David Esquivel is an Aurora, Illinois-based painter who has been painting every day for the last five years. Finding his 'voice' along the way, his current minimalistic pieces showcase landscapes, rainfalls, desert skies, and snowstorms with brightly colored abstractions. Working almost exclusively with brown/tan backgrounds, Esquivel's pieces all seem to fit inside the same world, one of visible beauty and zen serenity. I spoke with the painter about his process, his hefty collection, and what he has planned down the road.
How did 2017 treat you?
Very nicely! 2017 by far has been my most successful. The previous four years were spent figuring out what it is and why I’m painting. This year I’ve had the opportunity to have a solo exhibition, participate in a group show, and have sold the most work ever in my whole career.
I saw on your Instagram that you've been painting every day for five years. How has your technique/discipline changed?
In the beginning, I didn’t really know what it was I was trying to do. I spent a lot of time trying to make work that looked very alive and real. I never got good at that. It felt like I was just repeating what others had already done. I would draw and paint as much as I could, searching for any idea personally unique to focus on. Somewhere along the line I discovered brown backgrounds, space, and color. Then it was a shift from making work that looked a certain way, to making work that felt like something. I didn’t go to school so I told myself I had to work twice as hard to compete with those who did. I’m trying to slow down now and spend more time on less, more work intensive, paintings
About how long do you spend on any given piece?
It might take a couple of hours of actual time spent painting. I spend a lot of more time pulling my hair out trying to figure out where stuff goes and how big it is or what color it should be.
Do you have any future plans for a larger collection/exhibit or are you currently focused on one-off pieces?
I like to think of my daily painting as a very large series. If anybody ever wants me to put on an exhibition, I could at least fill the place. I have always wanted to do a series of interior spaces, living rooms and kitchens and stuff. If I can ever get the chance, that will be my next series and hopefully exhibition.
Is it difficult to blend passion projects with commissioned assignments?
I’ve only just started getting commissioned and it’s been all good so far. I took one commission that was outside of what it is I’m doing and that was a bummer. I’m only taking commission on work that I want to make so it doesn’t feel separate from my personal projects.
Outside of painting, do you have any other hobbies/interests/desk jobs?
I’m a full time painter right now. Not making any real money so not too many hobbies outside of that. I really like cars. I waste a lot of time looking up cars that I could get and have restored. Lately I have been obsessed with a 1978 Toyota Cressida or a 1995 BMW 5 series wagon.
Your style is so unique. Do you brainstorm/envision the piece beforehand or do you let the paint lead the way?
Thanks. I usually work on odd cuts of canvas and let the space dictate what the piece will be. From there, I pick a color and shape to start with and then try and feel out how to balance out the space.
Does Aurora, IL have much of an art scene?
There is a nice tight-knit scene here. It feels very insulated though. I would like the opportunity to get into the nearby Chicago art scene somehow. There I could have more exposure and possible opportunities.
Who/what have been some of your influences over the years?
My biggest painting influences are Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon. Both of their works feel super human in a way and I’ve always strived to make work that feels the same. The director Paul Thomas Anderson is another person I look to. His movies all are very dense without saying too much. I really like that.
What have you been listening to recently?
I’m all over the place musically. I’ve been listening to the rappers Blu, Mos Def, and Nickelus F recently. The beat makers Ohbliv and Saib, their music is always amazing. Thao and The Get Down Stay Down’s newest album has been on repeat. I started listening to Amy Winehouse recently. She was very unique and incredibly blunt.
Do you have any advice for artists working on their craft?
Focus on what it is you are trying to say with your work. Don’t worry about what other artists are doing. Also, the hardest part of being an artist is thinking about it. It gets easier the more you actually work.
Do you have any final thoughts / words of wisdom? Thanks!
Just thank you Ben for being interested in me and my work! I wish you all the best.