Currently on view at Helikon is ‘Harmonie,’ a duo show featuring 108 paintings by highly notable artists of illustration and the figurative arts George Pratt and Felipe Echevarria. Ranging from watercolor, oil, and pastel to other traditional media, this body of work examines the beauty and mystery of the human figure. On the whole, ‘Harmonie’ is composed of aesthetic reflections on figurative expression, exploring the evocative power of color, texture, design, and style as harmonious parts of a single emotional and visual vocabulary.
Read below for the artist’s perspective on his own work and advice for aspiring artists.
- You have an impressive portfolio of illustration/graphic novel art as well as fine art. How do you view the intersection between illustration and fine art in your work?
For me, although the line between fine art and illustration has blurred tremendously over the years, illustration is usually attached to a commercial outcome with an end product in mind. I try not to have that outcome with fine art, but often my illustration training ends up influencing the style I use for fine art. This is actually something that I’ve been trying to get rid of for years, but have not been able to do partly because I like to work a piece to the hilt (which ends up tightening it). Ultimately I do want my fine art and illustration/graphic novel works intersecting so that I use the same style and approach no matter what I’m doing. I think once my personal vision and actual work output become more streamlined together I should see my style collapse into one and become more impressionistic.
What’s the value you find in painting from life rather than from photos?
Working from life has more presence, more dimensionality, and it shows in the work. The artist has to really pay attention to not have a photographed look in their art if working from photos, and to not be a slave to the photo. I work from photos a lot, or pieced-together photos, they are such a great source of inspiration. I just have to be sure to change it enough to make it look like it’s more from life.
When you start a piece, do you have a final image in mind? How much of the final product do you determine at the outset? Do most of your pieces also involve thumbnails or process sketches?
I often have a final image in mind, or more importantly there’s a certain feeling that I’d like to have when seeing the piece in its finished state. But more often than not it takes a new direction and winds up quite different than when I started. This is primarily because I typically don’t do a lot of preparatory sketches before doing a fine art piece. Often I will start with a blank canvas and clear mind. Then while painting, something eventually grabs hold and shows me a direction.
What would you tell yourself when you were first embarking on your artistic career?
Calm down, be yourself, and stop chasing the market!
What current projects are you working on and what do you have coming up?
Kloon, an illustrated book set in the turn of the century Paris circus scene. It’s been over 3 years in the making and we’re getting close to having it done. Also coming is a spiritual graphic novel that I’ve been working on for a very long time called Death From Above, where the reader takes a walk through the landscapes of their own psyche with a beautiful, intrinsically powerful woman who is death, and her revelations help the reader to overcome their fear of death. It’s a meditation on death, life and true happiness–a self-help book of sorts but with hand-painted sequential art.
I have a coffee table book in the works with my Spearwomen paintings and drawings. These women are Caucasian women who live in forests and jungles and take on a primal motif and possess a deep, yet savage mourning for our lost connection to nature, to the Divine. It’s not Sheena Queen of the Jungle, it’s closer to Lord of the Flies with women instead of boys.
Thank you to Felipe for participating in our interview! To see more of his work, visit www.felipeechevarria.com. For more information on Helikon Gallery and Studios, visit www.helikongallery.com. ‘Harmonie’ is on view through June 3rd, Tue-Sat from 12-6pm, and during First Friday on June 2, 6-10pm.