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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Alvaro Castagnet. Christmas Interview

How did you come across watercolors, and why did you choose it over other mediums?
Since I can remember I have been attracted to drawing and painting. My father realized I had a strong artistic in interest, and supported me all along. He organized for me to study with a good friend of him, Professor Esteban Garino, who happen to be one of Uruguay’s best watercolor artist. So, by the age of 12, I would go to his studio, paint and draw by his side. Then I went to ‘Bellas Artes’ Art School, where I learned from one of the finest Uruguayan oil painters, Miguel Angel Pareja, he taught me a lot about theory of colours. My technical skills reached their professional peak in Melbourne Australia where I spent a few years focused and immersed on developing my own style of painting. Met lots of fellow artists, working in the medium at a very high level; I got so inspired and focus - there was no looking back!

Alvaro Castagnet. Passion To The End. 56x75
How does the watercolor medium respond for you unlike other mediums?
I simply love the medium. It suits my personality. Watercolor for me means pleasure, freshness, spontaneity, and freedom! I believe it is a superb medium. It’s spontaneity, it’s speed of execution, it’s happy accidents, together with perennial pigments, 100% cotton paper, and other elements that not only enhance the glow with an intense chromatic brilliance of any hue; but makes it possible for a watercolor to stand the times, and so, be a very valid and valuable work of art. In watercolors essentially, you can capture the magic of life in one session! And, to my liking - this makes this medium second to none! 

Alvaro Castagnet. Workshop Demo, 05, 2010

How do you get inspiration? Do you look for it or it is always there?
Both. It sometimes happens naturally, spontaneously; but other times, even though I feel like painting, the subject does not touch my inner feelings. So, I have to look for inspiration, and that could mean, going for a walk, looking at photos, to draw, listen to music, etc.

Alvaro Castagnet. Afternoon Glow, 67 x 101 cm

What is your attitude to a painting from reference photos?
I think it is all valuable, as long as you don’t get bogged down in superficialities or details.

You are quite relaxed about using the opaque paints. Do you believe in justice of strict rules about pure transparent watercolors limitation?
I believe in end results, so, vision should be followed, expressed the best possible way with the chosen medium. One of the most beautiful aspects of watercolor medium is the transparency; so, it obviously is a very important factor to consider when painting, but it is not a rule to follow, for the sake of it. But I must say, I only use watercolor pigments.

Alvaro Castagnet. Workshop Demo. 2011

Do you always have a plan before you start to paint?
I always have a clear vision and work with the end result in my mind. Once you have it clear in your head, then speed of execution, security and minimum mistakes are a direct consequence.

Where is the point displaying that the work is finished? 
To be honest, it is always a gut feeling - it doesn’t obey to a rationale rule. Intrinsically, you know you got it, you are done with it! 

What are you serious about? 
I AM VERY SERIOUS ABOUT the crusade of taking watercolors to a higher level; to raise awareness and respect for this most beautiful and difficult medium. The high standards, together with the perennial aspect reached today by the high quality of all the materials; makes it possible to create a work of art that will resist the taste of times. On my own work, I am serious about capturing mood and magic of the chosen subject, always exploiting the virtues of the medium.

Your paintings are very recognizable by your style and colors. What are the “must” colors for you?
Colors are the heart and soul of my paintings. I like to work with “a palette of colors“. This means synchronized, homogenic set of hues. This translates in unity, and holds the painting together. Of course, I have cool and warm of each hue: reds, blues, and earthy colors, ochre, sienna’s; and some exotic ones like lavender, green turquoise light, etc. Colors by itself are not so important; what is important is to work with a “palette of colors”.

Alvaro Castagnet. Workshop Demo. 2012
How many brushes do you use? 
I believe brushes are the most important tool of the painter. My years of experience with watercolor lead me to design the ideal ‘extended finger’. A painting will benefit from natural hair brushes which are soft and very absorbent. For the main washes, I mostly paint with mop shaped brushes as they are able to carry lots of water and pigment - about six or seven different brush sizes. Then, I use the firm control of a premium synthetic brush (my own Escoda set) which is helpful to apply the final details - about three brushes.

Alvaro Castagnet. Workshop in Istambul.

What is your paper choice?
I think every artist should work with the best materials they can afford. I have used many different papers, and a lot are very good. I really like to work with 300 grams, (140 lb) rough Texture in Saunders Waterford, Arches, Kilimanjaro, Fabriano, Hahnemuehle, etc. (300 grams is same as 140 pound). I also use some smooth paper for charcoal sketches.

Do you have some authorities in watercolor of the past or present?
I guess we all have artist that we admire, and some are referrals to our work (mainly when we are at the beginning of our careers). There are so many good watercolor artists all over the world now in Australia, Spain, USA, Uk, etc., and many young artists from China that are doing amazing works. The list of artist I like, would be way too long to write, but I think one that I feel very much drawn to his work; paintings by Andrew Wyeth.

Alvaro Castagnet. Tango Passion II. 75x56 cm

When you teach do you attempt to show the method of painting or the attitude to the subject? 
Both are very important. I try to have a balance and stress the importance of having a philosophy, your own approach, and to paint with integrity. An artist needs to master his technique to work with security and freedom; but also needs to look beyond technique to express feelings and pour his passion into his work; as that would let him express the heart and soul of the chosen subject.

Alvaro Castagnet. From Shanghai Biennalle 2010

What is the sign of a Work of Art?
To me, magic and mood!

Do your paintings ever get “STUCK”? If so, what do you do?
Press the accelerator and be bold!!!

Alvaro Castagnet

Do you still have some aims to achieve?
Yes! It is never ending! Capturing in every painting the intrinsic side of it! The elusive side of painting....something not so easy to achieve.

Do you reflect the world or you create your own?
I paint what I see, and not what I know. I always create the painting, the way I would like to see it. My interpretation is helped by a logic mind in order to answer the needs as a painter - I don’t deny it, but my view is to have a vision, and follow your gut feelings, your intuition - to me, this is a must, to be able to create a work of art.

Alvaro Castagnet. Urban Series 101 x 67 cm

Do you follow the Art life?
I paint almost every day, and I travel a lot, so, I follow the art life in my own way, chatting with friends, and visiting. 


  1. I follow Alvaro a few years ago, his techique and well done is amazing, he really is a master.

  2. Great interview. Most inspiring! Thank you so much for sharing. :)

  3. Bravo on a fabulous interview with one of the great artists of our time!

  4. It is inspiring the thinking behind the works and always a discovery following your paintings congratulations y gracias por compartir tu pasión. Feliz Navidad para ti y tu bella familia

  5. Wow, your attention to detail and with watercolors is absolutely amazing. Please keep it up you are so inspiring.

  6. A thoughtful interview with a great painter--thanks for sharing. His work, along with that of several other well known watercolorists, is an inspiration to many.

  7. Great Interview. I think I would have ask him if at this point in his career, does he feel that he stil will grow and evolve. Does he believe his paintings will look about the same five years from now. ?

  8. Alvaro paint so simply but outcome so gorgeous.

  9. I have explored so much of art work from around the world and I find alvaro castagnet one of the best. ..Anil Duseja, conceptual design artist from India

  10. Thank you sir, for sharing a great conversation about you and your artwork.

  11. Great interview,Alvero has made me see with a new vision,I love everything that he paints.

  12. Thank you sir ,for sharing a great conversation about water colours