About the artist
In this week’s artist interview we meet Humberto Dominguez. Humberto is a practicing lawyer and digital artist. Originally from Ecuador, he has been based in New York City for many years. Although he now lives in Queens, he still considers Brooklyn to be his eternal home. His hobbies include soccer, reading and art — painting in particular, though he admits he rarely has time for that; posting on Instagram has been his way to return to painting, in a digital sense. He finds that there really is not much of a difference between digital and ‘traditional’ expressions of art.
Humberto has a distinctive style, often using repeating visual themes in his work. Scroll through his images and you’ll find surreal pictures inspired by Magritte, along with shadowy figures in hazy street scenes, and more. He uses passages from his favourite books or writes stories of his own to accompany the images he creates; he says helps him hone the concept of the composition. His images can take many hours and comprise numerous elements taken from multiple sources before he is completely happy with the result.
How did you first get into digital art?
It began after signing on to Facebook — I’ve never really liked it, but it introduced to me to Instagram. At first I was posting lame, everyday shots, but then started creating images that were progressively more sophisticated. I was, in effect, reconnecting to painting — a favourite hobby which I had to put aside for various reasons.
Why did you choose digital art as your medium?
Again, it is easier to ‘paint’ a picture digitally and without the mess.
What artistic styles are you particularly drawn to?
I am drawn toward many styles, so narrowing down to just a few is difficult. I studied art and at one time I thought I would become an architect, as I like linear starting points and foundations. Perhaps I view life that way — the search for clarity and definition in a straight line, or series of parallel lines. One of my best writings is named Parallels.
There are many artists that I’ve studied over the years, including Picasso, El Greco, Gauguin, Van Gogh, the great Edward Hopper, the late Lucian Freud, Degas. Magritte, Dali and more; some whose presence or impact can palpably be found in my imagery.
Tell us about the process you use to make your art.
Ah, this can be a simple thing, especially if the shot is already on the money and just perhaps needs tweaking in terms of the light. On the other hand, the process can be tedious and time consuming, especially if the initial image is either lacking in quality or needs to be enhanced significantly for me to reach the desired effect or look.
Sometimes, the source image is provided – I belong to an Instagram group where images are emailed to us, usually on Thursday, and we have to transform the image and post it to the group on Monday. I’ll break up the image to get rid of elements I think are unnecessary or clouding the focal point. I may add a human element in a specific part the hope to tell a story. I would say that 95 percent of my best images already have, or I have added, a human aspect.
If I choose to make an image off the cuff, it is likely to feature a man with a hat or umbrella in a serious, dim lit context. The sense of mystery usually makes me play with dark and light elements. As a reference point, you can look up the wonderful book The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes. It’s one of my favourites, and at least one of my posted images makes obvious reference to it.
What inspires you?
Shapes and angles definitely inspire me. Other times, it may be something totally coincidental; I may look at an image and think of something, say a story, and try to find a way to match the finished product with it. It usually helps to add a human figure and then wax poetically about a lost love, or a bygone time. I find that to be a common motif in my written work and, by extension, in my imagery.
What is your artistic motivation?
Delusions of grandeur, probably! I think that, given my line of work, I find creating imagery to be a form of escape; a way to create in a fun way, without necessarily affecting people’s lives, or being the fulcrum in a person’s life. But, and it’s a big but, all the while having the ability to affect people, particularly the discerning, artistically minded souls, in a way that is truly profound. That, lurking in the background, can be monstrously motivating.
There is an image I worked on for many hours; it’s based on a quote, a reference to The Godfather. Thinking that people could see the connection, the feeling of the capture is a reward onto itself. As it turned out, I (usually a great speller) misspelled a word in the image, and so I often remember the image for my mistake and for the laborious process that took me to the final image.
Of all your images to date, which is your favourite and why?
With over 3000 posted images, it’s difficult to specify a number of significant favourites. I would say that most of them have a surreal element. I have often posted an image of a human figure, usually with a hat and perhaps a raincoat. The reactions I receive to these images alluding to Magritte, and it’s perhaps not inaccurate visually.
Which three words or phrases would you use to describe your work?
Visceral. Romantic (at least in terms of intention). Painterly, as ‘perfection’ can border on the boring.
What interesting responses to your artwork have you had?
I’ve had a number of interesting and emotive reactions; if I have felt them to be genuine I have been moved by them. The best reactions have been to posts where my written work seems to have touched a chord in someone. I have always had fond reactions to a poem I call Reflections in an afternoon like this, which I have used with several images that seemed to fit. It is a story, a love story; it’s about a person thinking about a long lost love, which he treasures still, and knows he will think about until his dying day.
Name three artists who inspire you.
Lucien Freud: I can’t begin to say how, but I know in many of my ‘painterly’ images, particularly those of lone figures, I see, feel and recognise his influence.
Magritte: Bowler hat. Apple. It’s undeniably something people connect with if they go through my feed.
Edward Hopper. I worked on an image, based on a shot of a cook I took in the diner made famous by the movie Goodfellas. I sought out to narrow down the essentials, loneliness and all, that permeate most of Hopper’s outstanding work. His work makes me want to take a time machine and somehow make it to the places and things that inspired him.
How do you think you’ve improved as an artist compared to when you first started?
As in most things, practice, experimentation, perseverance and dedication has been the key to reaching new heights. Progress, unfortunately, is not linear. Sometimes you find yourself taking a step or two backwards before you notice you are back in the direction of progress.
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started making art?
I’m not really sure about this question. On the one hand, I think that progress is a simply a matter or experimentation and discovery. I loathe reading instruction manuals; I suppose if I were more disciplined that way, I would figure out all the nuts and bolts of ArtStudio and be a fantastic artist beyond my dreams. The only advice I would give advise is to explore more apps, and find more implements to help me along.
What devices/equipment do you use to create your art?
I often take pictures with the iPhone and them edit away into oblivion. I own a number of cameras, my current favourites are by Sony, including the Alpha models. Most of my processing in done on iPads.
Which apps/programs do you use to create your art and which are your favourites?
There are so many that I could probably spend more than an hour listing them. I have more than 100 apps on my devices. Among my favourites are: Snapseed, Image Blender, Superimpose, SKRWT, Glaze, Handy, PhotoCrash, Stackables, Formulas, Mextures, Distressed FX, Fantastic Elements, Reflect, LensLight, PhotoCandy, Leonardo, Instaflash, Color Lake, Effexy, LoryStripes, MasterFX, Noiseware, Simple, Lumyer, Over, Painteresque, Brushstroke, Blackie and more besides.
Do you use images from stock sites as well as your own photos and if so, which are your favourites and why?
I try to use my own imagery, but life is complicated and sneaking out to shoot in a work week is often impossible. So yes, I use imagery from pngimg.com and also Pixabay and Unsplash.
Do you find that people dismiss digital art as a valid art form?
I am not so sure people dismiss digital art, but I think a good number of people do not view or think of this medium in the same light. I have reproduced some of my imagery through Woodsnap, and if people were exposed to imagery on a printed, palpable basis I think they would begin to make the transition (which I made in my head a while ago).
Find links to more of Humberto’s work in his entry in our Artists’ Directory.