Emerging Artists | Mike Hernandez

Mike Hernandez, Fourth St. Bridge, Downtown L.A., gouache, 4 x 10.

Mike Hernandez, Fourth St. Bridge, Downtown L.A., gouache, 4 x 10.

This story was featured in the January 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  January 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Los Angeles-based plein-air artist Mike Hernandez defines his paintings as “risk-
taking” balanced by restraint. Working primarily in gouache, Hernandez approaches his subject matter as though he were looking for the right words to pay tribute to a beautiful woman. “She’s been hearing people say things to her for a long time,” he says metaphorically. “What are the words you are going to use that will be different? Colors, values, and composition, these are my words.”

Hernandez entered the Art Center College of Design as an illustration student, pursing a strong foundation in contemporary fine art. “I wanted to get dirty with my hands,” he says, alluding to the markers and charcoal his father had used in commercial art as opposed to the computer-generated art now found in the entertainment industry. Yet Hernandez has worked as a production and concept designer and art director for Dreamworks Animation. Although he’d planned for a fine-art career, he says, “It took about a year after graduation for me to realize that I needed to pay back my student loans.” But the artist is quick to note that working for Dreamworks has offered him countless educational opportunities. “I really didn’t take all the classes I should have in college,” he says. “I learned all the other things working at the studio: being bold, lighting, cinematography, how to be intentional, defining your character—be it a tree, a stream, or a bridge.”

While city streets and coastal scenes are prevalent in his body of work, another subject that speaks eloquently to the artist, high alpine landscapes, are a siren song from his youth—specifically, mountaineering trips that he shared, one on one, with his father. “I am one of 11 children. We didn’t get a lot of alone time. I appreciate and love the solitude of those locations,” he says.

Recently Hernandez earned the Strada Award at the Laguna Beach Plein Air Invitational. “It was an amazing honor to paint with some of the most respected artists in the field,” he says with genuine humility. “I was just hoping to learn something from them.” Hernandez is represented by Vanessa Rothe Fine Art, Laguna Beach, CA. —Laura Rintala

This story was featured in the January 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  January 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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