The proposition was simple and straightforward: We would meet at my place around about 12:30, when the afternoon light was just right. And after a few minutes of catching up, we would sip tequila with beer chasers on my front porch, where I would ask Rogelio Reyes (a.k.a Roger Eyes R.) all about his four-month long endeavor to finish 6 medium-sized portraits of day laborers, live, during the coming art walks in downtown Santa Ana. Yes, simple: while I sit before a T.V. dinner table with my typewriter on it and conduct the interview, he paints a portrait of me with my whole arsenal of media at his fingertips—a face-to-face meeting, as it were, and a brutal peeling/picking of artistic minds.
The way I saw it, there was no real better or more fitting way to accomplish this task of outlining what he plans to do and just how he plans to do it. I had to catch the man in action, as he’ll be seen during the bleak icy first Saturdays of the months to come; see what makes him tick; see his style bleed upon paper, and hopefully by being one of the first to hear him speak about blue collar/hump-busters/hard-working/laborers, I could really get an understanding as to why he chose to paint those who truly make the world go round, for the first time in his artistic career.
He’d seen them all his life; regarded them as something familiar yet too removed from the world that his art tended to gravitate toward, and wanted nothing more than to revolve around: his inner-thoughts, his own world.
But after several brush-ups and lengthy conversations with assorted laborers at his last job, he felt inspired to make them come through in what he calls “Pop Impressionism.” He basically pops all the colors in a painting that you wouldn’t normally pop--as is my understanding. At first I thought he’d coined the style/technique, but he reassured me that wasn’t the case.
And the portraits will be, aside from his Pop Impressionistic approach, straightforward, because he wants to make sure that the message is received by as many of those who see the portraits. And that message is that laborers are everywhere, and you more than likely have several in your very own lineage.
So, as he drew some starter shapes on the 12 x 10 newsprint paper he had up on an easel, using some black Higgin’s ink I had leftover, he went down the list of the types of laborers he’s (so far) considering.
1) Basket weavers of the Juaneño tribe, natives to the southern tip of the coast now known as Orange County: These, he said, will be drawn from old sepia photos he managed to get his hands on, and are to be interpreted by Roger in “oranges and yellows that pop.”
2) A Ranchero: Possibly tilling the soil of his fertile land, or one of a rancher humbly standing in front of Irvine’s meadowy green and grassy hills as they roll seemingly forever behind him, off into the distance. The concept for this portrait is also dependent on what old photo(s) he’s able to scrounge up and that inspire him.
3) A Business Owner: In red. Roger is considering hitting the pavement and searching for a living breathing subject that hits the spot for this one. He feels it just might be the right type of subject to sort of round off the whole collection: One for the little guy.
He tells me he’s not quite sure who or where to start asking. But he’s not worried. Plenty of time, still, he says.
He eyeballs my hair and adds a couple of more ink lines in a downward motion. I type: B. Owner…To Be Determined.
4) Orange pickers: a fairly obvious choice—but equally a must, considering where we are. Possibly a picture of him committing himself to the kind of work that was once rampant around here not too long ago; before the burnout strip malls and the heavy industrial goliaths arrived and shaved them off the map, roots and all.
Also from sepia photos. Roger plans on doing this portrait in blue.
Bold, I told him. He agreed.
5) Shop Owner(s?): Although similar to #3, he’s considering making it a portrait of a man and a woman who run the show of some small shop, along for the drudgery of earning an honest American buck together. Also T.B.D.
6) Female Machinist for Aerospace: This one is a little down the line so there’s not much to go off of yet, he tells me.
This brings us to the first Saturday of May, the 4th, Spring of 2019: Artwalk. By this time Roger plans on having all six portraits finished and displayed at the promenade, by the fountain, in the heart of the Artist’s Village, finished and ready to then be hauled to the Fourth Element Gallery in DTSA, where they will more legitimately displayed as a collection of finished works with all the lights and the little signs beside each painting that give you the titles and a brief description of each one.
But the money melon is the actual experience of standing beside Roger Eyes R., seeing him paint, but also, actually having a conversation with the man. If you find yourself walking toward the fountain on the promenade in the coming months, and you happen to spot Roger, wearing his paint-stained white lab coat, looking like a mix between John Lennon (circa ’75) and Roy Orbison in his heyday, you should talk to him. Tell him where you’ve been. Tell him about what in the hell was bothering you all day today, and why it was a mean gorilla’s hair up your ass. Tell him about your walk down Santa Ana’s dark alleys, feeling the bricks with your fingertips, taking a long drag, thinking that things (and truly believing) could really be a whole lot better than now. He will listen. He will paint. For all the right reasons.
Story by Eric Cocoletzi
Photo by Brian Feinzimer
Santa Ana Arts News
News, opportunities and updates for the creative community.