When I think of talented acrylic painters, my mind immediately goes to Los Angeles artist, Christina Ramos.
I was first introduced to Christina in January 2019 when my boss, Linda Wehrli invited her to host one of Pastimes’ Guest Artist Workshops. She thankfully accepted the invitation to teach her preferred medium, acrylics!
I had never used acrylic paint before, but the workshop was such a treat that I wanted to find out more about Christina. I’m always eager to hear what self-taught artists have to say (being one myself!) We’re pleased to present our interview with Christina and hope it inspires you.
JLS: What is your style of painting referred to? For our art students and readers, would you please describe what this style means or represents?
CR: Representational. Representational art refers to painting something to look like something. In other words recreate what you are seeing to a certain degree. It doesn’t have to look like a photograph, but a recognizable person or thing.
JLS: Much of your recent work features portraits, paintings of monkeys, and people posing with sea animals. What is the story or inspiration behind your choice of subject matter?
CR: After March and the Covid shutdown, I no longer had access to live models, so I resorted to painting a few monkeys. also recently been painting a few noteworthy people (musicians, artists etc). This began with the Black Lives Matter movement. I did a series called Black Lives Inspire where I painted African Americans whom either inspired me with their art or music. I painted Jean Michel Basquiat, Kehinde Wiley, Keb Mo, Lenny Kravitz, and a few others.
JLS: Very cool. Our students are interested in the latest tools of the trade. May we please inquire, what is your preference for paints and brushes? Is your work on canvas board? Do you finish with a varnish or leave as is?
CR: I always use Golden Heavy Body and Fluid paints. I am a representative of the company, but there is also no higher quality acrylic paint out there. Incredibly high pigment load which makes your paint go farther. As for brushes I always use Golden Talkon Synthetic brushes. I vary in brands from Silver, Princeton and sometimes just cheap craft brushes. My brushes take a beating so I rarely spend a lot of money when it comes to brushes. Silver however, has some of the best quality synthetic brushes I’ve used. As for substrates, I used to only paint on stretched canvas, however this year I have started using Birch and Aluminum panels. Some have a linen surface, and some just a textured gesso surface. It’s a bit of a learning curve, but I am really starting to enjoy painting on the stiffer surface. They also take up a lot less storage space.
JLS: Good to know! At what age did you realize you were an art spirit?
CR: I think everyone knows that from an early age. Society and practicality often interfere with people’s pursuit of art though. I compared myself to others in high school and college art classes, and felt I didn’t have what it takes so I focused on Architecture and Interior Design.
After getting married and having four kids, art was not even on the radar for a long time. I think that is why so many women don’t pursue art until later in life. Family life is a priority and our own pursuits often take a back seat until kids are older.
I didn’t start painting until I was in my 30’s and there was not many representational acrylic painters back then so I pretty much taught myself how to paint and created my own techniques that replicated what I saw oil painters doing. It’s definitely hard to make a living as a fine artist so you have to be able to diversify.
I think most professional artists branch off into teaching. I have been a painting instructor at the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art now for about six years. Since Covid I have been teaching online which I really enjoy. The classes are a lot more focused and in-depth, and also provide a lot more time to practice for my students.
JLS: Thank you for sharing your inspiring story. Did anyone try to talk you out of fulfilling your dream as an artist? If so, how did you handle it?
CR: I don’t know that anyone had to talk me out of pursuing art. My internal dialog did that all on its own. Self doubt and constant comparison can be a death sentence to an artist. I also had a lot of people telling me I should switch to oil since that’s what my style of painting reflected. I am really glad I stuck to acrylics though. That is what differentiates me from my contemporaries. It’s also what provided me with a job. Not many people teach representational painting in acrylic.
JLS: Indeed. So glad you pursued your passion for acrylics. May I ask, are you represented by any art galleries or do you work solo? What are the positives and negatives of selling through a gallery?
CR: Galleries are always a plus in my book. Not many artists are good at marketing or sales. Although galleries take 50% of the sales price, I feel they earn it. They keep the lights on and do what I cannot do, and that’s sell art. There are some galleries though that I would highly recommend that you avoid and those are “Vanity” galleries. If you have to pay to have your work hang in a gallery, it is usually a bad idea. There is not real sale staff, and no one has any interest in selling your work. You have already paid their rent by paying to show. A real gallery will never ask you for money for wall space. I am currently represented by Gabba Gallery here in L.A. I also show at other galleries from time to time for group shows including Waterhouse Gallery in Santa Barbara.
JLS: Good to know. We’ll look forward to checking out those galleries. As you know, art can touch people’s lives, bringing happiness and hope. For example, my boss’ art school partners with CoachArt to provide free art classes for families impacted by childhood chronic illness. Is there a charity you are fond of or support, that you might like our readers to learn more about?
CR: I support Adopt the Arts, a non-profit organization that helps provide music and art education in public schools. There is no funding for most public schools in Los Angeles when it comes to art and music education so this organization tries to fill that void.
JLS: Thanks for sharing the intel on that wonderful organization. As you might remember, we were thrilled to host one of your Acrylic Painting Workshops back in January 2019. Given the current times, have you been hosting any virtual workshops via Zoom or teaching one-on-one? If so, do you enjoy teaching virtually? What are some of the challenges?
CR: As I stated before I currently teach Zoom classes at LAAFA. I really enjoy it, and I think it is much more beneficial for students. During a regular class, we have a live model and everyone paints while the model poses. Rarely do they watch me paint. With the Zoom classes we are painting from photos and my entire painting process if filmed and recorded so students can see exactly what I am doing as well as hear detailed instruction. They also have access to the recorded class for one week with four, two hour classes total. Which give them the ability to review and re-watch the process over and over if necessary.
JLS: That’s very cool. May I ask, how has this year affected you artistically?
CR: As I said before, the loss of models has affected me greatly, but it has also made me branch out and do things I normally would never do like painting monkeys and celebrities lol.
JLS: LOL. In closing, do you have a favorite quote, mantra or process that you find inspiring or helpful when faced with a creative block, that you would like to share with our readers?
CR: “Behold the turtle, he only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.” 🙂
JLS: Inspiring words! Thank you so much for your gracious time in sharing your story with our students and readers, Christina! We wish you all the best.
Did this interview inspire you? If so, please feel free to share with those who would enjoy.
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