Maria Jimenez is a contemporary representational artist based in New York. While working towards her undergraduate degree, the artist began working as a freelancer, illustrating trade and mass-market paperback covers for young adult readers. Maria continued freelancing after college and later took academic drawing and painting courses at the National Academy of Design, New York Academy and School of Visual Arts honing her Adobe program skills. This artist’s journey is inspiring as she was not afraid to follow her dreams and change her career as an artist three times. Read our interview below.
Did you always know that you wanted to be an artist? When did you first started creating art?
Harvey Dinnerstein, a representational artist in his late 80’s, created a painting of his wife gazing at the viewer and I was in awe. I knew then that I wanted to be an artist.
The subtleties in the gesture and texture of the work evoked a poignant moment for me. With the help of my sister and paint by number kits, I began creating sketches and acrylic paintings.
I was accepted into the High School of Art & Design as a sophomore and was introduced to historical as well as contemporary realists painters. I learned how to paint under the tutelage of Max Ginsberg and Irwin Greenberg, two figurative artists, and illustrators working mostly from life. After I graduated from the School of Visual Arts, I was working as a freelancer for companies such as Scholastic Inc., Random House, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing.
Please tell me about your decision to change careers. What was the hardest part about it?
I didn’t realize how lonely the freelancing business could be. I reveled at the idea the first couple of years, and then the demands of work became overwhelming causing more reclusion. I knew I needed to make a shift but didn’t initiate or make a real effort. This imbalance caused a chronic illness, so I was forced to make a career change.
The hardest part was figuring out where I see myself in the next five years so that the environment I create is healthy (mentally and physically), and learning to keep everything simple. Steve Job said, “That’s been one of my mantras—focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.” That is the key.
I soon registered for desktop publishing courses because it was still creative and soon landed a job in the field. It was great to be out of the house and working with others. I wasn’t afraid to change careers after working eleven years in production and went back to school to get my MFA in the Fine Arts and education. Now I split my time between painting and teaching.
Please tell me about your current art. What does your work aim to say? What is your number one goal for your art?
My current work is about young adults since I teach students of that age. I worked on a series of paintings on cell phone addiction. The overwhelming use of cell phones by young people is fundamentally shaping their ability to think, communicate, and relate to each other.
Social media has become post-millennials’ online and offline identity, transforming the way they connect to one another. It has become an addictive environment and a cause for concern. The purpose of creating the series was to illustrate specific relationships that people have with technology and the consequences as well as benefits.
Tia Ghose, a staff contributor for LiveScience writes, “Social networking sites like Facebook ‘hook’ people using four elements: a trigger, such as loneliness, boredom or stress; an action, such as logging in to Facebook; an unpredictable or variable reward, such as scrolling through a mix of juicy and boring tidbits in the newsfeed; and investment, which includes posting pictures or liking someone’s status update.” I completed a painting titled “Black Box” which encompasses the first “hook” element. I’m working on completing the last hook element since I have three so far.
My number one goal as an artist is to communicate issues that are of interest to me and to emphasize moments in human vulnerability; when they are no longer aware of being watched and authenticity is revealed. I look for the nuances in body language and physiognomy. My work engages with this topic by illustrating specific gestures, introverted moments and relationships.
What piece of art first made you learn to appreciate art?
There are so many historical works of art that I admire from artist like Caravaggio, Diego Velasquez, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Joaquin Sorolla, Ana Mendieta, Richard Diebenkorn, etc. that it’s difficult to choose, but if there is one painting that had a visceral effect and learned to appreciate art, it would be “El Jaleo” by John Singer Sargent. A Spanish dancer evokes emotion with her gestures as low-level stage lights are emphasized on her arm, dress and fellow musicians. The painting hangs in dramatic fashion at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and it’s a must see! The artwork captures a spontaneous cultural moment, and that is what I hope to achieve in my work.
If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be?
One piece of advice to a large group of people is to have confidence in what you do, even if you hear a small voice of doubt. I live by this quote by Marianne Williamson, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?