How did you get started and then develop your career?
Augusto Argandoña: Early in my career, I painted with all mediums and was quite good with oils. While studying for my degree in Fine Art, an oil painting instructor exclaimed, “Why are you taking my class? You paint better than I do!” He also asked me to help others in the class, so I read as much as I could about oil painting to help my fellow students. I also began learning about watercolor and was very impressed by Winslow Homer. After graduation, I was in the military, stationed in Washington state where I visited the University of Seattle’s art department and saw students painting with watercolor. That’s when I began thinking of shifting from oils to watercolor.
After the military, I studied Industrial Design, and other than the occasional sketch, I didn’t paint much. Then one day, while working as a Display Designer at Hallmark Cards, another de-signer suggested I buy Zoltan Szabo’s book on watercolor painting. I studied that book cover to cover and decided to give that medium a try. To my surprise, I began to sell paintings! As these sales increased, I thought about making a living as an artist.
In 1990, I found myself without a job and decided to dedicate myself entirely to watercolors. The first year, after participating in mall shows, my art income matched my former yearly salary. But it wasn’t until I moved to Sarasota that my art really blossomed. The exposure to both snowbirds and an international audience, which became the base of my clientele, was just the nudge I needed. In the mid-1980s, I began teaching watercolor to adults of all levels and have been teaching ever since. Now because of COVID, my teaching has shifted from the classroom to online classes.
How did you find inspiration?
One the best things about being an artist is the way we see our world and all that surrounds us, especially nature. I see the outdoors in terms of colors, values, textures and design, and am constantly thinking how I would paint what I am seeing at the moment. I like to see how light affects objects and nature, and am always intrigued by shadows and their colors. Probably due to my training as a Designer, I find inspiration in images containing buildings or manmade objects. And I don’t always look for pretty images; I love to paint alleys and “junky” places. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I find it in the rich textures and colors of those locations. Sarasota is a wonderful location for any artist because of the natural beauty, the variety of greenery and the tropical light. I find inspiration in its coastal areas, its islands, its parks, and the unique neighborhoods.
What is the best thing about being an artist?
For me, it is the pleasure I feel when finishing a painting. It’s also how I feel when I see people reacting to my paintings. I feel a great sense of satisfaction when my students tell me how much they have learned in my classes, and how much they appreciate the impact my teaching has made in their lives. Although I was primarily a studio artist, in the last five years I have be-come more involved in plein air painting and enjoy it tremendously. The plein air community in Sarasota is quite large. I belong to a group called Plein Air Artists Of Sarasota. I find great satisfaction in organizing our paint-out locations and I also do the critiques following each session, which to me is also very satisfying as I see how much my comments are appreciated.
To see more of Augusto’s art, visit his website at www.aafinearts.com