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Artist Spotlight Series: Raul Lara

Discover the captivating journey of Raul Lara, the artist whose blend of photorealism and mixed media paints a profound exploration of the human condition.

Portrait of Raul Lara in Studio
Portrait of Raul Laura in his Studio

Growing up in Morón de la Frontera, Raul Lara's early passion for painting was overshadowed by the practicalities of life. But fate intervened when he met his wife, who reignited his artistic spark. Fuelled by his wife's encouragement, dove back into painting, experimenting with new techniques beyond the traditional forms he'd known. His work evolved into a unique blend of photorealism and mixed media, capturing the essence of human emotion and identity. Through meticulous image transfer processes, Lara infuses his paintings with layers of depth and texture, inviting viewers to peel back the surface and delve into the complexities of the human experience.


Statera. Raul Lara.
Statera. Raul Lara.

A stroke of luck came when a New York gallery discovered Lara's work, thanks to his wife's covert submission of his art to an art contest. This unexpected recognition catapulted Lara onto the international stage, marking the beginning of his journey as a full-time artist.


Lara's style, a blend of photorealism and mixed media, defies easy categorization. His paintings are not just visual spectacles but windows into the human soul, revealing the myriad masks we wear and the inner conflicts we wrestle with.


During a crucial phase of artistic exploration, Raul Lara again found inspiration in his wife, who became his primary muse and would shape his entire body of work. He began painting her, seeing the naked female form as a representation of purity and the origin of life. Through these portraits, Lara delved into the depths of human emotion and experience, using each brushstroke to explore the complexities of the human soul. This intimate subject matter provided him with a profound connection to his own inner world, allowing him to unravel the layers of identity, vulnerability, and resilience.


From the bustling streets of Manhattan to the galleries of London and Paris, Lara's work has garnered attention and accolades. Notable exhibitions include "Portals of Perception" at Agora Gallery in New York (2012), "Elements of Abstraction" at Agora Gallery in New York (2013), and shows at VEDO Corporate Art Exhibition in London (2016), Gallery Different in London (2017), and Galerie Montmartre in Paris (2019).

Stupore Mentis, 2021. Raul Lara. Mixed media painting and image transfer on canvas. 120 x 70 cm / approx. 47 x 27,5 inches
Stupore Mentis, , 2021. Raul Lara. Mixed media painting and image transfer on canvas. 120 x 70 cm / approx. 47 x 27,5 inches

His art graces private collections worldwide, speaking to the universal appeal of his message. Publications like Artisspectrum Magazine and Saatchi Art catalogs have showcased his work, while book covers for international publishers have further cemented his presence in the art world.


At the heart of Raul Lara's art lies a profound exploration of the human condition, delving into themes of identity, duality, and emotional vulnerability. His paintings serve as mirrors, reflecting the myriad masks we wear and the inner conflicts we face. Through his work, Lara invites viewers to confront their own truths and embrace the beauty of imperfection.


812 Maplewood in Dialogue with Raul Lara

Portrait of Raul Lara in Studio
Portrait of Raul Lara in Studio

What does a typical day look like for you in the studio? Do you have any rituals or routines that help you get into the right mindset for creating art?


The truth is that I'm a bit chaotic and disorganized, something I'm trying to improve, although I'm not sure if I'm succeeding. Nowadays, besides painting, there are many tasks to do, like answering emails, managing social media, attending to customer inquiries, organizing shipments, etc. As if that wasn't enough, I'm also very restless and like to always be learning new things about topics that interest me, which don't necessarily have to be related to my work but also take up some of my time—a jumble of things I manage as best as I can. I try to prioritize tasks based on their urgency or importance (though this doesn't always happen), which makes it difficult to maintain an orderly routine, especially for me, as I mentioned, since I'm quite chaotic.

 

When it comes to artistic creation, however, I'm very consistent. Once I start a piece, I don't stop until it's finished. I'm talking about the painting part, which usually takes me between 4 and 8 sessions, depending on how inspired I feel. After that, I let it dry for several days to apply the image transfer.

 

As for rituals, I don't really have anything special, but over the years I've noticed that what works best for me is to arrive at the studio, make sure I have nothing pending, and gradually immerse myself in the painting. Sometimes I do this with some music, and increasingly, I listen to a podcast or interviews with inspiring people. This relaxes me and helps me focus on what I'm doing, to the point where, sometimes, after a while, I lose track of what I'm hearing and only perceive a background voice that somehow keeps me company.



Walk us through your creative process.. How do you translate an initial idea into a finished artwork? Are there specific stages or processes you follow, and how do you know when a piece is complete?


Normally, I start with an idea, a feeling, or a sensation that I want to represent. It could be a gesture I've seen in a model that has stayed imprinted on my mind. From there, I take photographs of the model or seek inspiration from image banks. I often use these images, making certain modifications, as it is difficult to find exactly what I want.

 

My case is a bit special because my paintings represent two figures, either opposed or superimposed, and they must be perfectly designed in terms of their placement before I start painting. My sketches are very advanced digital representations of what I want the final painting to be, so when I begin working on the physical piece, I have an exact idea of how it should look. This makes it easier to know when the painting is finished.

 

Once I have the reference images ready, which I do with Photoshop, I begin with the painting part that corresponds to the color figure. Once finished, I let it dry for a few days or even weeks. Then, I perform an image transfer onto that painted figure using gesso, let it dry, remove the paper, and finally, do some final touch-ups. With that, the piece is ready.


Et descendite, 2021. Raul Lara. Mixed media painting and image transfer on canvas. 50 x 60 cm / approx. 19,7 x 23,6 inches
Et descendite, 2021. Raul Lara. Mixed media painting and image transfer on canvas. 50 x 60 cm / approx. 19,7 x 23,6 inches.

Your art is a blend of photorealism and mixed media. What sparked the evolution of this style? Were there any specific influences or experiences that led you to explore this fusion of techniques?


My training was always in realistic painting, but like all artists, I was unconsciously searching for something different, although I didn't know exactly what. One day, which I remember perfectly, I came across a crafts book that explained how to make image transfers to decorate objects. This caught my attention, and I started applying it to canvas. The first thing I did was print an image of a portrait of Chris Cornell, the lead singer of Soundgarden. The result was interesting, but it still wasn't what I was looking for.


At that time, about 20 years ago, I worked in the family business and sold pastel portraits to people in my town who already knew about my work through word of mouth. In the afternoons, I dedicated myself to my passion, which was painting. Following that first attempt with the portrait of Chris, I kept experimenting. I started using much more gesso than usual because I liked the texture it gave to the canvas. Initially, I painted over the transfer using many glazes, until I arrived at what I do now, where I separate the painting and the image transfer and combine them.


Tempus Fugit IV, 2023. Raul Lara. Mixed media painting and image transfer on canvas. 40 x 60 cm / approx. 15,7 x 23,6 inches
Tempus Fugit IV, 2023. Raul Lara. Mixed media painting and image transfer on canvas. 40 x 60 cm / approx. 15,7 x 23,6 inches

Are there any new themes or concepts you're delving into in your work? Additionally, are there any experimental techniques or mediums you're itching to incorporate into your artistic repertoire?


The central theme or concept I like to delve into is the human psyche: our duality, fears, hopes, the various layers we all have, etc. I’m also drawn to playing with the concept of body and soul. I believe there is much to explore in these areas through my work.


Lately, I’ve been inspired by the fleeting nature of life, which brings me to your question about incorporating new techniques or media into my artistic repertoire. While I constantly try small evolutions, right now I am immersed in using transparent media and deforming the transferred image. Drawing on the idea of life's transience, I seek to create images that seem to blur, both due to the transparent nature of the medium and the evanescent appearance of the image itself.


As someone whose art has been showcased around the world, do you notice differing interpretations to your work across different cultures and audiences? In your view, what impact does art have on societal and cultural dialogues, and how does your work contribute to these conversations?


Art is something very global, as you say, I've been extremely fortunate to exhibit in different parts of the world, and my work is in private collections on all five continents and I can truly say that I haven't noticed substantial differences in how people perceive my work across various cultures and audiences.


Receptum. Raul Lara.
Receptum. Raul Lara.

I believe art is everywhere, and although not everyone might realize it, we all definitely approach it in its different forms. Art plays a fundamental role in shaping societies and cultures by inspiring social progress, raising awareness about critical issues, fostering intercultural understanding, catalyzing social movements, and enriching the human experience. Art motivates, educates, communicates, and gives voice to the human condition; there aren't many things capable of achieving all this.


As for my own work, I don't know how it contributes to these dialogues, or even if it does. I don't think about it. I do my part, which is to put an element on the table, and from there, I no longer own the work. You'd have to ask people if it says something to them or if they feel it adds any value beyond mere aesthetic value.



Looking towards the future, what exciting exhibitions or projects do you have on the horizon for 2024? How are you preparing for these upcoming opportunities?


This year, I'm more focused on developing the use of transparent media, as I mentioned earlier. I'm also about to start a new project of small portraits with image transfers encapsulated in resin. This idea comes almost as a thank you to all the people who have supported me over the years, and of course, to the new art lovers who approach my work daily.


Initially, I will organize some pieces for lucky followers to take home for free. If the project is well-received and goes further, I will consider future options. There is information on my website for anyone interested in this idea.


Regarding exhibitions, I have a couple of things pending but nothing concrete yet. I just finished with a gallery that represented me in London for several years, which was a great experience. Now I want to take some time to reflect on the next steps to take in the future.

Portrait of Raul Laura in his Studio
Portrait of Raul Laura in his Studio



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