Interviewed by Beatrix Adorna
Steph Alvarez: I started painting when I was already working and taking up a post-baccalaureate internship for my board exam. I just graduated from college with a degree that I half-heartedly liked (I’ve always wanted to take up Fine Arts), so when I was already a free graduate, I took advantage of the situation and practiced my art. At that time, I was following Silvia Pelissero’s (agnes-cecile) and Valerie Chua’s works, and got inspired by their painting styles that both encouraged me to start painting, too. As a child, I never had any formal art education and was only interested in drawing, so that was the first time that I really immersed myself in painting. As for my style, I would probably describe it as whimsical.
SA: Funny though, it was never really intentional. My works are always inspired either by personal experiences, or themes I strongly identify with. Although, ever since as a child, I’ve been strongly drawn to sketching female faces more than male faces. I like how soft yet expressive female faces can be, and I like playing with those strengths and translating them in my works. Although, recently, I am trying to get out of my comfort zone and have started painting male faces, but not frequently
Art+: Do you paint portraits based on real women?
SA: Yes, some of the portraits are based on real women (as some requested that I paint them), while some, although based on real women, too, do not look so much as them as I intentionally make their faces look different. I tend to stylize my portraits a lot.
Art+: How do you come up with a concept or an idea?
SA: My paintings are usually based on real stories, mostly coming from personal experiences. In a recent work, composed of 2 series, I drew inspiration from my struggle with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and chronicled (through the paintings) what it is like to be living with it. I also draw inspiration from music and from the books I read, as I am both an audiophile and a bookworm. I like taking a single line from a song and translate it into an illustration or a painting.
Art+: What is your art-making process?
SA: Often times, before starting, I would sketch first how I generally would like the painting to look like. I determine what pose the subject should have, what other elements I should use in relation to the concept, the colors I will be using etc. Then, since I normally don’t have people at hand to model for me, I browse the internet for reference photos. Normally, I do not copy the face from the reference photo directly. As much as possible, I make it different from the photo (unless it is a portrait commission). When I am happy with my model and with all the other details, I start with the actual painting. I always paint with the music on—I cannot paint when I am not listening to something!
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Commission finally done and ready for turnover! Schmincke, Sennelier and Holbein paints on Fabriano Artistico paper. The concept was inspired by @pedrotapa ‘s portrait works (I am such a fan!). 💕❤ And again, may I just say how I love Schmincke’s Indian Red pigment?? I used a lot in this painting and I love how it mixes beautifully with any color I use. Schmincke paints available at @artnebulaph. 🎨 I accept portrait & illustration commissions. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or PM me here. 🌹 We still have slots for my Jan 28 class! We will be using Daniel Smith paints and an Escoda brush. Message me for more details. 🎨 #artph #stephalvarezart #portrait #commission #workshopph #watercolor #watercoloristsph #guhitpinas #gpwatercolorists #instaart #artdaily #schmincke #painting #sennelier #holbein #fabriano #south #southartists
Art+: What kind of music do you usually listen to?
SA: I listen to almost all types of music, but I am mostly drawn to indie and alternative rock music. However, lately, I’ve discovered this wonderful section over at Spotify that has collections of audiobooks and audio recordings of poems, anecdotes and short stories. I’ve been listening to recordings by Hitchcock and works by M.R. James. It is not music—yes—but it still is a great source of inspiration! I’ve been so used to listening to something while working. It keeps me going and for some reason, makes my mind active while I work. It keeps the creative block at bay. You can easily draw inspiration from the stories or music you’re listening to.
Art+: Aside from the mediums you currently use (watercolor, acrylic, pen), are there other mediums that you want to try someday?
SA: I would love to try oil painting! I have yet to learn how to paint with it, though. I think it would also be cool to collaborate with a sculptor. That is one of my dream projects. And although it is not directly related to painting, I would also like to learn more about art installation.
Art+: What are your upcoming projects or exhibits?
SA: I am currently collaborating with a beverage company for a project that will launch soon. Currently, I am also conducting workshop classes on watercolor portrait painting, and one of which is the recently concluded Art Weekend @ Commercenter in Filinvest, Alabang in Muntinlupa.
See more of Steph Alvarez’s works at http://stephalvarez.portfoliobox.net. You can also visit her Facebook at www.facebook.com/StephAlvarezArt or her Instagram account @stephalvarez.art.