Have you always painted flowers?

I did not always paint like this in such a short period of time. 

I guess you can say I come from a family of artists. Some families have many generations of doctors or lawyers. The Ortega family features very crafty people, who have always found artistic ways to make a living. Each generation has had at least one guy supporting himself through art at some point of his life. I might be mistaken, but I think I am the first one who actually went to school to pursue an art degree.

So, my art education obviously did not begin in college, but much, much earlier. I still remember my first oil paints. While I was somewhat familiar in charcoal, sanguine, colored pencils, pastels, gouache, watercolors and even crayons, I was very intimidated by oils for some reason. I just kept putting them off my learning path. When you grow up watching relatives copying Rembrandt and Velazquez "just for fun", I guess it can get a little scary!

My father insisted I needed to learn my craft thoroughly, so he taught me how to mix my own oil paints. He had learned that technique with his uncle many years before while working as an apprentice at his restoring/mural painting shop.

So, while most teenagers my age were goofing around on the recently mainstreamed internet and watching TV, I was walking around town buying pigments, oil, turpentine, wax and some other stuff I'm pretty sure nowadays nobody in their right mind would sell to a young kid without some tough prior questioning. I even got my own tubes and spent many afternoons mixing oils. After a couple of weeks, I finally had a "palette" (and I use this term loosely) of basic colors to start painting with.

And my first subject was, you guessed it, flowers! My mom had a bouquet laying around and I figured why not. I was so slow the flowers actually died before I was done!

Claude Monet - Sunflowers

It became clear that I needed practice, and also some references. The internet helped me get introduced to a whole lot of art I could have not reached otherwise. Somehow I kept gravitating around the French Impressionists. I loved pretty much everything about their works, especially their sense of air and their use of bright colors.

So, I studied pictures like the one above and started to get familiar with oils and how they behave. I painted lots of floral arrangements and soon I was branching out, painting all kinds of landscapes and still life.

Like I've said before, I like to paint, period. I will paint everything and anything. It just so happened that these floral arrangements were very flexible. They were a good way for me to explore color, texture and to study many different artistic genres. Thanks to them, I have gotten into impressionism, fauvism, expressionism, cubism and realism, to name a few. They allowed to play with impasto techniques, to mix oils with crazy materials like sand, wood chips, marble, etc. And they were also pretty popular!

So, yes, I've always painted flowers. But that's not all I, as an artist, am about. Not even close. Stick around and you'll see...