I'm really happy to share these irresistible little paintings by young Illinois-based self-taught artist David Esquivel, who brings the idea of landscape cheerfully to his canvases. Eschewing art school because of the extraordinary cost, he decided to forego university in favor of discovering his artistic influences on his own and pursuing his own education. I instantly fell for the simple, fun compositions and bright colors. Keep reading for a wonderful Q&A!
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YS: You're from Aurora, IL, have you lived there all your life? Is that where you were in high school and discovered art?
DE: I was born in Colorado but very soon after I was born my mom moved us back here to Aurora where she grew up and most of our family was. I went to East Aurora High School and yes that is where I discovered I wanted to be an artist.
When did you first start drawing or painting? What do you love about it?
The first thing I remember doing was a painting in fourth grade. We had art class once a week and one week we were using watercolors and I painted a lake in the woods. My big thing was I was going to paint the trees reflection in the water. I thought that was an amazing idea. All it ended up being was a tree colored blob in the middle of the lake. The teacher liked it though and it was selected to be in the school district’s art festival. Outside of school I didn’t draw or paint much. I only started thinking about art after I finished high school and decided to turn myself into an artist. It’s hard to pinpoint why I love it. The freedom it allows is exciting. You could create any image, or sometimes express an emotion, that isn’t possible in reality. Creating a thing always gives me a nice feeling.
You mention that you decided not to go to art school; why did you make this decision? Did you pursue something else instead?
I don’t come from a family of artist so I didn’t know how it all worked. In my head, becoming an artist was almost impossible and the school I was going to go to was going to cost a lot of money which I didn’t have. I would have had to have gotten a lot of money in student loans and it wasn’t guaranteed that I would ever make a dime as an artist. So I figured I would take a few years and see if I could become an artist on my own. I felt I got enough technical knowledge from my high school art classes that I would be alright going forward on my own. The biggest thing to me was how to create work that sticks in with the viewer, creating work that has a heart to it. I don’t know that art school could have taught me why to create. That’s something every artist has to discover on their own. So I skipped college altogether and decided to dive fully into breaking myself down and building myself back up into an artist. If I fail, I’d be fine working in a warehouse somewhere.
Who or what are some of your major influences?
Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon were very important to me when I first started. There is a painter named Alex Beck whose work is really great. A lot of movies like Annie Hall, Drive, any of Paul Thomas Anderson’s work, Sherlock Holmes 2, any of Hayao Miyazaki’s work . In music Little Dragon, The Black Keys, The Tallest Man on Earth, Tame Impala, a producer called Ohbliv, and rappers Blu, Curren$y, and Nickelus F. Louis CK with his stand up and shows were big for me. Robert Louis Stevenson’s work and Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein are also important to me. I’m all over the place but honest, fulfilling work really speaks to me.
Can you tell me a bit about your subject matter? They read like bright, abstract landscapes and at the same time like simple shapes, almost sculptural. Where does the inspiration come from?
I started trying to place shapes and patterns in a way that felt together while they were doing different things. They kind of came from me sketching. When I was sketching I would struggle with what to draw so I would draw a mark and start to build on it. The inspiration for each piece comes from whatever the first mark is.
Because they remind me of small objects, have you experimented with other processes like sculpture or ceramics?
I would love to sculpt, but I just haven’t had the funds to do more than paint right now. I have always wanted to create large scale sculptures that people can walk around and interact with. I think table top arrangements would be interesting to make too.
What is your process like? How do you get started on a new painting? Do you plan ahead or just start painting?
I start with one element then try and imagine the rest and go from there. I stopped trying to plan my paintings out ahead of time because they always end up being a ruined version of what I had planned.
What do you feel is or has been the most challenging aspect of being an artist?
It’s difficult sometimes to stick with one idea. I tend to want to make a lot of different kinds of paintings and drawings at once but then I just make a bunch of half thought out work.
What do you find to be the most exciting or fulfilling part of making your work?
It’s really fulfilling to make a piece that you know is finished. A lot of painting is knowing when to stop and making a piece that feels complete really feels good.
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Find more work at instagram.com/david.m.esquivel.