San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Atelier de Arte: Spreading artistic realism in Guatemala

GUATEMALA CITY – “I want to start a revolution,” says Sergio Raúl González, before clarifying: “an artistic revolution.”

Having spent more than 20 years in the United States, Guatemalan-born González recently returned to his homeland with the aim of training up an army of Guatemalan artists and showcasing their work on the international stage.

“Guatemalan textiles and artisan crafts are famous around the world, but our fine arts have yet to gain attention,” says González.

Last year, González founded Atelier de Arte, which he describes as Central America’s first art academy exclusively devoted to academic realism – a 19th century European movement that imparts the science behind drawing and painting. The movement teaches that through learning scientific disciplines, an artist can recreate any scene in a lifelike way.

“People have false notions that they have no artistic talent, and I want to dispel these myths through explanations and quasi-scientific classes. There is no such thing as ‘talent’; it’s creativity, and you can build upon that. One of my students was only really able to draw stick figures before and now he’s a paid illustrator,” he says.

From his studio in Paseo Cayalá, Guatemala City, González delivers individually tailored courses on academic realism where students first learn how to draw, which is considered the foundation of academic painting, and then to paint.

The program is centered on creating pieces from direct observation so that students learn to utilize their eyes, rather than tracing, drawing or transferring images from photographs. Since every class is individually tailored, students complete the course at their own pace and are also encouraged to attend free drawing workshops, which are held every other Sunday and are open to the public.

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An academic realism student contemplates her work inside the Atelier de Arte studio, Guatemala City. Courtesy of Atelier de Arte

“Without exception, people who have participated in the workshops have come out impressed and amazed with the knowledge that is required to create such a great piece of art,” he says.

González first realized he wanted to be a painter at the age of 6, and he admits that in his youth he became frustrated with deficient curriculums that failed to teach him the knowledge behind art. Having enrolled in a number of art programs in the United States, he finally settled at the L.A. Academy of Figurative Art, in California. From there, he decided to take his newly gained knowledge back home to Guatemala.

“There has been an exodus of artistic talent from Guatemala in recent years; if artists are good, they move to another country. But I want to dispel the myth that art students have to go abroad and invest thousands of dollars to gain high-quality training. They can get it here in Guatemala,” he says.

For more information about Atelier de Arte visit its Facebook page

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