Marcos Dorado, known for his classical realist drawings, has been a fixture on the Fresno-area art scene for years. It’s hard to imagine he’s leaving for good. But that’s his plan, and he’s marking his departure with an exhibition titled “Leave Art in Fresno (My Farewell Exhibit)” at Peeve’s Public House on the Fulton Mall. It opens at ArtHop and runs through July 28.
I highlight Dorado’s show in Thursday’s Life section as the anchor of this month’s ArtHop coverage. Here’s the extended version of my interview with him.
When did you first realize you could draw?
In fourth grade. A family friend (David) was visiting my parents. As they talked, out of nowhere, I had the instinct that I could draw David’s portrait. When I finished scribbling, everyone was impressed. From then on, I drew all the time until I was in high school. Then, I became interested in other subjects, such as literature and languages. As a result, I put drawing aside until 15 years later, when I was thirty. I was recently divorced then, and I was rediscovering my old self.
Most artists embark on a career in their 20s, and you waited. What impact do you think this had on your career?
Great question! I like to focus on the positive side of things. So, starting later than most, allowed me to approach art in a more balanced way. As I tenaciously worked at developing my skill in drawing, while I also studied the business side of art. Consider networking, for example. In my early 20s, I had not learned, yet, the value of connecting with people. After failures and successes at business, ten years later, I gained an appreciation for networking. Now, it’s second nature to me and networking is easier than ever altogether.
The rise of social media has proven to be a magnificent tool for my work. I’m able to stay connected with other artists. I meet new art collectors, models, art lovers, editors and curators. In fact, this fall, I’m doing a lecture at Cornell University because of my connections on Twitter. Indeed, social media is a highway to great networking and every artist should harness its potential.
What do you “call” what you do? (Is it drawing? Sketching?)
Drawing in classical realism. Often people refer to my work as sketches, but the finished work that I create is drawing. A sketch is a rough draft, whereas a drawing is the refined work. Another misconception about my work is that “it looks just like a photograph.” I suppose that people mean that I created a good likeness of someone they know or that my work is highly rendered.
This may be the case, but I do not do photorealism. Photorealism is a discipline in which the artist draws or paints directly from a photo and the goal is to, literally, make the work look like a photograph. Photorealism came en vogue during the 60s and 70s. Classical realism, on the other hand, has it’s roots with the Renaissance and as far back as the Golden Age of Greece. It seeks beauty and its pillars reside on direct observation of the model, landscape or still-life composition. Through direct observation, too, we perceive light and shadow and perspective, differently than through the camera lens.
Talk about what goes into one of your works. Do you always work with a live model? How many sittings?
Working with a life model is the best approach for rendering a portrait or nude. However, there are rare times when photographs are necessary. Perhaps the subject is deceased or the work is meant as an anniversary surprise. These occasions are not common, however, and they’re always for private clients. The work that I exhibit is always done from life sittings at my studio. It’s preferable to work in 3-hour sessions.
Depending upon the pose, size of the work and amount of detail, one to six sessions are enough. The model and I carry on with conversation during our sessions. Our talks range from the humorous to deep introspections about life. Consequently, the sessions never seem as long as one would assume three hours would feel. Indeed, working with life model allows me to gain great depth about who he or she is, was, or wishes to be. There’s no way to attain this insight by working from photographs.
You’ve received advanced training in New York. Tell us about that and how it changed your art.
I studied at two schools in New York City: Art Students League and Grand Central Academy. Both are in midtown. When I attended both schools, concurrently, I worked with nude models 11.5 hours a day, Monday through Friday. It was an amazing time. As the weeks went by, all I saw was drawing and anatomy even when I was not in class. I would dream drawing. On weekends, I’d draw at the Met and visit galleries. It was marvelous!
Art school gave me a profound understanding about how we perceive the human figure. My most influential instructor was Costa Vavagiakis at the League. He taught as a zen master.. “You drawing lies upon the model, never within your head,” he’d say. This is a beautiful way of saying that we have to learn to recognize what we see rather than conjure up an image about what we think we see and then drawing that idea, which is often inaccurate. This is about truly learning to listen with our eyes. It’s about empathy, really.
You’re calling this exhibition your last Fresno show. What are your plans?
Indeed, this is my last show in Fresno. The end of July brings great and wonderful changes for me. I’ll marry my beloved Mary Silva, who grew up in nearby Laton. Now, she’s a professor at Ithaca College, New York. I’m excited that I was accepted there as a student, in fact. Upon finishing my bachelor’s degree, I plan to transfer to Cornell University for my MFA in art. This fall, I’ll also I’ll do workshops at the Arnot Art Museum. Plans are in the works, too, to teach at the Community School of Music and Arts, in Ithaca.
How did you decide which works to include in the show?
This show is an anthology of my work. I’ve discounted the price of my work greatly because I wish to leave my art in Fresno rather than take it to New York. Fresno has offered me the great opportunity to develop as an artist. It’s a perfect city in which any aspiring artist can learn how to try out his/her inspiration for exhibits and projects. ArtHop here is unlike any other, indeed. I could not have asked for a more supportive community. For this reason, I am happy to leave my work here. There are many who have collected my work already, and still many who have not. Before I go eastward, I hope that my remaining drawings find a home here.
Do you have a favorite piece in the show?
Usually, I don’t have a favorite drawing in any show. I tend to like each for different reasons, but often, there will be one, two or three that play in my mind for a while. In this case, I’ve been thinking a lot about the portrait I did of Eva Scow (pictured). Most people know her as the gifted mandolin performer. She certainly is a marvelous musician. Well, she posed at my studio in April and I really enjoyed our session. It was wonderful to get to know her better. As a result, in my portrait, I see a pensive and introspective young woman. The acute perspective at which I drew her leads the viewer to wonder what might be on her mind. Also, I like the dark tonality of her hair. It’s a good contrast with her thoughtful gaze.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I am grateful for the wonderful support that the community of Fresno has given me. I’ve drawn hundreds of people here. So many have collected my work and I’m rooted with life-long friendships. Now, I’m excited about the future. I look forward to my new projects, such as my documentary-style future exhibits titled, “Why I Got Naked,” and “Sons of Alcoholics Speak.” Of course, I’m especially looking forward to finishing my college education and teaching at a university.