Art is a matter of pure passion for the Spanish painter Arantzazu Martinez. When her craving to paint like the 19th century masters could not be met at the academy in Madrid, she left Spain to study at Jacob Collins’s Water Street Atelier in New York.
“It was like a new world opened for me,” Martinez remembers. “Suddenly everything was possible: I learned to draw, learned to paint, learned about color, I learned everything there.”
When she got back in Spain, Martinez began painting commissioned portraits, to pay the bills. “After about six months, I was completely depressed. I don’t want to wake up to this.”
“I didn’t hate it—it simply was not giving me anything. I need my work to make me exalt,” she said. “After learning how to paint, the process, the technique, I had finally gained the freedom and the ability to do what I wanted! Yet I found myself doing something that I really didn’t care about. It felt like I was letting myself down. Why in the world would I do something that I don’t feel is worth it when I spent all my guilders and life to learn what I longed to do? It was a complete shock to me.”
Martinez sobered up and quickly returned to her original interest.
“You must have a great idea, and make it more perfect, bolder. If you feel excited about it, that excitement, when you love it, when it’s gonna be great, it gives you the energy to keep going. You get a little bit obsessed—without any suffering. Then you can go deeper and deeper until what you have is perfect. But if you work on something that you don’t care about in your heart, it’s not worth to go that far. You need to really fall in love with something to make it great—without that love, there’s no way to take it beyond the ordinary.”
With her focus in place, Martinez’s compositions have gradually been growing in size and complexity, with some of her amazing work now measuring over 7 feet tall.
“I’m trying to push myself further every time, while trying to keep things interesting and fun for myself,” Martinez said.
The fun begins before painting.
“I do spend a lot of time on the designing stage,” Martinez said. “Selecting the props, composing and building the scene. If you don’t settle for less and delve deeper to find what you really want, you will always find a way.”
The process of her latest bigger work, “Absolute Trust” (“I’m looking for that also in my life,” she said.), was an interesting one: “It’s about feeling confident that everything is going to be alright. As I was painting, the painting told me about what trust really means.”
She recounts finding the throne, which the painting required: “I accidentally saw it in the window of an antiques shop. What are the odds of running into a throne in one’s life? Really, it starts with a dream and becomes a reality.”
Then what does it take to dream? Martinez said:
“In the end it is a choice. If you get close to the things that make you feel sad, sad because of this, sad because of that, or because of what happened here or elsewhere, or because of yourself, it’s a choice. If you choose to look for the things that you feel better about, that too, is a choice. I would say: help yourself.”
Martinez’s cascading words burst with passion as she speaks of the source of her inspiration.
“When it comes to the different art forms … I believe there is a connection between all of them, they give you that high emotion: they make you feel bigger, give you more clarity, make you feel more able to move, give you confidence. I’m inspired by the idea of human strength; that feeling you get when you follow your dreams; the ability to create something that doesn’t exist, not only in a book, or a painting, or a sculpture—but even in life, every single day that you wake up in the morning. That feeling that makes you feel really, really, good; it’s about strength, clarity, love, a deep calm, fun. … So my inspiration is many, many things together.”
Martinez would love her paintings to have the “ability to color people’s lives, that it shows people the way to that emotion, to that dream. When you are close to art that makes you feel in a different, better world, that’s beautiful. It is beautiful because it is refreshing, it is arresting, exciting and great. That’s what I’m looking for. “
Wim Van Aalst is a painter based in Belgium