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Impressionist paintings have certain characteristics that set them apart: open composition, visible brush strokes and an emphasis on light in its changing qualities. Finding a different type of art in northern New Mexico is sometimes a far stretch, given that culture often influences artists but Española artist Tony Trujillo knows what impressionism is. His paintings meld beautiful landscapes of azure, violet and emerald and leave the observer longing for a far-off world of tranquility.
The name of the impressionist movement was derived from Claude Monet’s work titled, “Impression, Sunrise.” Incidentally, Trujillo has often been told that his style is similar to that of Monet, though when he first started painting, he wasn’t familiar with impressionism.
Trujillo never aspired to be an artist. He grew up in the Española Valley and graduated from Española Valley High School in 1980. After high school he enlisted in the U.S. Army and spent three years serving his country. Following his time in the service, Trujillo returned to Española and went to school to become a cosmetologist.
He’s been working in that field for the past 23 years. As if work and painting doesn’t keep him busy enough, Trujillo is also a wildland firefighter with the forest service and has been doing that for the past 19 years.
Unlike some artists who recognize their talent at a young age, Trujillo started painting at 36. His talent was realized when he did his first painting on the suggestion of a friend. “She was a painter and she got me into it,” Trujillo said. “I give God all the credit. I don’t know how in the world I started painting at 36.”
He first became familiar with impressionism when someone saw one of his paintings and told him that he paints like Monet. “I got a book on the impressionist style,” Trujillo said. It was that book that helped him realize that his work was similar to Monet’s.
For the past 10 years Trujillo has seized every possible opportunity to hone his artistic skills. “I try to do at least two paintings per month,” he said. “I never contemplate a piece of work. I just pray and then start painting.” He says that he gets some of his ideas from magazines, while other ideas just come to him.
It’s no surprise that Trujillo had a hidden talent. Before he discovered his talent for painting, he was a drummer for various bands in Española. In addition, he’s the uncle of another northern New Mexico artist, Toby Morfin.
Trujillo’s method for creating his works of art is a little unorthodox. Instead of using an easel, he uses a table to paint on. “That’s what’s comfortable and what seemed to work. If it’s not broken don’t fix it,” he said with a grin.
Trujillo feels no pressure to produce his works of art. He says he paints because he enjoys doing so, not as a means of financial support. “Being able to pull beauty out of the heart and being able to paint a soothing, relaxing and inviting piece is the greatest benefit,” he said. “I never sketch anything. It doesn’t work like that for me. I never know what will come out until the day I paint. It’s not contrived and it’s not forced. There just comes a time when I’m ready to paint. It’s in my heart. It’s in my spirit,” Trujillo said of his process.
He currently has 136 paintings at his home. He’s hoping to sell some because “I’m running out of room,” he said with a laugh.
“I had only been painting for 11 months when I entered a contest and won third place in acrylics,” Trujillo mentioned. Trujillo has exhibited at various art spaces in Santa Fe as well as the Open Space Gallery in Taos. He’s also exhibited his work at Trinity Bar and Grill in Los Alamos and at the Española Valley Arts Festival.
In addition, Trujillo’s art is featured in the movie, “North Country” directed by Niki Caro and starring Charlize Theron, Elle Peterson and Thomas Curtis. Though he’s exhibited at different art venues, Trujillo is gearing up for his first big show. His artwork will be on display and for sale at the Bond House Museum in Española.
An reception for the show titled, “The New Impressionist” will be held on April 3 from 5-8 p.m. and will run through May 8. For more information, visit www.plazadeespanola.com or call 505-747-8535.