Santiago is a real-life artist, yet a quiet and modest man born in Cayey, PR in 1941 and raised as a child and young adult in Santa Isabel and started his formal training in traditional art and illustration in 1960 at New York Institute of Technology after his military duty ended. He also took private classes from 1961 to 1965 with Greg Chapain, French master painter and with Rogelo Vilarchasso a Spanard master painter.
While attending high school in Santa Isabel, he was often commissioned by the teachers to sketch pictures of the books they were reading to make it interesting. Sra. Moreno who was in charge of the artistic events at the school had asked Santiago to sketch a picture of Juan Morel Campos, musician and composer for an event at the intermediate school. Santiago was invited to attend the event and to his surprise, the sketch was in a glass frame. In addition, the principal handed him an envelope with $3.00 in appreciation of his artistic contribution. Don't laugh, $3.00 was a lot of money then and so I pointed out to Santiago that it was his first paid commissioned work.
After completing his studies, he went to work at the Post Office which paid the bills. Luck always on his side he noticed an opening posted for two Illustrators in California, he applied and out of thousands of applicants he got the job which meant he was doing what he loved to do until he retired and moved back to Puerto Rico with his wife in 1998.
I had the pleasure of meeting Santiago on December 3, 2009 at the Centro Cultural Carmen Sola de Pereira in Ponce where he was exhibiting three paintings. The quality of his work is excellent and his picture El Tren brings him back to his childhood and the history he lived here in PR. If you are looking for a realist painting that you want handed down generation to generation, this is your guy.
Living with his grandparents as a child in a small wooden house he would have a pencil by his bedside and would draw on the wooden walls because paper was not available. Santiago smiles as he recalled drawing a lion on the wooden wall yet when he showed his grandparents they said, “Nice elephant”. Too funny, but how blessed he was to have their support and love to encourage him, just think a muralist at such an early age. What I discovered is that a true dedicated artist is naturally disciplined to paint or draw every day, it is the food of life, the ultimate pleasure to express himself, just plain love of duplicating what he envisioned and what he saw. Dreams are forever.
He joined the US Military service and that is where he meets his wife Elma while stationed in Panama. Cornel Grodin asked Santiago to paint a mural on the cafeteria wall and as a result his squad won first prize. After his military tour, he and his wife moved to New York City and thanks to his military duty, now Uncle Sam paid for his college education where he studied art and design at the New York Institute of Technology. He also studied the old master's techniques under French and Spanish Masters between 1961 and 1965.
Maguida Rivera aka Marie
Interviewed on December 8th, 2009
Since this interview Santiago has moved back to the US mainland. I consider myself privileged to have met such an amazing and humble master painter.
SANTIAGO LÓPEZ DE JESÚS
PO Box 855, Luquillo, PR 00773
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