VIDAL J. RIVERO
Vidal J. Rivero is a Cuban Artist. His art is a mix of Salvador Dali’s quirky imagination and Picasso’s colorful design. His collection of work is a range of wonderful cartoons suited for every child’s heart to paintings that make you think about life and its many twist and turns.
Vidal is a gentle soul. From the very moment you meet this man you can tell he’s got a good heart. He isn’t boastful or overly confident about the quality of his work. He speaks of his process as if it’s nothing out of the ordinary. His work just is. That makes the moment of being in his presence that much more.
I’ve visited his home now a couple of times. His wife always offers me a cafesito (an expresso for the rest of the world) while I take pictures of his work. As he walks around showing me his paintings, I can tell he wants me to like each piece at least as much as he does.
He lives in a modest apartment with his wife in a community just a few miles on the outskirts of downtown Miami. His studio is a corner of his bedroom where he hangs the latest piece he’s working on. Only a couple of his paintings are hung on the walls. Neatly tucked in his closet, lay most of his larger paintings. There are hundreds of drawings and prints of his work carefully wrapped in a large artists’ folder. He opens it up and starts sifting through the work.
Age worn paper, brightened only by the work it displays, fills me with wonder and gratitude. At this point you can imagine how fortunate I feel. Not many get the joy of looking at an artist’s early work, that is both original and unique, as they mingle with the artist that created it.
Vidal works with acrylic on canvas, but he’s ventured onto paper and wood. He’s even done a few murals. He tends to create small sketches of the work that he’ll later blow up into a masterpiece.Looking at these tiny drawings you could say they are masterpieces on their own.
Some designs he’s had for many years and is waiting on just the right moment to enlarge. Others don’t have a tiny counterpart; they were thought of and created straight onto a larger scale.
His work speaks of years of dedication and practice. I was very surprised to learn he hadn’t always been a painter. He studied numbers and emerged an accountant of sorts; working as such for over 20 years. All the while he would doodle on napkins and scraps of paper. Fortunately, he preserved all these tiny scraps.
As retirement began to creep up, he decided to lead the rest of his life fulfilling his hearts desire. He paints now, exclusively, and practically on a daily basis.
When asked where his inspiration comes from, he said to me that he’d like to portray something in each painting. A few of his pieces look like what many would interpret as simply “beautiful”, while the majority express deeper meanings of struggle, love, and human nature that are slightly masked by his choice in color. He describes his paintings as suggestive. The idea is there for people to interpret in their own unique way.
I was hesitant in asking him a particular personal question. I didn’t want to intrude or make him uncomfortable, but I just had to know. Vidal has Parkinson’s Disease. When you look at his paintings there are no wiggly lines in site, no paint dripping in the wrong place, definitely zero mistakes. His most recent work is detailed with a palpable vibrancy. In other words, his paintings revealed no evidence of his condition. I wanted to know how he did it. What was his secret? As he starts to explain, I see his hand shake and I can’t imagine how he’s created all this fascinating work with that tremor. His wife interrupts to explain that his medication is key. He has to take them regularly without breaking the routine. Otherwise, the effects can really be a problem.
Shortly after Vidal interjects and tells me its not that bad. He just has to concentrate. His next statements basically prove he has magical powers. When focusing on his tremor he can just tell his hand to stop and immediately the tremor ceases. He uses this concentration technique to start and finish his work. He did admit that it can be very tiresome. He needs breaks often to recharge.
Continuing with my questions, I wanted to know what some of his favorite techniques were to get in the mood to create a new piece. He tells me of the “scratch and sketch” technique, where you take a paper and create a bunch of lines on it with pencil. Looking at your lines, begin to erase or add more lines to bring out a shape you see. Some of his pieces emerged from just a bunch of random lines on a paper. This was such an eye opener for me as a creator. Artists take their craft so seriously sometimes that we forget that art and inspiration can emerge from the simplest of sources.
Did he have any advice for young artists? I don’t remember asking him, but I know he never stops thinking about his art. He creates daily and is always thinking about the next piece. If you’re going to take something from this interview it should be that nothing should hold you back from what you love. Vidal doesn’t allow his age or his condition to limit his creative process. That is beyond admirable.
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