Patrice Murciano. How And Why To Become A Painter

“As far back as I can remember, I have always drawn, painted, created…”

From the face of that little girl my age (around 4 years old) with huge green eyes framed by long black lashes, whom I would make up with oily sticks during recess at the nursery school, to the first female nudes sketched on the back of wallpaper rolls in the construction site of our house in the village of Pignan in H√©rault, drawings that I would shade with my mother’s makeup, giving my creations an even more feminine dimension through their scents and textures.

I was born with this desire, this need to paint, to draw, to immortalize what presented itself to me visually or mentally. I don’t think one “becomes” a painter, or a musician, or any other artist. I believe we are born artists, even if sometimes we only discover it much later. I had the ability to listen to my heart at a very young age, to admire all those things, those landscapes, those faces, those bodies that already inspired me early in my life. What an incredible chance it is to be born, to exist, to have been given the most beautiful gift, with whatever body it may be, these eyes to see and admire, a brain to analyze, interpret, and transcribe the visions of the soul, a heart to enjoy all of this, and hands to execute all these works. Thank you, life.

Even though I have been practicing my art for over 45 years, I have not always made a living from it. It has only been 10 years since I decided and was able to make it my one and true profession, even though I don’t like the word “profession” in this case, as art remains, in my eyes and in my heart, a vocation, a passion that burns within me, nourishing my spirit every day. I have painted all these years out of a need to feed the soul, but also to learn, to improve my technique because I am completely self-taught. I have never taken a single drawing or painting lesson, nor have I received any advice. At the age of 12, I asked my parents for an easel, canvas boards, and oil paints for Christmas (I had read that the great masters painted with oils). I wanted to learn, to understand. While my classmates played soccer or other games appropriate for our age, I would head to the scrubland, that haven of peace 100 meters from our childhood home, where I would seek refuge alone and often. I would borrow all the art books I could find from the school library. I would devour them for hours, sitting at the foot of the big oak tree, listening to the song of the cicadas. Rembrandt, De la Tour, Van Gogh, Vermeer… they became my best friends. But how do they do it? What is this genius, this light that inhabits them? I would reproduce details of their masterpieces with charcoal in my sketchbook, or sometimes with oil on my canvas boards. I discovered the magic of life, anatomy, portraits, light, light, my God, the light. Each new artwork was a miracle in my child’s eyes. But who were these masters? Demigods, extraterrestrials? My brain couldn’t comprehend. I became interested in their lives, especially that of Vincent Van Gogh. His self-portraits disturbed me. I wanted to know who was behind those colors, that warm yellow that has never left me and remains my favorite color to this day. At my young age, I couldn’t fully understand the troubled life he had led. I had questions: Is this what it means to be a painter? Must one paint, create their whole life in poverty, suffering, madness? A feeling of sadness overwhelmed me. How can one paint life with such strength, such energy, as if every cell, every atom of their being vibrates solely for this art? I felt the same flame within me. Will it consume me in the depths of my being? Sometimes, I would talk to Vincent while painting. I would ask him, “How would you have painted this portrait? Give me advice.” Look, Vincent, at the light in my scrubland. Listen to its wind, its cicadas. Hear its colors whispering to the ear of my brushes. You paint quickly, Vincent, very quickly. You want to immortalize the present moment as a camera would. Tell me… I learn to draw and paint quickly, faster and faster. I don’t want to create through analysis, with the ego. I want to learn to paint with my soul, in one stroke, without thinking, spontaneously. To engrave, to etch deep into my consciousness all these things so that they never disappear, never again, even if the day my earthly body dies, my soul will remain the soul of an artist for eternity.

I paint, I progress like this until the age of 16. My technique takes shape. I don’t really have a personal style, but the gesture is there. I show my work to people other than my family and close friends for the first time. It is at the art supply store run by an elderly couple where I regularly buy my materials. I present them with a work depicting a portrait of Julius Caesar painted in oil using a chiaroscuro technique (the artwork can be seen at the town hall of Pignan today). The couple is astonished and doesn’t believe that I am the one who created it. I show them photographs of the rest of my work in the same spirit. They tell me about an annual exhibition in Montpellier organized by “Arts et Lettres de France.” I had never exhibited my work before, and although I’m not really interested, I don’t paint for that purpose. But their eyes shine so brightly at the sight of my work, and my parents are so proud that I agree. That day, I win the gold medal for the young national hope. My mother is ecstatic, but I don’t really care. It will be the only “competition” I participate in because art is anything but a competition in my eyes. I continue to move forward on my own. Women fascinate me more and more. I photograph them, I paint them continuously. They become my main source of inspiration to the point where I want to be one of them. I don’t like the “avatar” (the name I give to our bodies, our ego) of this life, this imposed, ungrateful body with its small stature. If only we could choose this “avatar” before being born. That’s why I paint this woman, not only to pay homage to the feminine beauties that life gives me the joy and the chance to encounter, but also to paint this WOMAN that is within me. I want to create the self-portrait of my soul because even though it is said that the soul has no gender, mine must be feminine.

In 1996, I deconstructed this woman in a colorful style that I call “Courbisme” as a nod to Picasso’s Cubism, another one of my masters. I accentuate, distort this mental self-portrait to reveal a woman with immense and clear eyes (resembling that little 4-year-old girl I used to make up at school), a voluptuous mouth, as fleshy as an overripe fruit. The curves of the body that inspired the term “Courbisme” are traced on the canvas in a harmonious sweep of lines and colors. They are life. They are my mental body. I create like this until 2002. I exhibit this style in 1998 at a gallery in New York, a city full of energy where I lived for six months. Although this style does not provide me with financial sustenance, even though it is very accomplished and personal, I think and speak to Vincent: “What should I do? Where should I go? Guide my steps, light the path on the canvas.” A voice resonates in my head, find your own path, listen to your heart, go where no one has gone before, be unique and pioneering as I have been. I practice many different techniques: watercolors, acrylics, pastels, ink, spray paint, dripping, collage, digital painting… and many other experiments in my new studio that I named LEA (a feminine first name, an abbreviation for “laboratoire exp√©riences artistiques” or artistic experimentation laboratory). Every day, I enter LEA for my greatest pleasure. In 2012, an idea comes to me: “What if I combined the other art form that I practice alongside painting, which is photography, with the colorful painting of my Courbisme?” But how should I approach it? I search, and I come across another master in his field, Andy Warhol. He colored photographs of celebrities with his own technique, his “POP ART.” I like it. How can I achieve something similar in 2012 with the techniques available to me? I digitally paint the portrait of David Bowie using software called Corel Painter, which magically offers a palette of tools, brushes, textures, colors… I find everything I had experienced in the real world through my various research and experiments. What joy, what happiness! My heart is bubbling: “Look, Vincent, I paint quickly, very quickly… Your soul inhabits my body, my arm. I am in a trance…” I print this black and white portrait of David Bowie on a canvas, but it lacks life, texture, depth… The color of Courbisme crosses paths with the black and white canvas. Diluted acrylic reveals the shadows and lights along with the printed canvas. It’s fantastic. I rediscover Andy’s POP ART technique. Oh my God, what have I discovered in LEA? I refine this technique, incorporating my “scribbling,” another one of my techniques that involves drawing, mostly with a black pen, a subject in continuous lines that intersect and multiply into thousands of curves and lines. A bit of dripping (a technique I learned by studying the famous American artist Jackson Pollock), and that’s how this style I call “NEW POP” is born. It quickly finds its community through social networks. I can’t help but think of you, Vincent: “What would have been your destiny if you could have shared your art, your talent with the world through Facebook, Instagram, or others… Things would have undoubtedly been different, and you probably wouldn’t have been the Vincent we know, as complicated as your life was. Thank you for what you have brought us. It is a divine gift. You have changed the lives of some people, including mine, just like the great masters such as Christ, Gandhi, Mandela, Mozart, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa…” I progress in the NEW POP style, and the world opens up to me. I have had the immense fortune of meeting beautiful people, beautiful souls (famous or not), and creating works that are dear to my heart.

Today, I have opened my studio in the south of France, which includes an art gallery, a restaurant, and an artistic training center.

To conclude and answer the title of this article, how and why to become a painter, it simply requires the desire, the belief, dedicating one’s life, time, and soul, no matter what happens. Despite the difficult periods of poverty, doubt, and suffering that I have experienced, nothing, absolutely nothing, is or will be stronger than the happiness, the mental joy that creation brings. It makes you feel like the divine painting life in the darkness of nothingness. If you love this art, go for it wholeheartedly. You will live and vibrate for a unique experience.

“The Murciano Gallery”
200 Chemin du Rieucoulon
34430 Saint Jean de Védas France
+33 (0)7 56 84 38 00

Article by Patrice Murciano




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