Master Stroke

“The way I paint is very emotional. I don’t plan it intellectually too much” — leading international Watercolour artist Alvaro Castagnet tells The Weekend Artist

Why watercolours?
The spontaneity, it suits my personality, the quickness and the fact that you can take it with you where ever you go. I love travelling, so this is a very important factor of the medium to me. The transparency, the magic of the washes on a paper is unique to watercolours. I am an emotional guy. I like to work fast and in a spontaneous way. Also, a well-executed watercolour is so beautiful, that I believe it is second to none.

Your paintings make strong and more importantly confident statements of colours, strokes and compositions. What is that common story that you convey through your works?

My style is the way I see and feel how watercolours should be. Strong, with luxurious brushstrokes, exploiting the virtues of the medium to the maximum exponent and done with authority. Wet on wet washes, dry brushstrokes, diverse edges (soft and hard), transparent washes and opaque areas — my aim is to express the “soul” of the subject I choose to paint and produce that with maximum impact and finesse.

Watercolour is believed to be an unpredictable medium. How often do you “plan” a painting? Or is it always spontaneous?
You need to have a vision before you place the first brushstroke. The way I paint is very emotional. I don’t plan it intellectually too much. I follow the rules of the medium, but I also enjoy breaking them. To me, it is the result that counts. You have taken formal training in art.

But what is your view on formal education in art? Is it a must? Does it pose the risk of losing one’s personal style and acquiring the style of the teacher?
Education is always positive and enriches the life of an artist. At the beginning, a student needs to learn the technique. It is very important, to understand the medium and to be able to advance further. A beginner usually gets support by following and even copying his teachers or masters. But once it is conquered, the real value is in the security it provides the artist through practice. A known technique allows more freedom in the execution of the work.

Is there a personal philosophy, a guiding principle that drives you in painting? Could you throw light on the same?
Yes, my aim is to be expressive within the traditional Art, figurative Art. I strive to capture the essence of the place, through its mood and atmosphere, capturing the light. I always paint the light, then the objects appear. To me, if the artist doesn’t reach the “soul” of the subject, then, it is merely an illustration.
You are a master painter. How often do you feel unsatisfied about your paintings? And how important is dissatisfaction for the growth of any artist?
Being an artist, a creator is a life long journey. My drive to paint is the passion for the medium. Usually, the vision of the subject in the artist’s head is rarely matched by his hand. This, of course, produces some dissatisfaction and so, it becomes the main engine for growth.

You are always on the move. When do you get time to practice your own art?
Painting “Plain -Air” has been very important and positive turning point in my career. Confronting different subjects and painting outdoors, under diverse conditions has been one of the greatest contributors to develop my art. I gather lots of information and motives that I later take to the studio to create larger works and experiment new approaches to further develop my work.

Does art ever get monotonous? How do you kill the monotony that may creep in?
Monotony is totally against the creative process in art. We all go through it at some point in time. But for me, travelling and being confronted to new subjects all the time, is a great way to keep the feeling of excitement alive. Even seeing the same places, again and again, provides me with an “injection” of inspiration and new ideas, exciting me to paint.

We know the style of your work today. Was it ever different? How did you discover your style?
My work is the development of one single origin. It is my own vision of art. The distinctive way of painting is simply the evolution of that vision. That will keep growing for the rest of my days. I would like to see watercolours to be recognised as a major medium competent to resist the past of times, due to the excellent materials we have access to work with today. Perennial pigments, 100 percent acid-free cotton paper, in rolls, etc. All these factors support a medium, that, if executed with finesse and elegance, becomes an extremely worthily work of art.

(The interview was first published in Nawras Magazine, an international travel and lifestyle magazine in Middle east, Europe and North Africa)


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