PEOPLE IN THE COMMUNITY YOU SHOULD KNOW: Tatiana Suarez – Fine Artist
Tatiana Suarez, an extremely upbeat Brooklyn-based Miami native, creates with her paintbrushes magical evocations of absolute beauty. Her paintings call out to the viewer in a melody of exotic eroticism, heritage, and artistic spectacle combining into a chorus which is undeniably astounding.
Born in Miami in 1983, Tatiana grew up in a household truly rich in culture, raised by her father from El Salvador and her mother from Brazil. One only need a single glimpse of Tatiana’s paintings to sense an acute understanding and representation of the cultures of her heredity glowing from the female figures surrounded by peregrine animals and fauna. The walls of her home were filled to the brim with art by her father as well as various other relatives, strongly influencing the naturally gifted Tatiana in her own path as an artist.
Growing up she taught herself to draw by illustrating cartoons and from books such as “How to Draw the Little Mermaid.” As she made her way through high school she immersed herself in practicing sketches of the female form, fairies, flowers and animals, many of the themes that are now keystones to her paintings.
After high school, Tatiana attended the University of Miami focusing on graphic design and graduating in 2005. A class project during her senior year brought her back to painting. She has since emerged as one of the most talented young artists in the nation, her style easily recognizable and strongly independent in an art world immersed with bored and repetitive imagery.
She has been chosen as the 10th mural artist by The Downtown Hollywood Mural Project. This milestone coincides with the public art program’s one-year anniversary. Suarez – a champion in the male-dominated street art genre – plans to bring her decidedly girlish, enchanted beings to the Downtown Hollywood cityscape. Slated to premiere during monthly ArtWalk on August 17, she will be joining an elite group of contributors including Jessy Nite, Eddie Mendieta, 2alas, Michelle Weinberg and Rob Robi.
This commission marks the Miami-native’s return from New York to her studio space in South Florida, on the heels of her recent release of custom-designed Reebok Classics for Cool J’s.
The Hollywood Artwalk is replete with live music, exceptional dining and opening exhibitions at more than a dozen participating establishments. 7pm – 10pm. Live Music District, 2020 Harrison St; Hollywood. For info: hollywoodcra.org
SP – Have you always wanted to be an artist?
Suarez - Yes, I kinda always knew. My dad “used” to draw and paint a lot when he was younger and that rubbed off on me. I wanted to grow up to be either an artist or a vet! [Laughs]
Did you wanting to be a vet, do you think it’s one of the reasons you incorporate animals into your work?
Yeah, probably. I love animals and always have. I’ve had lots of unusual pets growing up; from chameleons to sugar gliders. Moving to New York, this is the first time in my entire life not having a pet companion with me. It’s been kind of lonely.
What did you sketch when you were little? And how did you arrive at your current style?
Cartoons. When I was young I had a collection of “How to Draw Little Mermaid” and other Disney/Cartoonish books. When I got into High School, I started getting into drawing fairies, female forms, flowers, animals. I stopped painting when I got into college because I chose graphic design as a major. It wasn’t until I had to take a class during my senior year, where the teacher asked us all to bring in a piece of art that represents what we do, that I realized I didn’t have anything I was proud of. I didn’t want to take in a logo and I hadn’t painted anything in a long time. I went home, grabbed a small canvas I had and spent all night painting the first thing that came to my head. It ended up being a girl with a really thin long neck, big eyes, mouthless and a bleeding heart. I was happy. I slowly got into painting again.
I have to ask, some of the women in your paintings look like you… Are they self portraits?
No, I get that a lot. I use photo-references of different women when I paint. They’re not meant to be me.
Well where do the ideas for each piece come from? What usually pops into your imagination first?
I get ideas from everywhere. I find so many photographs of animals, on Tumblr, that spark ideas for pieces. Photographs of women, from their poses to their make up or hair. I watch a lot of movies while I work. So lines from movies, lyrics from songs.
When you visited El Salvador and Brazil [as a child], do you think those places had an effect on you? Were there visual influences you can recall from visiting those places, from your upbringing is what I suppose I’m trying to ask.
I don’t really remember much about traveling to Central America. I remember Brazil and being young. I didn’t take advantage of it. My work now is very inspired by my culture and heritage, it’s important to me to try to take a trip to Brazil this year and take in whatever I can. I am thankful for my supportive parents. Growing up my dad was still often dabbling in his art. Our house has always been decorated with paintings belonging to him and to other family members that also painted. My parents have had collections of art from both their cultures and lots of books. My dad still has some sketch books from when he was eighteen! I got really into that stuff when I was young. It inspired me a lot.
You like watching movies while you paint, what are your favorite movies?
Favorite movies I watch over and over while painting are: Pulp Fiction. Jaws. Death Proof. Moulin Rouge. The Fall. Man, I have a lot. Pretty much my DVD collection. Oh yeah! Leon the Professional and Creepshow!
Why painting as opposed to any other fine art medium?
It’s just the medium I was introduced to really early on, and I just stuck with it. Painting and drawing also runs in the family. Plus it’s fun and messy.
Were you always into visual arts, or did you start some where else and end up finding out this is what you really wanted to do?
As a kid, I wanted to grow up to be either an artist for Disney, or a vet. Art class was the only class since elementary that I looked forward to attending. It was my only ‘ A+’ class, haha. I never went to art school, but my parents always had me enlisted in after school cartooning and painting classes. In college I stopped painting and focused more on graphic design. It wasn’t until after a couple of years of working in advertising, that I decided to once again focus on developing my paintings. All in all, it was a decision I’m really glad I made.
Is there a dialogue behind your work; are there subtle narratives to be understood?
Most of my work to date has been simply portraits, just focusing on the women, their emotions, and adorning them. I keep them mysterious. They are meant to be enjoyed by the viewer, and adapt to their own narrative.
Do you draw inspiration from any other artists, past or present?
Of course! Oof, there’s way too many for me to name. Here are a few from the top of my head: Gil Elvgren, Alphonse Mucha, James Jean, Audrey Kawasaki, Chet Zar, Dave Cooper, Rockin’ Jelly Bean, Lori Early, Fafi, Nouar Boldy. Just a few names that help make my mind tick.
Artists all experience the evolution of their work; What do you see yourself doing next?
Yes, always evolving and learning! I’m not too sure yet on what the future holds. I plan on exploring my work, perhaps composing some more narrative, and personal pieces. I want to continue painting on walls and have also been curious on playing with some 3D stuff, we’ll see!
What do you like most about your work, and what you do?
The entire process is always a ride I enjoy. I go through so many changes and detours with my pieces, plenty of shape and color shifting. When the piece finally starts coming together and I feel in control…it’s really a great feeling. I’m just so lucky to be able to do what I love.
Share for us a bit about your experience growing up in the Miami area.
Growing up in Miami was cool; I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. It was great to have pool, BBQ weather all year round. I had a great upbringing, full of bike riding, sidewalk chalking, and exotic pet collecting. It’s also a cultural melting pot. You don’t realize you miss certain things until you’re gone. Like Cuban coffee and a beach practically in your backyard.
Are there any other forms of art that you participate in or wish to experiment with more?
Painting outdoor murals — which has been fucking rad! (Excuse me) I’m glad I got over the fear of doing it. It’s been exciting to bring my girls outdoors. I’ve also met a lot of cool graffiti, street artists in the process from all around the world. I’ve got a BFA in graphic design, so I still work on the occasional branding projects. This year I resolve to take my pieces into some sort of 3-dimensional form, whether it be embroidering, or sculpting.