Touring the Human Soul

by Laura Vailati
Art enthusiast and Editor at Miami Niche

Patricia Guzmán’s intimate watercolor portraits place the viewer at the center of an intense dialogue in which the artist gives voice to the human condition.

Patricia Guzmán, “Purificación 2,” from Roots series, watercolor on paper, 14 x 21 in.

This refined voice, poignant and touching, finds its greatest expression in the depiction of the aboriginal peoples who inhabit her native country of Mexico, and who make up the “Roots” series, one of the artist’s most moving series.

Guzmán possesses a remarkable ability to transit human emotions in the expressiveness of faces, which derives from the teachings of her father — an artist and sculptor, who taught her the fundamentals of art, including colored pencil techniques (the first technique experimented with by Guzmán).

Patricia Guzmán, “Intuition,” from Roots series, watercolor, 12 x 12 in.

To her training, she then added patience and a willingness to experiment with the innumerable properties of watercolor, allowing herself to be surprised by the medium. She refused to be intimidated or constrained, either by technical purism or by the rigidity of the medium.

Perseverance and patience are qualities that also characterize the artist, who is endowed with a nobility of spirit and has honed her personal sensitivity in the representation of human expressiveness, rendered perfectly through the faces of elderly subjects and children. Her degree in philosophy, achieved only in adulthood thanks to the money scraped together from making commissioned works, finally enabled her to investigate, more accurately, human thought and the turmoil of the soul with all its frailties, weaknesses, and strengths.

Patricia Guzmán, “Simone,” from Roots series, watercolor on paper, 20 x 27 1/2 in.

In creating “portraits of the human nature,” Guzmán was inspired both by the ideas of writer Carlos Castañeda, who has composed numerous anthropological-narrative works inspired by shamanism and by the “lyrical works” of two great Chinese artists whom Guzmán had the pleasure of meeting personally in 2018: Liu Yunsheng and Guan Wei Xing.

As with Liu Yunsheng and Guan Wei Xing, Patricia Guzmán’s works are a combination of reason and emotion, exquisitely pervaded, however, by the artist’s all-female sensibility.

In carrying out her work, Guzmán takes photographs in aboriginal reserves, which she accesses only after applying for a special permit. In taking the shots, which she normally performs in the company of Raúl Barajas – her life partner, a psychologist with a passion for photography – she stands at a proper distance making use of telephoto lenses, so as to avoid influencing in any way the spontaneity of the locals.

Patricia Guzmán, “Self Portrait,” from Defragmentation series, watercolor on paper, 28 x 20 1/2 in.

The photographic shots later become valuable references on which to draw in the realization of her paintings, in which the detail of the face is contrasted with the realization of the outline elements with the technique of painting alla prima, with which the artist leaves room for subjective narration.

For the rendering of details, Guzmán proceeds by using as many as 30 to 40 layers of transparent watercolor, which she spreads on a watercolor sheet of high weight and capable of supporting both the color and the water absorbed in the different technical stages employed: from wet-on-wet to wet-on-dry, to finishing the details with a dry brush.

Patricia Guzmán at work. Photo credit by Raúl Barajas

“Watercolor is a very noble medium,” she says. ‘With patience and discipline, you will be able to love it and to create wonderful paintings.”

Patricia Guzmán gave a riveting demonstration of her painting process at January’s Watercolor Live! Don’t miss next year’s event, where you’ll have the chance to paint with Thomas Schaller, Barbara Nechis, John Salminen, Janet Rogers, and other greats. 


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