Lou Pimentel {E} Artist Feature

Interview by Christina Diaz

Medium: Oil and Watercolor

Meet fine artist Lou Pimentel. A native of the Dominican Republic, he spent some time in Miami growing up, and now currently resides in Brooklyn, New York. When Lou was around 4, his dad taught him how to draw fish, and soon after Lou became obsessed. “I would draw those suckers everywhere, but it was my move to NY that awoken the creative beast. NY in 1984 was magical, all the walls were covered in graffiti. All those bright colors and funky characters were super inspiring. I would sit at my window and just copy everything I saw, and from there my style slowly emerged.” Some time passed and when Lou was in the 1st grade he won a school wide competition with his portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The school hung his drawing at a local McDonald’s. His family went to have dinner at the table where his piece was displayed, Lou says, “I remember being extremely proud that day.”

Sadly, as he got older art became taboo in their household. In his father’s eyes being an artist was not a lucrative career. He always hounded Lou to read more, and bury himself in his studies. Lou still dabbled with art when no one was around, but he admits, “I was not as inspired and motivated as I had been.” Fast forward a couple decades or so, in his late 20’s, Lou had seen some contemporary art that really connected with him so in 2007 he enrolled in the School of Visual Arts, as an Illustration major.

Now age 37, Lou is a full time artist and stay-at-home daddy. He describes his artwork as: “the love child of traditional painting, saturday morning cartoons, graffiti and pop culture.”
Through the wonder that is social media, {E} was lucky enough to stumble upon Lou’s superb work on Instagram (@LouPimentel ) and now here we are. Lou’s work is fun, vibrant and heartfelt. He paints what he loves and admires and he paints it well. His creative drive is admirable and inspiring.

{E}: Are you self-taught or did you attend a trade school?
LP: I was self taught for most of my life. I didn’t apply to art school till much later in life.

{E}: What would you say sets you apart from others in the industry? Your style? Technique?
LP: I think what makes me different from many of my contemporaries, is that I don’t have a niche. My subject matters tend to be very broad because I have many interests. I don’t just focus on one particular muse.
I tend to paint things that mean something to me, or that has some sort of nostalgic value. I tend to work in two mediums; oils and watercolors, and my work looks very different depending on which I use. With my oils, I am very controlled and work in a very traditional style. I start with a drawing and then lay down an earth toned underpainting, and slowly build my layers; it’s very methodical. With watercolors I have to do a lot more planning, since mistakes are not easy to correct and often lead to having to start a piece from scratch. BUT, even with the risk of ruining a piece I employ a pretty messy and spontaneous process. I create puddles of paint, and slowly bring my subject to life. My layering process is similar to my oil painting, with my use of transparent paints, but less rigid. My watercolors have a lot more grit and energy, and feels more connected to the old New York I miss and loved. The main message in my work is that I find beauty in things many people don’t look at twice (with the exception of my new figurative works, my models are beautiful); be it a pair of sneakers, a fish head or a vintage fishing lure. I see things differently.

{E}: Even though you don’t have any tattoos (yet) how has the tattoo culture inspired your artwork?
LP: The tattoo culture has definitely inspired me, I remember being obsessed with Flash magazine during my teen years. I have a huge respect for tattoo artists, they are like artistic doctors; you HAVE to get the job done right the 1st time around. The idea of not being able to erase a blunder scares me to death LOL. Creative folks can learn a lot from a great tattoo; line weight, focal point, contrast, and color.

{E}: What inspires you?
LP: I find inspiration in many things, street art, fashion, sculptures, classical paintings, and my kids.

{E}: While growing up, what cartoons, stories, movies did you watch that had an artistic impact on you?
LP: Oh man, being an 80’s kid, I think we had the BEST cartoons EVER; Transformers, Voltron, Thundercats, G.I. Joe, Mask, Robotech, Droids… and the list goes on. These cartoons were full interesting visual effects, they delivered a strong graphic punch, and I try to do the same with my work. Again, it goes back to lines, colors, contrast, focal point, and NOSTALGIA (I miss being a kid).

{E}: Where do you get ideas for your artwork?
LP: Ideas come from all over the place. Sometimes a show title or theme will spark an idea, or at times something crawls into your head when you least expect it. I tend to write stuff down so I don’t forget it. That comes in handy when you are having artist block. I just flip throw old sketch books for these hidden gems to get out of a rut.

{E}: Whom are some of your favorite artists and why?
LP: This is a tough one; I could go on for days, but I will do a top 5:
1) Martin Wittfooth, I enjoy his narratives and use of flora and fauna. Also, he is technically an amazing painter.
2) Jeremy Geddes, because his work is BAD ASS, another technically strong painter.
3) Peter Fiore, he has an amazing grasp on colors; I learned a ton from him at SVA.
4) Marvin Mattelson, another amazing SVA professor. His portraits are so lifelike, and his methods are extremely precise; he measures everything in order to get consistent results.
5) Bill Watterson, because who doesn’t love Calvin and Hobbes?

{E} What do you enjoy most about this profession? Least?
LP: Being an artist has many rewards, but what I enjoy most are the relationships you build with fellow artists, and fans. I think it’s kind of cool that no matter where I am on this planet, I could find a friend with a couch for me to crash on. What I least enjoy, is having to explain my work. I am not very good with the rhetoric, I rather focus on making the work, than coming up with clever things to say about it.

{E}: If we walked into your home or studio, whose art would we find on your walls?
LP: You would find work by Blaine Fontana, Julie West, Allison Sommers, Kathie Olivas, Guy McKinley, Peter Fiore, Cameron Tiede, Jenna Colby, Jeff Soto and will soon be adding a Luke Chueh to the collection.

{E}: What are your favorite mediums and why? 

LP: I love oils and watercolors. Oils, I love for their vibrancy, creaminess, and long work time. BUT, when I work with oils I am so anal. I have to have perfect blends and everything needs to be so precise. Watercolors, on the other hand, grant me more freedoms. I can cut close and make a mess and not worry so much about being so tight. It’s fun to slowly have something emerge from the chaos. Also, the medium is a little unpredictable, so it feels more like a collaboration, since you don’t always know what the paint is going to do. I love embracing my inner Bob Ross, and going with the flow.

{E}: What are some of your favorite art tools and why?
LP: My most important tool is my Milwaukee digital heat gun. I use that sucker for everything, from drying dying to curing sculpey on my sculptures. My brushes are also very dear to me, even the bear up one; every brush has a purpose.

{E}: Discuss the process you go through to create a piece. 
LP: My process is pretty simple. I don’t normally sketch out ideas, I tend to keep a rough draft in my head. What I typically do is take multiple pictures of my subject and many angles until I see the one that excites me.
Since I work better when I have good references, if something doesn’t exist, I just sculpt/build it and use that as my reference. As far as mediums go, it’s pretty simple, these days I’m solely using watercolors, and some colored pencils here and there.

{E}: How do you title a piece?
LP: Naming a piece is tricky, I don’t have a system, so I kind of just let a title come to me. I don’t try to force it.

{E}: Do you have any plans to bite the bullet and get some ink?
LP: I would love some ink, main problem is I don’t like needles, and I am always flip flopping on what I want. I’m hoping to get something done sooner than later.

{E}: What does your family think about your career choice?
LP: When I was younger art was taboo, but these days my parents are pretty proud of what I do. My mother is constantly trying to steal my work.

{E}: Tell us about your current projects or anything else you’d like to promote.
LP: I just finished a piece for the upcoming “Put a Bird On It” Show, being hosted at Distinction Gallery on Nov 9th, I started a piece for the “Get the Lead Out V” show, at Swoon Gallery. After that I am just catching up on commissions for the remainder of the year. 2014 looks promising, already have a few shows on the to-do list.

{E}: Do you have any words of advice for a up-and-coming artist?
LP: The best advice I can give anyone is to just be prolific, and create the things that have meaning to you. Don’t force yourself to fit into current molds.

Catch up with Lou Pimentel online at:
FB: Lou Pimentel
Twitter: LouPimentel
Instagram: LouPimentel
Store: http://lou.bigcartel.com

Lou Pimentel {E} Artist Feature