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Guatemala: Artist returns to his homeland with a mission to stop the exodus of artistic talent

By Anna-Claire Bevan

I want to start a revolution,” says Sergio Raul Gonzalez, before clarifying: “an artistic revolution.”

Students at Atelier de Arte ‘draw’ inspiration from Guatemala’s rich ancient history.

Having spent more than 20 years in the U.S., Guatemalan-born Gonzalez recently returned to his homeland with the aim of training an army of Guatemalan artists and showcasing their work on the international stage.

“Guatemalan textiles and artisan crafts are famous around the world, but our fine arts are yet to gain attention,” says Gonzalez.

At the beginning of the year, Gonzalez founded Atelier de Arte, Central America’s first Art Academy exclusively devoted to Academic Realism – a 19th century European movement that imparts the science behind drawing and painting.

“People have false notions that they have no artistic talent and I want to dispel these myths through explanations and quasi-scientific classes. There is no such thing as “talent”, its creativity – and you can build upon that,” says Gonzalez.

From his studio in Guatemala City, the artist delivers individually tailored courses on Academic Realism where students first learn how to draw, which is considered the foundation of academic painting, and then to paint.

His program is centered on creating pieces from direct observation so that students learn to utilize their eyes, rather than tracing, drawing or transferring images from photographs. Students work with live models, attend drawing workshops and do “quick sketch classes” where models hold short poses.

“Without exception, people who have participated in the workshops have come out impressed and amazed with the knowledge that is required to create such a great piece of art,” says the talented Guatemalan.

Gonzalez first realized he wanted to be a painter at the age of 6 and admits that in his youth he became frustrated with deficient curriculums that failed to teach him the knowledge behind art. Having enrolled in a number of art programs in the U.S., he finally settled at the L.A. Academy of Figurative Art, which is where he decided to bring his knowledge back to his home country.

“There has been an exodus of artistic talent from Guatemala in recent years: if artists are good, they move to another country. I want to stop this,” says Gonzalez.

Anna-Claire Bevan is a Guatemala-based freelance correspondent for Latina Lista.

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