request, Fernando transferred his banking job to San Francisco in 1976. He achieved a very successful banking career, but in 1991 he made the decision to leave and pursue a career in art.
In 1993, Fernando moved from San Francisco to Chicago where he applied to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and was accepted. Fernando’s focus at SAIC was drawing and painting with printmaking as a secondary interest. After graduating in 1997, Fernando returned to the Bay Area where he currently lives and opened his art studio in Oakland’s Jingletown neighborhood in 1999.
Fernando’s career has been varied throughout the years with a very strong portfolio influenced by the human form. In 2015, a new direction in art making took effect after visiting MOMA in New York to see “Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs.” Fernando's figurative work shifted to abstraction in handprinted paper cutouts. The year 2018 was a pivotal year for Fernando with a retrospective titled “An Artist’s Evolution 1991 - 2017” at The Mexican Museum SF in January, several write-ups ‘Destiny’s Calling’ CA Modern Magazine by Dave Weinstein, Fall 2018 issue with cover art “Tranquil”, ‘Telling Stories with Images’ Oakland and Alameda Magazine by Mary Corbin, August 2018 issue, ’Artist’s Evolution’ showcases Fernando Reyes’ breadth, SF Examiner, March 8, 2018, SF Open Studios 2017, Winning Cover Artist and interview 2017 Guide, and ’10 San Francisco Artists You Should Know’, The Culture Trip by Adriana Jones, May 2016.
Fernando’s art is able to show us a subtle blending of moments that somehow bring to life what you seek. It’s that interaction of intense emotions that nonchalantly come to the surface. Each piece representing that special moment. Each color representing the absence of blatant realities. Fernando’s art speaks in manners where language is not required. All that is required is an open heart and a thirst for emotional fulfillment. And without a doubt, what you seek is what you find.
“What you work on today will guide you tomorrow.”
Q. How and when did you first become seriously interested in art?
A. In 1991 I quit my banking job to pursue a career in art. In 1993 I applied and was accepted to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). I graduated in 1997 and returned to California living in Davis for one year before returning to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Q. Tell us about your beginnings, how were your first steps in the art world?
A. I started painting landscapes in plein air while living in Davis, CA. My first solo show titled ‘The Works’ was in Davis at the J. Glenn Gallery in 1998. My exhibition history continued when I moved to Oakland in late 1998 with my first solo show of figurative nude drawings titled ‘A Fine Line’ at JSL Fine Art Gallery in Danville, CA. Since then, I have had over 24 solo gallery shows primarily in the SF Bay Area with countless two person or group exhibitions. In 1999, I opened my art studio ‘Studio26’ in Oakland’s Jingletown neighborhood in the Fruitvale district. Every year I open my studio to the public for two annual Open Studios events in June and December. This has expanded my presence in the Bay Area art world.
Q. What have you had to sacrifice for this career?
A. A full-time monthly paycheck from my corporate job. The decision to quit my job was the best decision I’ve ever made in order to pursue a career in art.
Q. Tell us about your particular style and how you came to it?
A. FIGURATIVE- From the start of my career in 1998 - 2015, I focused on the human form. I was taught to paint in a representational style while attending art school but I felt compelled to paint in a style I can call my own once I graduated. My figurative paintings are straightforward, representational in a colorful linear style. The juxtaposition and overlapping of multiple figures create an abstract composition producing works that are completely contemporary. My influences are varied dating from old master drawings to the Bay Area Figurative movement.
ABSTRACT- Throughout the years, I’ve produced a large and diverse portfolio of artwork. My work has been primarily representational and includes oil paintings, drawings, and printmaking. In 2015, I started printing mono prints as material to be used for collage work. I’ve created mono prints for many years but the idea of cutting and collaging them arose in late 2014 after seeing a retrospective of Matisse cut-outs at the MOMA in New York. This new direction has taken me through a creative journey in abstract art that has expanded my artistic repertoire. My work is an abstracted reflection of a myriad of images that has captured my imagination for years from art movements like Mid-century modern art and Abstract Expressionism; from artists like Alexander Calder, Ellsworth Kelly, Rex Ray, amongst others; from visual childhood memories growing up during the 60’s.
Q. Who are your biggest influences? Are you inspired by the work of your peers or anyone else in particular?
A. Figurative: Old Master Drawings, Pierre-Paul Prud’hon, Lucian Freud, Paul Cadmus, Egon Schiele, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso. Abstract: MidCentury Modern Art, Abstract Expressionism, Alexander Calder, Ellsworth Kelly, Rex Ray.
I’m very inspired by my contemporaries and continue to look at new work as they post on Instagram.
Q. What does your art aim to say?
A. My work is meant to arouse the senses, to conjure emotional states, to enliven curiosity, and to instigate the telling of a story.
Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
A. No. I have many friends that are artists and my interaction with them is priceless. Although I work alone, my dog Daisy keeps me company and reminds me to take breaks during the day.
Q. Apart from art, what do you love doing?
A. Spending time at my beautiful home in the Sierra Foothills. I have 10 acres populated with Oak Trees and working the land invigorates me and grounds me to the earth.
Q. What is your philosophy in matters of art?
A. What you work on today will guide you tomorrow. Art is an evolving process. Challenge yourself to be different, exciting and relevant.
Q. What does 'success' mean to you?
A. Bringing joy and a connection to my audience is a success to me. Working as a full-time artist and making a living is a success.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and by who?
A. “If you can draw the human form you can draw anything.” This was said to me by my art teacher in junior high school in the 1960’s.
Q. What advice would you give to the next generation?
A. Always be true to yourself, to your art and stand out by being different. It’s hard work and it can be rewarding in the long haul.