"I rather be poor and do what I love than be a rich engineer in an office."
Ever since he can remember, Arturo Gardea has been fascinated with painting. Particularly, painting with the purest intentions. Arturo can recall that he has loved painting ever since he was a little kid. He says that drawing has been a sort of therapy for as long as he can remember. "I wasn't born an artist, life made me an artist." He also mentioned that even as a child he has always felt like he didn't belong which is why he said that "the canvas are my children. I can have a dialogue with them." He described it to me as always feeling like an outsider and that art was his outlet. He was telling me that since a young age we are told what to do and it's learning to step away from that which is hard, but that is exactly what he did.
Arturo studied at the University of Texas at El Paso, where he switched major several times until he found something he was happy with. "No one sees art as something serious. When I was in high school, it was decided that I was good at math. My dad told me to be an engineer and I was honestly good at it. I even began studying electric engineering at UTEP." Arturo added that even at that point in his life he felt alone and when it came to group work, he would always end up alone as well. He didn't fit in with any of his classmates or their discussions so he began to ditch some of his classes. He would go sit-in for some art classes that were painting live.
An art professor approached him one day and asked why he wasn't in any art classes. In an instant, Arturo decided to change his life path. "That is when I decided to change my major to graphic design. My dad got pissed, but my mom was cool with it. I was quick to notice that there were a lot of restrictions in the graphic design major and I became unhappy with it as well. That is when I knew that art chose me. I changed my major once again and this time to painting." That was when Arturo began his now profound journey into art and would be the start into his path towards creating his Happy Creatures.
Arturo then began talking about how he has always admired Jean-Michel Basquiat. He looked up at the fact that Basquiat was already known at the age of 22, which is every artists dream: to gain recognition from such an early stage. "His style is very free." He added, "children's art is free and pure. Children paint what they want, the way they want. With no background on technique and what materials to use. Picasso thought the same about children. I liked that concept and I love simplicity, which is why I began doing characters (referring to his Happy Creatures)". He wanted to go against the usual aesthetics. When Arturo started Happy Creatures, it was clear that the name was ironic. There was mostly pain being portrayed smiling creatures at the center of that "chaos". There is a re-ocurring black figure/mask he paints like in the picture below, which he says is based on the Aztecs. "It's a figure that's described as being able to transform and even consume children. The name Happy Creatures was very ironic and now it's going back there again." He mentions it's going back there again because for about a year they have actually been the Happy Creatures.
As one can see with the Frida and Alien Happy Creatures, the name is no longer an ironic They are actually happy and colorful! A complete opposite! "Color came out. I went back to using primary colors and making them very nice looking. I wanted to make something that my nieces would be proud of. However, I recently came back to the masks and "mutilated" figures which are more representative of my chaotic relationships with women and life. Also, I have been experimenting with lots of abstract. That is something hard for me. I even began to paint the face of my first girlfriend again (in slideshow below). I began talking to her again. She is also very talented at art and she inspires me. It's hard for someone to inspire me. I hope that people can see my work for what it is."
A big thank you to Arturo for not only sharing his art, but his thoughts as well! Go follow his art on Instagram: hapycreature
Facebook: arturo: artist happy creatures