Artist Interview: Luis Diaz

[Author’s Note: This interview was originally printed, in German, in a 2014 edition of Virus Magazine. As with all of my interviews, instead of bombarding the reader with images, I prefer providing links to the artist’s website and social media, so that the reader can view and follow the work via the appropriate channels. Luis Diaz’s official website is luisdiazart.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.]

At what point in your life did you feel an inclination to create dark themed art, and was there a particular inspiration for that?

I think watching scary movies and Halloween were the things that navigated me toward the direction of the darker stuff. I think the two scary movie franchises I watched as a kid (that I loved to see over and over again) were Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. I was scared of the two villains, and I had many nightmares about them. But one night, I decided to stop running in my dreams and be friends with Freddy and Jason and since that night on I hardly ever had any nightmares I can remember, but I still respected the two. I also began to listen to rock groups like Iron Maiden, Megadeth and Guns and Roses and a lot of their albums had really cool album artwork. I began to draw my own Vic and Eddie and skeleton guys. I was around 11 years old when I started and I got into comic books early on mostly because Marvel was doing a monster-themed saga called Inferno that ran through most of it’s titles like X-Men and Spider-man. If that didn’t happen I wouldn’t have gotten into comics at all. I also loved this skateboarding comic called Shred that had a lot of monster stuff and a skeleton vigilante. Looking back it was kind of cheesy, but I thought the side stories in there were really fun to read.

When you began to create darker art, how was it received by your family and friends? Were your gifts encouraged?

I won some school contests and it seemed they were cool with it. I did a Halloween Carnival poster with Freddy and later on hundreds of blank typing paper I drew weird animal versions of my favorite horror monsters. I think it keep me from leaving the house so they can watch over me so I think my parents didn’t mind. Rather than skateboarding and getting into trouble with my friends. I has an uncle who gave me my first Berol Prismacolor Markers and it was so fascinating to have something you knew professionals used to make art instead of the cheap ones you get at your local drug store.

Can you tell us the story of your Universal Monster series?

I worked on 3 paintings that combined the faces of Frankenstein, Dracula, Bride of Frankenstein, The Phantom of the Opera and The Mummy. It’s an ongoing series. 2 of them are 3 feet by 4 feet (914mm x 1,219mm) and I’m still working on doing the large Bride of Frankenstein. I wanted to create a new image by combining two faces. It’s an illusion of two faces, but at the same time it’s a new unique image. You have to look to the two faces, but you can only really see one at a time. They are called Creaturas (creatures). I painted these in acrylics and the color sketch of The Bride and Frankenstein is in watercolor. I also did a sketch card series this year for The Art of Robert Aragon which had a lot of the stars from the classic monster films. I loved painting Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney and his son. I got to paint a few in character, too, but because of copyrighting issues I couldn’t paint a lot of the monsters I wanted to paint. So that is why I do it for myself in these large paintings.

What do you feel distinguishes your style from others?

There is a lot of preparation and referencing and trial and error before I paint. Sometimes these “mistakes” open up new doors in my artwork. I work intuitively after the initial drawing is on the canvas and let things happen with the paint and water. They kind of have a battle on the surface and sometimes the water wins and other times the paint. I let the colors drip sometimes to the floor. Sometimes I let the drops drip onto another piece of paper and use that as inspiration for my work. I think I’m really a fine artist, but since I grew up loving all these creatures and comic books I kind of went into that direction. I think that is why most people won’t get my work. It takes a little more time to get into it. Most people like things easy.

How long does an average project take, and do you prefer to work digitally or manually?

Since I learned to create work digitally at a job doing daily news for television I was able to make the computer help me prepare work and do finished artwork on it. Today I move through both, but usually a good portion of my preparation is on the computer. I still use the old techniques of projecting a sketch and then painting on an easel. I like to work large and I like to work small. When I do too much of anything I like to switch. Sometimes just drawing in pencil and other things sketching things in the computer. I used to find it hard to get into the computer, but I find certain things come out better in the computer while having build up of paint is important to do with paint. Either way today you can pretty much make anything look tradition on the computer or make something like like a print on canvas. It depends what I’m looking for.

Are there any artists out there who inspire you? Do you have a favorite?

I go through artists from time to time picking up things from here and there. I think would get into an artist and later find out who probably inspired them until you keep going back and find out a lot of it came from Frazetta or EC Comics. So my tastes change a lot, but in general I really got into painting from two guys Simon Bisley and Brom. I wanted to do what they were doing. Their stuff looked so much fun and their art was everywhere in the 90’s. A lot easier to get than Frazetta at the time. I didn’t know who Frazetta was in high school, but I knew Bisley and Brom’s work already.

Which piece do you feel was the one that earned you the most recognition?

I have a lot of variety in my work so I get different pieces that people like. I haven’t made one image that has been revered as a masterpiece yet, but that’s the goal of the artist to continue working on making the next piece better. I had been doing cartoon stuff for a while and now I’m getting back to my dark stuff. It just feels better so I hope to make some more creepy stuff in the next couple of years.

Of your whole gallery, which piece is your favorite?

I always look back at two pieces that seemed to open my head to the possibilities of doing this stuff for a living so I always like the stuff I did when I was learning to paint. Massacre of America (1998) and Simian Operation (1997) are two of my favorites. One was a mixed media piece on paper and the other oil on illustration board. I think I got some confidence doing the two. For a long time I was struggling with color. I think I didn’t get it. So These two opened up my mind to the possibilities of doing more work in this kind of way.

Are there any factors that influence how you choose your next art project?

It’s always been a struggle for me to do the artwork I wanted to do.. I think in my 20’s I was always doubting myself and getting depressed and my father was always telling me to get a job so I was always trying to prove to him I could so this for a living. I worked doing all kinds of artwork. Cartooning and illustration work and because I was able to do a lot of different stuff I moved around depending on what people wanted. I had a hard time in my 20’s. I am glad it’s over. Today my girlfriend who is an amazing abstract artist gives me all the support I need to create the new works I’m putting together. So things are a lot better these days and I don’t have to take the projects I don’t want to do anymore. I think next year I will be getting back to the work I want to be working on and they are the things I want to do and not governed by outside sources. My best work comes from me.

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