Spotlight on an Artist- Miguel Linares Ríos

Miguel Linares Rios is a Spanish watercolor painter I discovered on Facebook this last fall.  Here's a link to his professional Facebook page.  There’s a kind of whimsy to his work that I find really attractive- his buildings are always a bit off kilter, there's a story to his courtyards and laundry, and I found his propensity for including cats and birds smile-inducing.  And then, of course, there's the confident, juicy wet-into-wet work.  Wow!  I set about researching him, but there's actually not much about him out there- no videos or blog posts or magazine articles to find.  His only website is his Facebook page, so if you want to see more of his work, you should Follow him there.  I contacted him through it, and asked him a few questions.

because his work has so much more soft, diffuse, wet into wet work than normal, you really notice where he's decided to have hard lines and separate shapes- like the birds and boat in this one.

because his work has so much more soft, diffuse, wet into wet work than normal, you really notice where he's decided to have hard lines and separate shapes- like the birds and boat in this one.

here you can see how the bodies of the cats are done wet into wet, but the details (like stripes and ears) are done when the paper is dry.

here you can see how the bodies of the cats are done wet into wet, but the details (like stripes and ears) are done when the paper is dry.

What I could gather from my limited Spanish is that he wets and stretches his paper on a board with staples.  They often seem to be about a 1/2 sheet in size.  After it dries, he wets it all down again, and paints wet into wet in one go as it dries.  Most sessions run 2-3 hours, and he prefers to do it all in one sitting.  He said, however, that he dedicates a reasonable amount of time to preliminary sketches and composition.  So, the goal is to have a complete vision in his mind, do his planning, and then the painting happens in one quick go.   Some stuff is taken from real life, but what was pretty interesting is that other compositions are completely imaginary.  Perhaps like this painting below...

Something I love about his work are the edges.  others would paint the white doors in this painting with hard edges, but he leaves them soft and diffuse.   The outer edge of the brown building, however, has a clean, hard edge.  My presumption is that he painted all around it first (doing the sky and other buildings) and then went into it once they were dry.

Something I love about his work are the edges.  others would paint the white doors in this painting with hard edges, but he leaves them soft and diffuse.   The outer edge of the brown building, however, has a clean, hard edge.  My presumption is that he painted all around it first (doing the sky and other buildings) and then went into it once they were dry.

So, how does he combine these hard and soft edges?  He's moving into not using masking fluid, but in the past, when necessary, he would mask those objects that needed to keep a hard edge, and go in to those areas after everything was dry.  You can also see that he's not afraid to use Chinese white- sometimes for dry brush work, and sometimes, I'm pretty sure, wet into wet.  Other times, he recaptures his lights by scratching- either with the back of his brush or with a fingernail.  Still, the basic method is to paint negatively and then build his edges after one section has dried, which you can see in action for many of the buildings he does.

I asked him about the birds in this painting, and he said he preserved them with masking fluid.

I asked him about the birds in this painting, and he said he preserved them with masking fluid.

here you can see how he has scraped for the tree on the left, and used chinese white for the ladder and ropes.  Did he using masking fluid for the birds?  I'm not sure, but maybe.

here you can see how he has scraped for the tree on the left, and used chinese white for the ladder and ropes.  Did he using masking fluid for the birds?  I'm not sure, but maybe.

in this one, you can see the whites he preserved for the bridge railings, as well as the white he used for the tree branches.  I suspect a bit of chinese white was used wet-into-wet for the snow flying by above the old man's head too.

in this one, you can see the whites he preserved for the bridge railings, as well as the white he used for the tree branches.  I suspect a bit of chinese white was used wet-into-wet for the snow flying by above the old man's head too.

Something of particular note is how little he uses hard cast shadows and bright paper-whites as a compositional tool.  You can go back and look through the images, and although they're sometimes there, the shadows are generally painted wet into wet (and are either pale or soft edged), and the lights often have a pale wash over them.  This creates a soft light source that conjures up a dreamy, shady mood- houses are bonded to their surroundings, shady courtyard laundry feels like a part of the building behind it, boats don't just float on the water's surface, but rather feel a bit like part of it.  Man-made and natural objects are treated the same in terms of technique.  Instead of bold, dark cast shadows and shining whites modeling the forms and "capturing the light", you view gently abstracted blocks of muted light and dark.  The composition and arrangement of forms, and the placement of hard versus dark edges, becomes the more important element.

the heavy shadows under the awnings merge with the shaded side of the house.  the darker areas at the foot of the walls pass for cast shadows.  the soft edges bond the spaces together, as the house sinks into the forest behind it.

the heavy shadows under the awnings merge with the shaded side of the house.  the darker areas at the foot of the walls pass for cast shadows.  the soft edges bond the spaces together, as the house sinks into the forest behind it.

The boat is barely separated from the water.  the wet into wet shadows of the dock, pylons, and boat reflection are little different from the clouds up above.  even the cast shadows and doors on the form of the boat are soft edged.  the similarity of form and edges binds the painting together. 

The boat is barely separated from the water.  the wet into wet shadows of the dock, pylons, and boat reflection are little different from the clouds up above.  even the cast shadows and doors on the form of the boat are soft edged.  the similarity of form and edges binds the painting together. 

the walls of this courtyard gently descend into darkness.  the cast shadows barely exist, and the paper-white not at all.  there's little difference between the hanging laundry and the dark windows.  instead, the painting rests on the arrangement of forms, and the story it tells about cats, birds, and absent humans

the walls of this courtyard gently descend into darkness.  the cast shadows barely exist, and the paper-white not at all.  there's little difference between the hanging laundry and the dark windows.  instead, the painting rests on the arrangement of forms, and the story it tells about cats, birds, and absent humans

the composition in this painting is interesting to me because of how unnaturally bright the beach is, given the dark value of the ocean and the dark cloudy sky.   It makes the beach and the people stand out, but also expresses the subtle feeling of a sunny, welcoming beach against a dark, unwelcoming sky... without having to do much but contrast the values.

the composition in this painting is interesting to me because of how unnaturally bright the beach is, given the dark value of the ocean and the dark cloudy sky.   It makes the beach and the people stand out, but also expresses the subtle feeling of a sunny, welcoming beach against a dark, unwelcoming sky... without having to do much but contrast the values.

What's neat is if you look at the first painting, way back at the top of post, you can see a lot of Miguel's techniques, wrapped up in a single image.  Pretty neat stuff!

here we can see all kinds of different wet into wet edges.  Notice the difference between the windows in #`1 and #2, where #2 is drier.  Note, however, how much control there is in #4, where he actually has yellow, red,, dark blue, and white shapes meeting.   Pretty amazing!

here we can see all kinds of different wet into wet edges.  Notice the difference between the windows in #`1 and #2, where #2 is drier.  Note, however, how much control there is in #4, where he actually has yellow, red,, dark blue, and white shapes meeting.   Pretty amazing!

the arrows here point out lots of dry on dry work, done at the painting.

the arrows here point out lots of dry on dry work, done at the painting.

lots of scratching in this one one.  all those little window sills and edges, the words on the awning, etc. 

lots of scratching in this one one.  all those little window sills and edges, the words on the awning, etc.