In our last 2015 installment of our "Contemporary Charcoals" interview series, we are fortunate to showcase the remarkable work of Laia Gonzalez. An artist currently based in Barcelona, Gonzalez capitalizes in her compositions on the power of charcoal for rich tonal and contour contrasts, which results in fantastic finished compositions (rendered with Nitram Charcoal, no less!). For more on Gonzalez's work, please visit her website: www.laiagonzalez.com
Nitram Charcoal (NC): What do you hope your works communicate to the viewer?
Laia Gonzalez (LG): Sometimes it becomes difficult to connect with others because we get a little bit lost in words, a little bit squeezed by their specific meaning, and in the end we find we cannot conform to the labels supposedly created for “us”. When different people draw the same model, every result is different because we all see reality in a different way, so to me drawing is a way to share with others my point of view with no filters and that’s what I hope my works communicate to the viewer, my own interpretation of what I see.
NC: What drew you to working in charcoal? What advantages do you think it has over other media?
LG: I have always been attracted to charcoal because it’s so organic and it gives you very deep and intense blacks. Charcoal is easily moldable and, when combined with the right paper, allows you to work for a long time on it. Nitram Charcoals’ different hardness range, unlike other brands, maximizes these qualities. To me it’s the perfect combination between the freedom of the expressive stroke and the containment of the more strict precision.
NC: Do your pieces always start with a clear vision of what the end result is going to be or does the piece “create itself” along the way and dictate the direction?
LG: I always start working with a clear vision of what I want, but it always happens that the more I look the more I see. Just like when your eyes get used to the dark, new details appear “from nowhere” like magic, and that’s something I enjoy.
NC: The artist has to choose when a work is “done”. How do you know when a work is complete? How do you know when to stop “editing”?
LG: When the work starts to look close to being done I know that the hardest is still to come. I force myself to go on, and when I can’t give any more, I ask for some critiques that encourage me to complete the finishing touches. When I decide that I have worked enough on a piece I never touch it again; I prefer to start something new and better and let the old piece as I once decided.
NC: What’s the best advice you’ve received about becoming an artist?
LG: The main part of learning to draw is learning to look.
NC: How do you set up your studio? What are three items you need in your studio to get started?
LG: Perfect light, very sharp Nitrams and a black mirror.
NC: What is your most unusual quirk or ritual when working on your art?
LG: Closing just one eye while comparing model with drawing is a very helpful and useful trick but, and I know it sounds stupid, I cannot wink an eye. I have tried and trained but I don’t get it, so sometimes I wear a patch on one eye like a pirate…
NC: What’s the first piece of art you’ve ever created? What did you learn from it?
LG: It’s hard to say which of my pieces deserve to be considered art or not. I’m not pursuing this idea when I work, I just try to capture the things that captivate me to analyze and learn from them. The first time I remember to have this feeling I was 9 years old and I was obsessed with dogs so I started to work on dog portraits, I was pleased with the results and I learned how important motivation was.
NC: Can you tell us more about one of your favourite creations? Where did you create it? Does it have a story attached?
LG: I have special affection for a portrait I did of my mother. It was very curious because no one considered that my mother and me looked alike at all. In my drawing, though, she looked much more like me even when she still looked exactly as her!
NC: If you had only one word to describe your art, what would you choose?
LG: I need two words: “in process.”