By Iman Sadri
January 6, 2016
What makes art exceptional ? Some say it’s the emotion it stirs out of its audience. Others say it’s how long the art stays in one’s memory. Some argue its the realism. The art of Fabian Perez is profoundly exceptional. It can illicit deep emotions. It’s memorable. Its seduces its viewer into the scene of a his paintings. Whether it’s an elegant woman in a black evening dress sitting at a bar. Or a man dressed in a black suit holding a cigarette. The art of Fabian Perez is experiencing the moment. It’s about capturing the zest for life. It’s about about freezing the fleeting moment of a celebratory joy in the frame. It’s is about chiseled faces in the moonlight. It’s about the seduction in the eyes of his figures. Perez, who hails from Campana, Argentina, is the definitive artist of his generation.
In past centuries the greatest artists of their day would be commissioned by the heads of state and the aristocracy. Artists such as Reubens would be commissioned to paint kings and queens in the royal court. In this modern digital age today’s artistocracy commissions Fabian Perez to capture their images.
Fabian Perez has been commissioned to paint some of the most important and influential people in the world. Including Pope Francis, and the President of Argentina, example. When the Vatican can ask any painter to draw the Pope who do they choose ? One who’s art portrays a realism that not only captures an image as vividly as would a photo, but to portray the essence of the soul of the figure.
Perez’s style of art is called Neo-Emotionalism. In addition to highly valuable paintings who’s originals fetch in the six figures, Perez also sculpts.
It has been said the purpose of life is to find one’s gift and the meaning of life is to share that gift with the world. Fabian Perez’s gift is his art. What he shares with the world is not just his artwork. But the transfer of emotion in his artwork.
To capture greater insight into this gift and into the mind of one of the most prolific artists of his generation, I sat down with Fabian Perez for a Q+A at Le Petit Four in Hollywood recently.
IMAN SADRI: As such a prolific artist with the skill to draw anything, what inspires you to draw the figures that you draw?
FABIAN PEREZ: When you draw figures you can draw anything. With figures, they are the most difficult thing to paint. When drawing a building, for example, you can cheat. But when drawing a figure, you can’t cheat. It’s the greatest challenge, to be able to draw real life figures.
IS: So it’s the challenge of the figures for you ?
FABIAN PEREZ: Yes, it is most challenging to draw figures and there is nothing to explain further to the audience, it’s all there. Before I would draw abstract images, and you would have to explain what the art meant. With figures you don’t.
IS: With abstract there is too much for the audience to figure out….?
FABIAN PEREZ : Yes, that’s why for me as an artist, figures embody the moment. We don’t have a story to tell, or like a song writer, have a song in the figure of a story. We just have the moment to show. And that’s why I like painting figures.
IS: How do you know when you are done with a painting ?
FABIAN PEREZ: It’s instinct. You know, when you get that feeling once you’ve said everything you’ve wanted to say in the piece. It’s not about the detail. It’s about the whole. You know you’re finished when you are able to communicate the message of the moment to the audience.
IS: How long does it take you to draw a painting ?
FABIAN PEREZ: I paint pretty fast. I can draw a painting of 30-40 inches in 15-20 hours. In about week.
IS: Do you finish one painting then move on to the next ?
FABIAN PEREZ: What I do is I will start a painting and work on it, then relax a bit, then start a new painting. And then come back to the first one I started. I end up finishing three or four paintings at the same time.
IS: For specific themes, such as tango, do you paint multiple tango paintings before moving on to another category ?
FABIAN PEREZ: Yeah sometimes I do that. Sometimes I let it go. Almost like a boxer in a ring. Sometimes you don’t to fight with a painting, you just want to let it go. And then the moment brings you back to it.
IS: Do you draw off of photos ? For example with the tango sequences ? Or off of live pose or both ?
FABIAN PEREZ: With the tango, it could be off of a photo yes. But with figures in general, I will have an idea in my mind, I start sketching it. And I call my friend, they come and pose for me. The I take their photo. And I can draw off of the photo.
IS: Would you agree that you show your figures who epitome a captivating beauty?
FABIAN PEREZ: I am trying to show a beautiful world. Normally people, they see the disasters in the world. I know the world is dark and I know there are people killing each other. But there is also another world. And this is real also. I don’t want to be complaining about the world. I like to show people that there is this world too. Of beauty.
IS: Is there one artist in the history of art that is most influential to your work?
FABIAN PEREZ: It’s really a mix of many. There is not one master that has influenced me the most. But I like artists like Rembrandt ….Caravaggio. But I don’t see my work identifying with any of them. I don’t know if I see resemblance to anybody. I don’t see it.
IS: If you could go back in time and hang out with any artist from the past who would you want to meet ?
FABIAN PEREZ: Picasso, absolutely.
IS: Well someone like a Picasso who had his blue period then his cubism, then his lithography…do you plan on having different phases or periods for your art as well ?
FABIAN PEREZ: I don’t know if I am going to change in the future. Just, really go with the flow. So not really. I am pretty open with life situations. You never really know. They started asking me about the Rio Olympics so I am probably going to paint something for Rio. But that’s a new direction for me, that I didn’t think I’d take. It’s a new direction for me, it’s pretty exciting.
IS: Do you have a checklist of different types of figures in different scenes left for you to paint ?
FABIAN PEREZ: Yeah, I have some figures in mind that I still want to draw. But I may get inspired by a new figure that could take me to a different direction. Whatever inspires me at that moment…
IS: What age did you start painting ?
FABIAN PEREZ: Around 6 or 7.
IS: If you could paint any Hollywood celebrities who would you paint ?
FP: I would paint Eva Mendes. Jennifer Lopez. And Kate Moss. Now that she’s older.
IS: What is the woman thinking in this painting (pointing to a painting of Tess II; a brunette woman sitting at a bar) ? … Or do you leave it to the audience to decide ?
FABIAN PEREZ: I leave that to the audience because I don’t know, actually. I try to put the figures in an easy situation. They’re confident. They forget there is a camera. I try to make them comfortable. The most important thing to me is the soul. I try to get the essence of the soul. For me it’s in the face.
IS: Can you elaborate on the lighting. What’s the inspiration with the kind of lighting you use ?
FABIAN PEREZ: It’s about the contrast. This creates the drama in the painting. You know life without drama is not that interesting. Even if you don’t like drama. Because get into the painting because people live the drama. Creating the contrast with lighting with the figures is what creates the drama. It’s that mystery and tension.
IS: So the mood from lighting inspires drama ?
FABIAN PEREZ: Exactly…
IS: Are brunettes your favorite to draw ?
FABIAN PEREZ: It’s a question of pallete. A brunette in the dark doesn’t have any color. I create more contrast, I create more tension, and drama, when I do brunettes.
IS: Is it faster drawing the same familiar figure the second time around ?
FABIAN PEREZ: You spend less time. What you try to do is study the forms and the figures and the movement, and the pallate. So when you do one, the next one is going to be easier. The more you do a painting or a series of paintings, it’s going to be faster.
IS: What do you use to draw ? Oil on canvas ?
FABIAN PEREZ: I use acrylic. Not oil on canvas.
IS: What’s the difference between oil and acrylic ?
FABIAN PEREZ: It’s not much difference in what you see, it’s more about the difference in execution. The oil you play back and forth, the acrylic dries quickly. So you have to paint quick, with the acrylic. Because it’s going to dry very fast. If you want to paint wet, oil is better. For a dry setting, acrylic is preferred.
IS: What are the critical steps in a painting ?
FABIAN PEREZ : First I prepare the canvas. From zero to ten colors I prefer canvas No. 5. I draw a sketch. I don’t like to do a drawing in it’s entirity. I like to lose the drawing. What I do is I go back and forth. I add the mid-tones. Then the black. I like to touch everthing at the same time, to keep it unified. So the leg wouldn’t look different than the face. It makes everything more familiar. The arm doesn’t belong to the face, etc.
IS: Is this male figure (Points to a male figure sitting at a bar paitning name) off of someone in real life ?
FABIAN PEREZ: Actually, yes. Now he is a politician, but before he was an actor. And he’s from Argentina. When I was younger he was really famous. He’s a really good looking guy. He was in soap operas and movies. Once I met him here. He came to one of my shows. We became in touch. I asked him to pose for me. He really played the character. He is natural like that. He is very masculine, a cool guy.
IS: Do you take photos of the models or only paint figures in live pose ?
FABIAN PEREZ: I do take photos. When someone is traveling, and they can’t come to the studio. I know with the photos, I can paint them at anytime. I try to have the background be as close as it can to what I am painting … At the beginning I was painting off of memory. It wasn’t as easy. When I take the photo it’s almost all there.
IS: Is there is a significance of the profile view ? For the viewer to be from the side ?
FABIAN PEREZ : I like them to be natural. And this pose is about it. I don’t like the tension. It’s natural life.
IS: Do have a favorite sculptor ?
FABIAN PEREZ : Richard McDonald. He is my favorite. He does really good figures. Really good.
IS: How long do you take to make each of your sculptures ?
FABIAN PEREZ : About two months. But I am painting also simultaneously. When I paint or sculpt I am looking for the same things. The essence of the movement. The mystery. A painting is flat, for example and a sculpture is 3-D. With the sculptures you have to make something that tells the whole story without a background. But you have 360. Everywhere has to be perfect.
IS: Can you elaborate on the paintings that portray you in the future ?
FABIAN PEREZ : I tell people that it’s really how I see myself today. I’ve always seen myself as older than other people. Than of my age, for instance. I feel older than people my age. When I was younger, about 15, older guys would come to me to talk about things. That’s how people saw me. When you feel older it’s because you’ve been there.
IS: Do you have a favorite painting or top two paintings?
FABIAN PEREZ : One is called Title 2. The other one is for Waiting for the Romance to Come Back.
IS: Why these two paintings in particular ?
FABIAN PEREZ : I think because they’re the hardest for the people to understand. And I think they are the most impactful.
IS: Tell me about you and the Pope.
FABIAN PEREZ : I gave that piece I drew of him to him at the Vatican. They invited me there, to the Vatican.
IS: How did you meet the Pope ?
FABIAN PEREZ : I have a few contacts and they sent me there. To the Vatican.
IS: What other world figure would you like to paint ?
FABIAN PEREZ : The Dalai Lama in person. The guy is amazing. He is so humble and also a genius. Like the Pope. Not just because I am Catholic that I say the Pope. They are both interesting … Jesus Christ also. I mean you can have many good conversations with him.
IS: Can you elaborate on the whole premise of inspiration ?
FABIAN PEREZ : To me the most rewarding thing is feedback. From young artists, who are in school and they admire your work. I tell them they need to believe in what they do. The secret is: focus. You need to have a target. You need to be disciplined. You need to work everyday. The more you practice, you’re going to get more closer to it. Those young people can get inspired in your art.
IS: Can you elaborate on the Geisha’s ?
FABIAN PEREZ : I paint these courtesans from different cultures. That is my goal. To paint courtesans from around the world. You see the difference between them and street prostitutes. They are classy. I won’t draw a prostitute in the corner, someone who says, “Hey Baby on the street.” To be a courtesan you have to be classy and to be prepared. At that high a level, especially. That’s what I try to show. They are great women. Not that I am trying to push more prostitution. I like to showcase these types of people. I like everyone to be this classy. This important, that is what I try to promote with them.
IS: Is there a specific pose that you prefer that captures your moments the best ?
FABIAN PEREZ : You gotta see. It depends on what he or she gives me. Sometimes I start with an idea and it ends up being something totally different. Sometimes I have something in my mind. (If it’s a male figure) and you have a goal. But the figure may not be comfortable in that position. I start studying him to see when he or she is most comfortable. So more than me picking it I just observe what he can give me with his soul. He can capture the essence. So I just go with whatever he gives me. I start studying them to see when he is most himself. I tell him to hold the cigarette a certain way. I just go with whatever he gives me. I start studying him when he is most himself. Sometimes I may want him to hold a cigarrette a certain way and he may become very uncomfortable. I observe what he can give me with his soul. I just go with whatever he gives me. Whenever I can see the essence, or the soul coming through.
IS: Is there a period in time in history you would like to go back to ?
FABIAN PEREZ : My favorite time would be to go back to the Impressionist Period. To hang out with those painters.
IS: What inspires the 1940’s noir look ?
FABIAN PEREZ : From my father who and his stories of that period. That’s the inspiration.
IS: It appears on social media, that you are very big in Europe as well. How often do you go to Europe?
FABIAN PEREZ : About four or five times a year.
IS: What’s your broad schedule like like in general ?
FABIAN PEREZ : When I am in LA and in the studio I am always painting. I take a break when I am on tour. When I am going to city to city to different galleries I don’t paint.
IS: What are you working on now ?
FABIAN PEREZ : Now, I am working on the Argentinian President. Also working on a painting of Carlos Tevez. And Neymar.
IS: Being commissioned by high profile people to paint them. Would you say that’s a pinnacle ? And Tevez ….
FABIAN PEREZ: Carlos Tevez’s wife arranged something for me to paint him …. Also the President of Argentina. I give it to them personally. That’s a good thing that I do, for fun.
IS: That’s wonderful. Do you paint Tevez off of a photo or does he pose live ?
FABIAN PEREZ : I can do both. I can go there and take the photos or they can send me the photo with the lighting that I need and I can work on it.
IS: Are there colors that you use the most frequently to paint ?
FABIAN PEREZ : Yes, a pallate of mine has to have certain colors. It’s almost mandatory. There has to be black. Normally painters, when you see guys like Caravaggio, painters like that, they never use black. Almost, nobody uses black. So I use black. To create even more contrast. And that’s what creates my style. To create the drama. It’s easy for people to say, ” I’ve seen that painting before. ” So even if someone who is not into paintings could say, ” I don’t know who that painter is but I’ve seen that painting before.” So colors I use are black, white and yellow ochre.
IS: Do you have a set number of gallery exhibitions that you would like to have annually ?
FABIAN PEREZ : Normally what I do is prepare the shows in advance. In England I do about 32 shows a year. I do tours. I do about 80 galleries in England. I do cruises. Like the Queen Mary, Fort Lauderdale. They have cruise galleries.
IS: How many open projects do you have now ?
FABIAN PEREZ : I have a show in Hawaii in ten days. So I am working on that. New paintings for them.
IS: So even though have paintings you still work on new ones for the galleries ?
FABIAN PEREZ : Exactly, exactly. New paintings. I try to make it fresh all the time. I don’t want clients to go there and see the same paintings over and over again.
IS: At each gallery show what percentage are originals compared to prints ?
FABIAN PEREZ : The originals are less. About ten percent, probably. I can have a two year wait list for my work paintings. So whatever I do is already sold. Galleries. Private collectors. That’s why I can’t provide galleries with many paintings unless they bought them a long time before. So what I do is I provide five to ten pieces, that are originals. Inks, drawings. Books.
IS: Do you leave it up the galleries to make copies of your work ?
FABIAN PEREZ : No, I do it myself. I use three to four different printers. You gotta move when something new comes out. I try to innovate all the time.
IS: How is your schedule when traveling to the galleries in England, for example ?
FABIAN PEREZ : I go for two weeks. And I do about 16 galleries. Sometimes, two a day, in two different cities. Sometimes, on Saturdays I do one gallery from 11 am -1 pm. I then fly to a different city and do a second gallery from 3pm-5pm. And I fly to a different city and do one 7pm – 9pm. They have my work when I get there. I go to sign paintings and do a meet and greet. And take pictures.
IS: Impressive … Do you have a manager ?
FABIAN PEREZ : Not really. I learn by doing it. I’ll do something, and learn from it. After 15 years in the business, doing well and everything, I am still learning things. I’ll say something like, “It would be better if this gallery did something different.” I sell everything before I go anywhere. So I am not chasing the money. If somebody wants something, they already pay for it and they’re going to have it. Less headaches. But I am in a good position, that’s why I can do that. At the beginning of course, I was consigning things and chasing it. Chasing my paintings. And chasing this and that. I tell people this is what I do. If you want that it, you pay me for that. You get it and you go. I think that’s fair.
IS: The galleries that you attend have already purchased your paintings ?
FABIAN PEREZ : Once they sell my painting it’s all for them. It’s good. It’s an incentive for them to keep buying from me. So that’s my reasoning to participate. I feel like we are partners at the galleries.
IS: Do the galleries do their own prints or buy only from you directly ?
FABIAN PEREZ : Only from me. What they’re getting from is the print, the number and the signature. It has the certificate of authenticity. My signature. If they don’t have key elements it’s not something that should be selling at a gallery.
IS: Is there any connection with your art and flamenco music, specifically. There are many Youtube clips with your paintings and Flamenco music?
FABIAN PEREZ : With the flamenco, I played a little bit of the music. My friends would come over and we would play. We play as a group. With people dancing. There are clips on Youtube with the flamenco music. There is a clip of the flamenco music of Piazzolla. I don’t know how many millions of people have seen that.
IS: Do you have a favorite sculpture that you have created ?
FABIAN PEREZ : The one that I like the most is the tango piece. I like this one the most because it was two people. It was more sophisticated. The composition worked very well. I like the expressions. You have all the elements.
IS: Did you go to formal art school ?
FABIAN PEREZ : No, I did not. I did some courses, three months here. Three months there. I never went formally.
IS: You call your art Neo-Emotionalism. Are there other neo-emotionalistic painters ? Can you elaborate on this artform ?
FABIAN PEREZ : I created that. There was Emotionalism. With Neo-Emotionalism you don’t want to be stuck in something. You can break the rules and be free. The only rules that exist, you need to show your skills. You have to show what you can do that nobody else can do. It’s your emotion. That’s what you are looking for. We’re not inventors, we’re painters. With new-emotionalism did you put your soul in it ? Were you into in 100% ? Once you put your soul into it, and you’re 100% into it, and you don’t care if the piece is going to be good or not, but you’re just into it, working. That’s neo-emotionalism. If someone wants to paint a woman, for example. And capture her in her moment in life. That’s neo-emotionalism. Even if you paint a landscape. Many things could fit.
IS: Is there any significance with rain in your paintings ?
FABIAN PEREZ : I think especially living in California, I miss it so much. Where I am coming from it rains twice a week. Big storms. Really noisy. I love when it’s raining. How people shelter themselves and find umbrellas, and hide themselves, I think it’s very romantic. And the reflections coming from the streets, I think it’s fascinating.
IS: I know you are an exceptional drawer of figures, would you draw animals also ?
FABIAN PEREZ : I did a few because there were commissions, but not because I love to paint animals. The most interesting thing to me in life, more than nature is people. We are lot more than what we think we are. I think we are beyond our expectations. But we don’t know how to handle it yet. I think our brain is amazing. We don’t know how to use it yet. We use just a little part of it. When you learn how to use the hole thing you become a God. It’s just a matter of time.
IS: That’s why art is great. You get to experience one’s core genius. People’s talents can be hidden. Not with artists though, it’s out for the world.
FABIAN PEREZ : And it’s not always there fault. When we’re born we have all of the elements that we need. And we keep it for our whole life. The thing is, your environment, your thoughts, criticisms, people around you, your culture, the world…. These all start covering up that talent. They need to get the talents out again. When one is a kid the world is their’s. One is happy. That’s the most important thing, to be happy. When I paint it’s because I want to be happy.
IS: How did you start painting ? How did you know you had this artistic talent ?
FABIAN PEREZ : I started seeing my mother. She was a schoolteacher. She was a singer. She was doing her own clothes. She was very talented. Multitalented. I see her doing a lot of ink drawings. And ink caligraphy. Like gothic caligraphy. And Chinese ink. When my sister was in school, she was doing it with her. When I saw that, it’s the first time that I saw people sketching and doing paintings. Copying something and make it into a painting. That’s where I experienced it first.
IS: You started doing it and you knew you were talented at it ?
FABIAN PEREZ : Well, I never had a reference point. As a kid in my house, I never saw other kids doing it. But everybody was telling me, Oh look at him. How good he is and everything. So I kept doing it. And I really liked myself in that way. I am an introvert. Drawing, it’s a really good thing for introverted people. I am not a singer that goes and shows myself singing and dancing. I am shy. When you paint you’re into your own shell. I think that’s why I developed my talents. Because it was exactly for me.
IS: Do you hang out with other artists and painters ?
FABIAN PEREZ : Not really. More with musicians. I have a lot of friends who are painters, we call each other, we see each other occasionally. But as far as the buddies it’s more of the musicians.
IS: Can you elaborate on the interior decor in your paintings and the inspiration behind them ?
FABIAN PEREZ : I like the 1950’s. Art – Deco. In my art, nothing is really voluminous or really rich. I like to paint the middle class. Those people who when they go to put on a tie it’s probably the only tie they have. They really had value on things. When you have so many things you lose the value of things. I paint the people who have these values.
IS: When I see these figures though, I thought they are of an aristocratic class. They’re so good looking on top of it.
FABIAN PEREZ : Well the bars normally have a piece of wood which is like a small city bar. It’s not like New York in the 50’s. Pouring champagne. It’s more low key.
IS: They have such an elegance to them though.
FABIAN PEREZ : It was like that though. When you saw people in my own town, with 100,000 people living there. Middle class people. They were dressing so well. And dressing up so well. That today, you would think that it would be very glamorous. But it was actually wasn’t. For people of that age it wasn’t glamorous to be that way. They were that way naturally. Today we forget about that. About everything. How we’re eating. Forget about how to walk. We don’t take care bout each other like that any longer.
IS: I know when I was in New York it had some elements of that, and it’s so international.
FABIAN PEREZ: Yes … more sophisticated. But also the weather means a lot. The weather doesn’t give the opportunity to dress up. Because you don’t need it. You just go with short pants. Flip fops. Whatever. In New York you have to dress.
IS: What will comprise of your future paintings ?
FABIAN PEREZ: I don’t have a clue. I know I am going to change. Even if I am going to paint whatever I feel. I am just waiting for that moment. I have to be happy. If I am not happy, I can’t paint to make people happy. That’s my philosophy.
The Meaning of Fabian’s Perez’s Art
As you walk into the Village Gallery, it strikes you with its realism. A painting by Argentinian artist Fabian Perez sits center stage on the wall across from the entrance.
The painting in the center wall of the gallery is entitled “Anna at the Bar”. She has shiny, straight black hair and is wearing a black evening gown. She is applying lipstick while using her makeup mirror to glance back at her reflection. Her back is exposed as the reflecting light shines off of her shoulders. Who is she waiting for at the bar ? Perhaps she is waiting for her date to return? Perhaps she is waiting to meet someone new.
Fabian Perez’ art in many ways is about seduction. The subject is almost always seen from a profile view. They have long torsos, chiseled faces and accentuated curves. The art of Perez makes you want to witness what happens next. Who does the woman end up meeting ? Where do they go from the bar ? What will her companion drink?
There is a verisimilitude in his art that makes you want to watch the rest of the scene unfold. For now, however, we are satisfied to just watch Fabian Perez’ career unfold.
Iman Sadri blogs for Persian Media Outlets and can be reached at ThePersianObserver@Gmail.com