Being creative is, in my opinion, one of the most important skills that we possess and is necessary to life, whether it is in the form of music, dance, writing, visual arts or performance. Thankfully, my entourage in the last few years has always been very active in the “non-academic” world, filled with many talents that I always admired, from dancers to musicians and incredibly amazing painters. An important factor that my art teacher, Mrs. K, who stressed me out weekly, always mentioned was to look for artists that people wouldn’t have heard of, and most importantly to always escape from your comfort zone. Although, Van Gogh and Picasso were always in the picture, unknown artists that we would find would correspond to our area of curiosity and interest. I have always been into illustration, always focused on sketches and detailed drawings in pen and pencil, avoiding paint and photography at all costs. At some point I realized that I can’t spend the rest of my life working in black and white and that is when I began to look into “photo-realism” in relation to the movement of water and discovered Arturo Samaniego and Eric Zener. Both with very different backgrounds and yet very similar in ideas.
Samaniego is a Mexican painter with works displayed in galleries all over the United States and features in reputable publications such as International Artist Magazine or the ArtList Editors. Throughout his artistic career he strived for a detailed and refined technique that eventually became his instrument of artistic language. Samaniego was inspired by the sea that he believes fascinates people by being the « most awe inspiring and beautiful element on earth. It is, at once, majestically beautiful, as well as mysterious and dangerous. » (Samaniego, Arturo) . In his artworks, Arturo Samaniego recreates the features of the human form and the traits of air and water with clarity and sharpness, that is why when the artist works with oils on canvas and Masonite, his creations have a powerful physicality. With his skill of painting subtle details, Samaniego’s artworks give out a dream- like atmosphere by blending the different realisms and physicality present with softness and spontaneity. Arturo Samaniego really wanted the public to appreciate the connection we as humans, have with nature, as well as, the renewal and rebirth due to its power. Samaniego’s paintings usually include a body of water signifying purity, that is also a primary source of life, interacting with a woman figure, putting emphasis on the strength of the female gender. Samaniego works with faded colors to produce an effect of gloominess through which he reflects the mystery of the sea. It is a reoccurring theme in his artworks, through which he portrays its beauty but also the secret that it holds. The body of water is represented as one of nature’s traits and serves as a metaphor for life. This metaphor is indulging and nurturing on the surface but is also deceitful like the different currents present in the ocean. The subtilties of the human figure is also a reoccurrence in Arturo Samaniego’s works. It is very detailed, and the artist uses very careful techniques to recreate them, this further shows the uniqueness and fragility of the human nature. Samaniego decided to portray only female figures in his works to show the value of life and the treasure of the one that gave it to us.
(figure 1: Impending by Arturo Samaniego)
Eric Zener is an American photorealist painter from Oregon, who taught himself art during free time when studying psychology at the University of California. Today, living in San Francisco, he is best known for his paintings of human figures in bodies of water, often swimming pools. As an artist who has been working for over 25 years, for Zener water is his primary element and can be exploited as a spiritual and physical renewal, the plunge and nostalgic memories of play and fun from childhood (Zener, Eric). His relationship with nature, that he relates to through emotions such as joy, danger and fear, has always been an area of inspiration for his art. This can be seen through his paintings in different categories called «Water», «Journey», «Land» and «Sleep». His works of female bodies depicting from water show its fluidity and Zener explains it to be « a metaphor for a place of renewal and personal transformation—both literally and the ephemeral sense of escape we get when we plunge below the surface. I have never intended them to be ‘sporty’ or ‘fun in the sun’ type of images, but rather a reflection on the collective desire in all of us to retreat from the noise of the world.” (« Eric Zener ») Eric Zener grew up by the sea side and in the beauty of nature. Since a young age, he felt connected to it and found himself in a great source of inspiration. As he moved to California, he began his journey in the world of Science. When studying psychology, he realized that it wasn’t the right route for him and went on a path of renewal to realize that art is what he should pursue. For Zener, self-teaching art was his renewal. Most of his works include the themes of simplicity and a journey of renewal. With his simple choices of bright colors, tonal variations and hues of the background, Zener’s purpose is to portray the simplicity of joyfulness. Through this, we can also deduce that water is a simple need for all life. There is something so unique about the sun reflecting on water in his paintings causing sparkles and the bubbles created as the figure comes for air. The body interacts with both the water and air at the same time and creates the feeling of movement. The outcome of this alliance are bubbles, they interpret that lighthearted and bubbly attitude of a child. A kid is happy with the simplest things and the limited choice of bright colors characterize the simplicity of basic things in life. Zener’s main idea in his works is the renewal through the inner child of every individual in their journey. The fact that there is the presence of only one figure represents the individuality of every one of us. Zener centers the figure coming out for air after taking a plunge, is a metaphor for life which he describes as « a journey with many twists and turns, often leading us to the unexpected » (Zener). He also puts forward the idea of vulnerability as how humans are in nature and how this journey can impact us.
(Figure 2: Rejoining Again 2 by Eric Zener)
Arturo Samaniego and Eric Zener inspired me to test and recreate the connection between the beauty of humans and nature. I thought that using my polaroid camera would be the perfect opportunity to do so. What is truly special about it is that the photograph captures only one moment that cannot be changed. This reminds of Zener’s idea of plunging and having a moment that cannot be experienced in the same way again. A friend and I decided to head to the sea at sunset. I took out my polaroid camera and told her to pose. After a while I thought that it will be much more interesting if we did something spontaneous and came up with the idea of a series of “in movement”. Unfortunately, this idea only came up in the last minutes of the sun disappearing in the horizon. My friend started running and moving around as I captured her. To the human eye, the sky perfectly reflected on the water, however due to the dull light, the water reflections couldn’t be captured by the camera lens. Furthermore, the sky was much lighter than it appears to be, but I like how the polaroid decided to transition the colors. The blond hair of the model comes in beautiful strong contrast with the dark background. The redness of the sky adds a mysterious effect that is also illustrated in Samaniego’s pieces. The series « In movement » that I have assembled were inspired by Zener. He paints people in movement, particularly in water. I decided to use this idea with dramatic movement of the human body. This enabled me to better put my photographic skills in use. I had to concentrate on the movement in order to capture the perfect shot. I think that the outcome of the photographs is striking and portrays the beauty connection between nature and people.
After the discovery of these artists I finally picked up a brush and added colors to my artbook. The two artists have also encouraged me to observe fluid movements which greatly impacted a lot of my artworks. I finally found comfort in oil paint and watercolors and realized that photography was probably the visual art form I preferred. I think that Mrs. K’s words about escaping the comfort zone is essential to growth and can apply to any area of life, her words reminded me that just like the sea, beyond the storms and calm waves, there are pearls deep down when you become more daring and open-minded in your creativity.