Artist’s Intuition

What I remember is having an urge to grab a brush and paint. I used to draw before, but never considered myself an artist. At the age of 27 with only $40 in my pocket, I went to a local art supply store. I followed my intuition and bought what I thought an artist needed. I remember getting a 10 pack of cheap canvases, some acrylic paint set, and a brush set. I went back home and started playing around. Without any instruction in the painting process, I opted to read the directions on the paint brush packages to see what each brush is used for. 

As soon as I started, it was like I was young Arthur who just pulled the sword out of the stone.  It felt so magical when I picked up the brush and started to paint, I knew it was my purpose to do art. That was back in 2012. 

pato aguilar

I began by visiting the Hilltop Gallery in Nogales, AZ where I met an older woman who was an oil painting instructor there. I showed her the self-portraits I’ve been working on. She expressed to me that she wasn’t going to teach me how to paint with oils, but show me how to work with oils. She felt I already knew how to paint. 

Her comment surprised me. The next week I came back for a basic class of instruction. She introduced me to what brushes to use for different effects. I remember brining my 8×10 canvas to practice with. I did a painting of a skeleton laying on the ground, with the face of the skeleton reflected in the moon. The teacher then gave me an 18×24 canvas to be in the Hilltop Gallery’s group show called “Hollywood”. 

After the lesson, I worked on my first oil portrait of Marilyn Monroe on the 18 x 24 canvas and I called it “Queen of Hearts”. This became one of my first popular paintings, being shown in the Hollywood show at Hilltop Gallery in Nogales, but also at a group show in Los Angeles, CA. Unfortunately, the painting was burned in a house fire with a lot of other early art pieces. 

After creating more art, I made connections starting in Phoenix formerly known as {9} the Gallery. When I was there, I learned a lot about participating in group shows. This opened up many doors to collaborate with other artists. Over the years I’ve participated and continue to participate in group shows at the Alwun House. I have many fond memories of events held in the Roosevelt Row Arts District and am happy to see it continue to thrive as an arts community. 

Four years later, in 2016 I decided to go for a solo show. After several group shows at the Hilltop Gallery, I opened up a conversation about a solo show. It was called “Gold and Black” and it was very simple. I choose to paint 31 paintings for my 31st birthday that used only a palate of gold and black tones. It did really well and many people attended the show from Nogales, AZ, and Nogales, Sonora. I remember the Mexican consulate came to check out the show. That positive outcome motivated me to continue doing art. 

After getting a degree in psychology I began to work full-time in the behavioral health field. I was working the entire time while pursuing art, yet at this point, work seemed to take over. That’s when I started to work on my second solo show Retratos de Frida (Portraits of Frida). In 2019, I began to work on this series and wanted to explore different styles of famous artists. Expressionism, impressionism, dadaism, modernism, helped turn the light bulb on for ideas for my next show

To celebrate Frida Kahlo’s 111th birthday, the show encompassed a tribute to her. I wanted to experiment by recreating famous painters’ styles and using Frida’s portrait in their masterpieces. I began to play with this idea by replicating the original famous masterpieces with Frida Kahlo’s face in them. It was challenging yet natural for me to recreate these paintings and I learned to paint using different styles in the process. I began with recreating a painting by Zinaida Serebriakova who was a Russian artist from around the same era as Frida. I also painted Frida’s face into “The Girl With The Pearl Earring” by Vermeer. Now her iconic face can be seen in the art and style of Fernando Botero, Van Gogh, Rene Magritte, Tamara Lempicka, and Gustav Klimt. The show also included a painted mannequin featuring Frida’s poetry, famous quotes, and pets she owned. Drawings from Frida’s sketchbook and journal were translated to several paintings as well. 

The Frida art show was very successful with a great turnout. One fond memory I have is of a 5-year-old kid who asked his mother to bring him to my show. He loved Frida and saw the article in the newspaper. It was so impactful for me to see how inspired he was by Frida Kahlo and the art tribute to her legacy. 

Also in 2019, I began to paint murals; two interior walls at Pima Community College and one interior wall at Fitness Express in Nogales, AZ. As a new learning experience, I wanted to challenge myself to paint something larger than a canvas. I believe murals can be used as a tool to educate and inspire communities. 

Salmo 91, 2019, Oil on wood panel, 23 x 15

That year I also received my first fine art award for “Best of Show” in the Ex Votos group exhibition at the Tubac Center of the Arts for my painting “El Salmo 91”. El Salmo 91 was part of a “We Are Blessed” series and inspired by a true story about a man who survived an ambush. In the painting is part of a corrido that describes how he miraculously escaped to later revenge against those who tried to kill him. 

Since the beginning of my art career, I played with the concept of non-traditional cherubs and angels. I wanted to portray what my angels would look like with brown skin and tattoos. My first painting of a cherub was completed in 2012. 

On March 8, 2014 I wrote in my journal “My angels are so rad, they just don’t take care of me, but they carry gold AK-47s.” Years later in December 2019 I started my next series of paintings and drawings entitled “Non Timebo Mala”. I didn’t like the earlier versions of cherubs (painting pictured above, left side), but over time I’ve redefined them and how they look today. The portraits in this series are inspired by what I believe are what my guardian angels look like. This series began with “Un Momento de Paz” (painting pictured above, right side) prior to the pandemic in December 2019. I continued to work on the series throughout the pandemic and while sick with COVID-19. I believe that working on this series of guardian angels helped me survive the pandemic and continue to heal me from the Coronavirus.

After a decade of doing art, I made a decision to take a leap of faith. I had worked for several years and many overtime hours in the behavioral health field that provided substantial savings, but at a cost to my mental and physical health. In July 2021, after taking medical leave, I decided to become a full-time artist.

By the end of 2021, I had completed three new murals in Tucson, AZ, and Nogales, AZ. My first portrait mural of Maria Felix was hand-painted on a private residence external wall in east Tucson. The second mural “Love Art Music” was completed for Groundworks, a youth-driven community arts space nonprofit in Tucson. The third mural “Mucho Amor” was completed in Nogales, AZ as a gift for my mom. 

Now, in 2022 another private residence mural, one of my longest, was completed in January 2022 of Mixcoatl, the Aztec cloud serpent. My latest series “Non Timebo Mala” will be exhibited from February to March at Galleria Mitotera in South Tucson, AZ. I also have several artworks in group shows at &Gallery and Steinfeld Warehouse Community Arts Center in Tucson, AZ. 

Looking back, I know now that I’m on the right path pursuing what I’m meant to be: an artist.

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