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3 Creative Questions to Mateus Costa

3 Creative Questions to Mateus Costa

Born in Portugal, visual artist Mateus Costa has long been part of the Philadelphia art community, USA. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Art from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, for which he also spent some time in Rome, Italy.

Mateus has won several awards, like the Artist's choice Award, 'Best in' show and Legislative award at the Berlin Plein Air Festival 2017 (honorable mention in 2018) and first place at the Philadelphia Sketch Club Works on Paper Juried Exhibition 2017. Mateus teaches at the Manayunk Roxborough Art Center, has participated in several group- and solo exhibitions in museums, galleries and art centers and his art is part of numerous private collections around the world.

Mateus paints from observation. He looks for color, shape, composition, among other things, and tries to resemble the likeness as close as possible, while adding his own personal expression.

What do you find the most difficult aspect of Portraiture painting/drawing and how do you overcome it?

Portraiture to me is truly the hardest and most demanding drawing / painting an artist can do. Breaking the facial features down on a piece of canvas or paper, requires that the shapes that create the topography of the individual be identified as best as possible and then duplicated as close as possible. After I get a good sense of the size, I will be drawing the subject and where on the paper I will like to place the subject, I like to start around the nose and mouth and then work in finding my way around the subject using the process of trying to identify the shapes I think I am seeing with what I have down on my paper. I do a lot of squinting to try to eliminate details that can buggle me down.

As I have gotten older and my eyes are not working as well as they used to, I am finding that in a way I am seeing the bigger and more important shapes and masses more clearly. Perhaps it is the years of trying to look for these shapes or the fact I can't see the details as much anymore. I don't know, but my drawing is getting closer to the subject and that is my goal. I know that not every good drawing or painting must carry the sitter's likeness, but to me it should, or I will be very disappointed with the result.

Do you prefer indoor painting or plein air painting and why?

That is hard to say. Truly I like both. The major difference is that in the studio, you can control the light and length of your study: in plein air, the light is never constant. It is always fleeting and you truly have very little time to work. 

In some of the more ‘diffused’ days, the light outside can be more stable and you can get more time but generally speaking you have a 2-hour window. Some of my outside work takes me more time than that; unfortunately, I am not as fast as I would like to be. In those cases, I try to come back to the same spot at the same time and pray conditions are similar although they usually are not. I may also finish something later in the studio that I started outside. Sometimes I take things out other times I add details. Lately I have also added the use of glazes in some areas if I think it would improve the painting.   

In indoor painting / drawing, the constant same light, allows for you to come back at any point and work an area or rework it if you are unhappy. But with all that being said, I do enjoy just packing my French easel and going somewhere and just paint.  I used to look for the more secluded places and be away from people, because I am usually unhappy with my results, but as I have gotten older and more at ease with being around people, I don't mind it but I do have trouble keeping up with what I am doing and carrying a conversation. But, then again, I can't chew gum and sit at the same time!

What is your best tip for an emerging artist?

Although I believe I am mostly self-taught, I think if you have the opportunity and the funds to do it, is to find someone whose work you truly like, and try to learn from them. Much like the old days of master and apprentice.

If you end up just going to art school for the degree, you may find it disappointing. I wanted to be a representational painter: I like my pictures to be about the people I know and where I am, what I eat, my life. However, I went to art school during the height of the abstract expressionism and was taught by people who could not see the point of what I was doing or what I was interested in. Doing that will give you the degree you may be looking for, but you may end up spending the rest of your life learning how to paint or draw the way YOU want to.

For more information, contact Mateus Costa at mateuscosta@comcast.net

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