Meet

David Esquivel

Where are you from and where do you reside?
I was born in Colorado Springs, CO but was raised in and currently live in Aurora, IL.
What necessities do you require when making your art?
I’m pretty low maintenance as a painter. I’ve always made do with very little. I just need paint, a palette knife, and a brush. From the beginning I’ve practiced getting the most out of almost nothing. In a lot of ways I still work in a way where I don’t really allow myself many tools to work with. I’ve always just wanted to create work that I could create anywhere at any time without limitations. I’m trying to get out of this mindset though, so I can build and explore more things in my paintings like working at a larger scale. And also, it’s nice to have some music to listen to when painting.
Describe a typical day in the studio for you.
I’m a morning person and I tend to wake up pretty early. I probably start painting around 8am. I prep some canvas, make it brown, cut it up, and start painting. Then I have some lunch, watch a little Youtube and get right back into painting. I work until about 3-4pm if I’m not working towards a deadline or anything. As long as the sun is up I like to paint - once it’s gone, my working time is over. That’s a dream day in the studio.
Are there any aspects of your process that are left to chance?
I don’t plan my paintings out in advance for the most part. The first brush stroke kind of just falls out of my hand and I react to it. I try not to fight any feelings or think too much about what I should do next. It’s not so much that anything is left to chance with the paint, it’s more left to chance with my mood and movements.

How important is spontaneity in your art?
To me, spontaneity is so important in creating the most genuine work possible. I can be a big thinker and planner in my personal life and when I started working with paint it was tough with how unpredictable the medium can be. Before working with paint, I was drawing more representational work with pencils. Drawing can be so much more exact, and pencils only have the mind you give them. Paint tends to have a mind of its own. I decided to stop trying to fight that fight and let go of control in all elements of the process. When I’m working everything happens live on the canvas. Nothing is planned out. It’s an exercise in me trying to be as honest as possible with myself and the medium in the moment. My work is the most impactful when I don’t let myself get in the way and just start reacting to what’s coming up on the canvas.
How do you choose your materials?
The physical feel of something is so important to me. I originally wanted to be a sculptor so I treated my paintings with that same level of physicality.
Why did you choose to work with paint?
I chose paint mostly because it was the cheapest medium I could get my hands on. Having not gone to college, I didn’t have a lot of access to the mediums I wanted to work in. Sculpting wasn’t an option. In high school my favorite medium was pastels, but a set of those was way too expensive for me. I figured paint would be the best option just to learn how to be an artist. I don’t know that I was naturally a painter and it took a long time, maybe six years, before I felt comfortable calling myself one. Now nine years in, it is by far my favorite medium and what I think I’ll be doing forever. Even as I expand and try new things, painting will forever be who I am.
Slant
Every time I think I’m done, there is something else I discover to tell more dynamic stories through my painting. Communicating in this way is very exciting to me. — David Esquivel
How has your work developed in the past few years, and how do you see it evolving in the future?
I started painting my current body of work 5 years ago now. It began as an experiment in creating successful paintings relying solely on composition and color. The representational work I was making before was technically good, but felt empty. I wanted to create work that was much more emotionally impactful. After all of this time, I’m still continuing to learn and grow. Every time I think I’m done, there is something else I discover to tell more dynamic stories through my painting. Communicating in this way is very exciting to me. People have kindly told me my work is poetic, I want to turn these small poems into more novel-length paintings.
How did you get started making art? Did you have a mentor?
I got into art seriously after I graduated high school. I kind of locked myself away and wanted to learn what kind of artist I was before even trying to learn from others. My two high school art teachers were amazing and gave me a very strong base to build on but I’ve never had any mentors. It’s been lonely in terms of my education, but I’ve been so incredibly lucky that a lot of amazing and talented artists that I’ve looked up to were very friendly with me on social media when I was just a kid trying to figure things out. They treated me as an equal even though I wasn’t. The fact that they allowed me that kind of access to them as people continues to be huge motivation and inspiration. There are way too many to name here but I am forever grateful.
What are some themes you find recurring in your pieces, intentional or not?, or: What themes or motifs are you consistently drawn to?
The core theme of my work distance, and how elements interact over that distance. Mountains have become a recurring motif in my work. I use them mostly as a way to establish scale and perspective. They aren’t necessarily earthly mountains but naturally occuring megaliths that give context to the worlds I’m painting. That feeling of being at the base of something so big and expansive is a feeling I like to replicate a lot.

What tangible objects or intangible moments are you most interested in representing through your paintings?
It’s all intangible, but I love creating very intimate moments in my work. How the elements interact with each other and the space around them is the main focus. It’s all in the pursuit of trying to capture that feeling when you feel all of life’s existence at once. Moments where you feel simultaneously enormous and incredibly small.
How do the different elements of color and form come together in your works?
When I’m working out a painting the feeling of space and distance is very important to me. The foundation of my work is purely compositional, where everything is where it is for a specific reason and hopefully creates a visual balance that makes the viewer feel something. Color comes into play as a way of moving the viewer throughout the piece. I feel colors have the ability to kind of pull you in or push you away. I use this alongside the compositional rhythm of the piece to make work that feels dynamic and still at the same time. My hope is that the viewer can get lost in the painting.
In our virtual visit you mentioned that writing is an important part of your practice. Can you tell us more?
I don’t know if I was naturally meant to be a visual artist. It wasn’t something that I was very interested in but it grabbed me and I had to go for it. When I was growing up I was someone who was very fascinated in learning how to communicate with my words. I was a very shy kid and so much of my early thinking was figuring out how to say how I felt. When I first started making artwork my instinct was to make text-based work. I wanted to allow the work to speak for itself without me being involved. Now that I’ve grown more confident as a painter I’m really interested in writing out some of the stories in the paintings. It adds another element of understanding to the work and I enjoy the challenge of actually writing out the anecdotal meanings of some of my paintings.
Where do you find your day-to-day inspiration?
I love nonsense. Things that happen throughout the day that throw the rhythm off. Odd things that make you remember you are actually alive and in the moment and not just on autopilot. Could be anything from stubbing your toe, to locking eyes with a stranger at a weird time, or having a bug land on your hand. Any of those little odd moments inspire me.
Slant
I love nonsense. Things that happen throughout the day that throw the rhythm off. Odd things that make you remember you are actually alive and in the moment and not just on autopilot. — David Esquivel
Do you remember the first work of art that captured your attention?
It wasn’t one in particular but one day in art class my senior year of high school we watched a video on Alberto Giacometti and everything he made blew me away. I couldn’t believe how moved I was by all of his work. It all felt incredibly human, but painfully so. It really inspired me to pursue art in that way, in a way that was to move people very deep down the way his work moved me.
How solitary is your art-making process?
I used to be incredibly solitary in any art making, mostly out of fear. As I’ve grown I’ve become more confident and am always excited for the opportunity to work with others.
Do you admire or draw inspiration from any of your peers who are also working now?
I’m inspired by so many! Their work never comes through in my own but knowing they exist and are making work is a huge inspiration to me: Genie Espinosa, Evi O, Nora Lowinsky, Kelly Graham, Rebecca Schnoop, Brandy Eve Allen, Sophie Vallance Cantor, Rachelle Mendez, Malak Mattar, John Brosio, Emily Besser, Aurore Bano, Natasja Martens, Marie Urbin, Vincent Chung, Antonia Alarcon, Molly A. Martin, Nicholas Vacchiano, Sami Cronk - there are so many more and way too many to name here. I always try to shout out the artists who inspire me with all of the amazing work they’re making.
Have you ever collaborated, or would you?
At this moment I have a collaboration with the insanely talented and amazing Sarah K Benning. It has been such an incredible honor to work with her. I have an ongoing collaborative project that is very near and dear to my heart with one of my closest art friends Eve Lippa. We created a color called Secret Blue together and we make paintings that use the same color palettes all centered around our Secret Blue. I’ve also had the chance to work on a project with Roundcat Racing that is one of my favorites ever. I love collaborating and plan to do many more in the future! I will always cherish painting alone though.
Is there something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I usually wake up at 4-5am and I don’t drink coffee.
What’s next for you?
I hope a lot more painting and exploring. I have a few very cool opportunities coming up where I’ll be able to work outside of my artistic element but I’m really excited to push myself to continue to develop as an artist. I finally feel like I’m secure in what I’m doing and I’m really looking forward to what that will do for my work. Hopefully a lot more art making is what’s next.

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