Steven Vasquez Lopez (MFA Painting, 2007) is a Bay Area-based artist whose work explores the flaws and imperfections of human experience through meticulously hand-drawn ink on paper.
A recent Facebook Artist-in-Residence and winner of the USA Absolut Vodka Creative Competition, we decided to catch up with Steven and see what he’s been up to!
SFAI: What projects have you been working on recently? Anything you’re particularly excited about?
Steven Vasquez Lopez: 2018 was a big year for me. I was chosen as a Facebook Artist-In-Resident. Facebook invited me to curate a 42 ft wall installation at the Menlo Park campus in Occulus Building 18. Since I hand draw individual threads one at a time, it was both exciting and daunting to work on a large-scale installation. In collaboration with the FB AIR curator, we created a colorful patterned vinyl wall print to cover the entire 42 ft wall area. Then, I spent over 300 studio hours to complete a 21 ft drawing that was then installed on top of that wall covering. This is the largest drawing I’ve completed to date, and I expect to challenge myself to go even bigger. The project was completed in December 2018.
Over 7500 artists submitted artwork for the competition. There are 19 countries represented and they plan to announce the global winner in May 2019. One of the jurors is Mickalene Thomas, who is a huge influence on me as an artist. The idea that she’s checked out my work is pretty wild for me. Also, the chance at having my original artwork reach a global audience in a massive campaign is major- that would be exciting!
SFAI: Where do you find inspiration for your work?
SVL: The first things that come to mind are architecture, men’s fashion, drag, nature, multiculturalism, family, and humor. I’m inspired by relationships we have with objects, each other and the relationship we have with ourselves.
But probably, my natural obsession to organize is the real constant place of inspiration for me in my work. I crave clearing cluttered physical and mental spaces to find clarity. I’m a natural minimalist and get overwhelmed by messy places. I work out of my small SF studio apartment, so there isn’t room to have lots of “stuff”. Everything I own has a clear function and placement. Also, aside from a few plants and a red Mexican serape, everything in my place is white (or off-white). The only color you will find is from my drawings. This keeps me focused and intentional about each line I draw.
SFAI: What is your process for creating your work?
SVL: My work is hand drawn with Micron pens on Bristol Illustration paper. Most people think these are digitally produced until they see them in person or actually read the descriptions. I use a straight edge but no computer or printers. Each “thread” is hand drawn in ink one at a time. It’s a very laborious and meditative process. I work on a drafting table and can sit for 4-8 hours in a session. I do lots of experimenting with ideas, techniques and formal compositions on small works (about 11" x 14") before I plan out larger works (36" x 42" or larger). The scrolls that are 42" wide and up to 21 feet long take more planning. I usually calendar out the studio time it will take me to complete these large works. I know exactly how many hours and days it will take me because I know how long it takes me to complete each square foot of drawing. However, the plaid color patterns in the work are more intuitive and not planned out.
SFAI: What are you working on now?
SVL: Since graduating from SFAI (MFA 2007), many of my colleagues have left San Francisco. It’s so challenging as an artist to financially support yourself, pay off student loans, balance a social life, motivate the studio hustle and remain inspired. I’m very thankful for every opportunity that has come my way. I’m very structured and disciplined when it comes to my studio practice. I do my best to stay organized, grounded and present- every day.
Currently, in the studio, I’m experimenting with more large wall installation ideas that combine original drawings with wall coverings. I’ve recently introduced the arch or curve into my compositions and shapes while maintaining my plaid patterns. There is something playful and emotional about roundness.
A few years ago, I did a series called “patches” that introduced amoeba-like shapes supporting one another. It was a playful departure from my more serious works. But the series was purchased by a New York collector before I ever had a chance to exhibit the drawings. So, I’ve decided this would be a good time to re-enter those ideas. There is lots of roundness in that imagery and I’m having a lot of fun.
I’m playing with “pears” and “pairs”. These pears/pairs are self-reflective, have the possibility of being partners and are genuine food for thought. I hope this work is fruitful, ha!
Keep up with Steven online! @stevenvasquezlopez // www.stevenvlopez.com