Alex Fernandez’s Impressions of Life and Art
When I first met Alex Fernandez nearly five years ago, I immediately discovered he had a talent for impressions. He could impersonate anyone he came across, friend, coworker, enemy, or otherwise, with shocking accuracy. While he could imitate any voice, he could also pick up on the subtleties of someone’s facial expressions, gestures, tick, and any other odd little habits, and replicate them. His imitations were not only a way to pass the time, they were his form of expression, a craft to be mastered and also enjoyed, just like one would enjoy a work of art, such as a painting.
What I did not know until much later into knowing Alex was that he is, in fact, a painter.
“It’s kind of funny because I’ve never thought about this,” Fernandez says. “And it’s still surreal to think of myself as an artist, but I’ve always known that I wanted to paint. I’ve been painting since as long as I can remember: as a kid I used to watch my sister paint for one of her undergrad classes and learning the fundamentals with her.”
Fernandez works mainly with watercolor, and sometimes with oils.
“I think I’ve finally found my appreciation for watercolor, as I’ve become more skilled with them.” Fernandez says. “I use them because they’re so versatile and they take a lot of effort to get the color layering right. They also show mistakes, and you can tell a good artist when they know how to skillfully correct them or draw the eye away from them.”
Fernandez’s work echoes the style of the impressionists and post impressionists, slightly unfocused but still vivid in color and emotional effect.
“One of my earliest influences was Van Gogh.” Fernandez says. “My parents had a print of ‘Starry Night’ hung up that I used to look at and ‘admire’ as any child could; I used to joke with my friend that the moon in the painting looked like a toilet flushing.”
While his sense of humor may not always be reflected in his work, his imagination certainly is. Take this piece:
The river, predominately painted shades of orange and red, more so than blue, could possibly evoke the feeling of an industrial city on fire. Using the fire image in a body of water creates a contradictory experience, a mixing of the elements. Is the city burning, or is it thriving?
“I have received a lot of compliments,” Fernandez says. “But the most interesting to me is when I was told I always have some aspect of fire in my work, and jokingly stated it was because I had a house fire when I was a kid. But maybe there’s some kind of sub-conscious truth to it.”
Colors play a large role in all of Fernandez’s paintings, inciting a particular mood beyond the realm of basic emotions. Take this painting:
We are immediately drawn in by the vibrant flower archway that frames the piece. It seems to express happiness, contentment, and natural beauty. Then we see the people walking down the path, all painted in dark tones, giving us the impression that they are, perhaps, sad. But yet, they walk together.
“I feel that all my work is either very bright or very dark.” Fernandez says. “I try to convey a sense of mystery usually; I want people to feel like the work could continue on beyond its borders. My biggest strength is with color, I use color often to convey some sort of emotional response, but as with anything, art is experienced by the individual.”
Recognizing the individual human experience is vital in understanding Fernandez’s work, as it is with all art. When asked about his influences, Fernandez says, “Nature is prevalent in my work, so I’ll say nature. But on a more grand scale I think every aspect of my life influences me. I can’t see how it couldn’t; we’re all influenced by what we experience.”
All art is an imitation of something, whether it is another artistic style or movement, an inspiring scene from nature, or just life experiences in general. Humans are complicated canvases of emotion. We are hardly ever just happy, or just sad; typically we use one expression of emotion to hide another, or feel multiple emotions at once, because life doesn’t just happen in an orderly fashion. Fernandez’s work achieves this complexity of emotion by competing light with dark, challenging these human experiences and feelings to work together.
Fernandez has high hopes for art in the future.
“I wish that art will become more accessible to all peoples in the future.” Fernandez says. “There’s this stigma of the ‘starving artist’ and I wish that people will see how prolific art is in everyday life. Maybe we won’t all be painters or whatever, but we can definitely have a career with our talents.”
Making art more accessible starts by talking about art more, recognizing its importance, and hopefully convincing others that this is the case. “Whether people realize it or not: art is everywhere!” Fernandez says. “Any aspect of design has had at least one artist behind it. In terms of the fine arts: it still holds a large part in society today politically and socially.”
Advertising, television, film, music, visual art, and other media tell us every day how to feel and what to think. If we know how to use these media properly, our idea can access more people, however we express them.
Fernandez’s art reminds us of all of the ways we are influenced by life and by art. His paintings show us how we can direct our own emotions through art, and then invoke similar or different emotions in others. While his literal impressions of other people imitate the way we outwardly express ourselves, his paintings are impressions of how we feel.