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An Interview with Artist Juan Ramiro Torres

Updated: Jan 19

Wednesday, October 5th 2022

AB: I was curious how you started creating art.

JRT: Well, I paint since I was little kid. They ask me what I want to be when I am grown up, I always say I want to be an artist. So it’s with me [since birth].

But when I have to decide what to study, I decide to study graphic arts, not fine arts, because I want to make more money. They say, you know, with painting you don’t make good money. So I decide to change and I study graphic design in New York at Parsons [School of Design]. Then later on, after 20-25 years working as a graphic designer for newspapers and magazines, I decide to change because this was my passion.

It was my dream and I say, “No, no, it’s a nice work, graphic design is a beautiful career but this is my dream.” And so I say, “No, I have to do this.”

But at the same time I have family, so I need a good income to support my family. So, I was trying to investigate by myself if it’s a good decision to change.

And I see that if you are a professional, if you do what you have to do as a professional, you can make it. So I decide to change, and little by little I was working with several newspapers and then I reduced my clients to have more time to paint. So, like 2010 I start my professional career as a painter. So I have, like, 12 years as a professional but I paint all my life [laughs].

AB: Wow, that’s a wonderful risk to take.

JRT: Yes, oh yes, especially when you have family. It’s not easy. But, at some point I was working as a journalist also. So I went to interview some artists, and not just because it was my job for the newspapers, but to know if it’s a good idea [laughs].

I ask, “Is this a good job?”

And they say, “Oh yeah, because I do what I have to do and I paint every day of my life.”

And I said, “I can do that.” You know, it’s something that I can do and I change.

AB: What advice would you give to someone who’s looking to make what looks like a risky career change into the arts?

JRT: Yes, of course, but if it’s really their passion…Sometimes I know some artists and they’re artists, they’re painters, but they don’t feel that passion. They are in the arts just because they want to be known and they want to be recognized but it’s not their passion.

They don’t feel like an artist feels, that you want to do this. We suffer sometimes because we don’t get the painting we want. The idea is not there, so you feel bad sometimes. But you insist, and you do your best, and in some points it works. You can put your ideas on your cameras [for example] and that’s amazing.

Like, “Oh my god, I can do this. This is what I like to do for, you know, forever.”

So, if you have that passion that’s the best decision you can take. If not, don’t do it [laughs] because it’s not easy [laughs]. It’s not easy to sell a painting. It’s not easy to get invited in a good gallery or museum. It’s not easy to have to work very hard. It’s not just painting, but you need to make a lot of phone calls, you have to go places so they know what you are doing and that you are there and you’re an artist. So, you have a lot of work. But if it’s what you want, you enjoy all that. You know that’s what you want to do for living.

AB: What themes do you explore in your work?

JRT: What I do in my painting is, I talk about the human relations. I get inspired by people from my life, from my past, or from my present. But, I don’t paint them [as they are]. They’re real persons but they don’t look like that of course [gestures to his abstracted paintings and laughs]. I get inspired by somebody and I try to use the feeling.

So I [use] all those feelings that keep us connected together, as family and as friends. I’m not always talking about happiness or joy, but sometimes I try to express sadness or loneliness. All our feelings, that’s what I want to express in my paintings. But I like I told you, I use people from my life as the characters but I don’t use their physical look. I try to use the right colors or the right shapes and to use them as a model for a painting.

So not really the physical appearance, but the feelings; the way I feel about that person.

AB: I was curious if there’s a certain piece here today that you feel especially connected to, and if you could talk to us about that piece that you feel strongly about today?

JRT: This one. [Ramiro Torres gestures towards a painting featuring four figures. The most foreground figure wears white and spreads its arms in front of the other three figures.]

It’s about my family. I have two daughters and my wife, so we are four. There we are, there [gestures towards painting]. One of my daughters is very protective. She’s the youngest one but she’s very protective. She’s very concerned about our situation and about everybody in the family. So, that’s about her.

AB: That’s beautiful.

JRT: You can see the title is “Against All Evil,” because she’s like the protector of the family. So, that’s some very personal meaning for me.

AB: Thank you, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. It was so nice to meet you and this is beautiful.

JRT: Nice to meet you too, thank you.

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