|Alfredo Arreguin at March 14 CQA meeting|
|This kind of detail can take months to complete|
Born in Mexico, Arreguin admits to being a bit of a bad boy in his early years. When his mother created a series of small drawings for him, he took them to school to exchange to other students for candy. When she learned of these transactions, his mother balked and said he should learn to create his own art. His father took a different approach: When young Alfredo was doing poorly in school, his father sent him out into the jungle to work on-site with engineers. The discipline of creating his own art obviously took root, and scenes and animals of the jungle became an ongoing theme in his adult paintings.
|Elements of the jungle appear in many of Arreguin's paintings|
|One can spend hours finding interesting details!|
Arreguin arrived in Seattle in 1956 at age 23, to enter the School of Architecture at the University of Washington. The choice of major was more that of his father's than his own, and after a couple of years he switched to Interior Design in the University's art department for a year, finally coming to rest in the school's painting program, where he earned his BA and MFA degrees.
|One of Arreguin's early works, where he adds pattern to the tablecloth to tie elements together|
During his senior year at the University he began to develop what would become his signature style--very detailed, pattern paintings that offer the viewer almost endless possibilities to discover nearly hidden elements. "I love painting scenes from nature," he says, "and the use of pattern allows me to hide things in those scenes, like behind leaves."
|Birds and forest elements are common themes|
|There are two large cats worked into the pattern....|
|(Above and below) Large cats are favorite elements|
His favored format is four by six feet, and he prefers working in oils rather than acrylics as the latter dry too fast for the type of detailed, overpainting work he does on each piece. He was once asked why he chose to work pretty consistently in the 4x6 format, and the reason is quite practical: When fellow artist Alden Mason was leaving Seattle for Europe, he put up for sale a large quantity of cheap stretcher bars in that size, and Arreguin snapped them up!
|Patterning on floors often appear as tiles|
|Closeup of a pattern portion showing the "fill" is often faces|
|"Deep Time," with graceful pterodactyls, is in the collection of the National Academy of Sciences|
To achieve the over-all patterning that characterizes Arreguin's work, he will start with a grid of, say, one-inch squares, which he then fills in, often working on a detail in a square on the left side of the painting, then moves to the corresponding square on the right side to create a similar or matching detail. "It's organic," he says. "Often I discover new things by changing a few details as I work back and forth on my grid." He frequently creates "ghosts" by covering his first drawing with another on top. For his striking portraits he will first outline the face realistically, then add patterns to crowd around the image and sometimes work patterns on top of the face.
|Except for the eyes (above) and the red lips (below), the faces are almost hidden|
"I paint what I love," he says, "and I love people, women, flowers, birds, gardens...everything that lends itself to patterns." Many of the combinations reflect designs of the tapestries and crafts seen in traditional markets in his native Mexico. Other frequent subjects include religious figures--St. Francis of Assisi for one--and some important in Mexican observances, including madonnas and La Malinche, mistress of the conqueror Cortes. And for a time, he created a series of portraits featuring the noted Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
|Mexican-heritage themed piece|
|St. Francis of Assisi and his beloved birds|
|A completely patterned madonna|
|A madonna in a more typical "halo" setting...but look at the background!|
|A very Mexican madonna|
|Above and below, two very different treatments of a Frida Kahlo portrait|
Arreguin's pieces may now be found in countless museums and private collections, and his resume of solo and selected group exhibitions covers several pages. Some of the achievements of which he's most proud include having two pieces in the Smithsonian (one in the National Museum of American Art, the other in the National Portrait Gallery); winning the competition for the 1988 Washington State Centennial poster from among 200 applicants; and having pieces selected by the U.S. Department of State for the embassy in Karachi, and for the collection of the San Francisco's Mexican Museum.
|Arreguin's portrait of Emilio Zapata is in the Smithsonians's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.|
|Arreguin's "Washingtonia," selected for the state's centennial poster from among 200 applicants. When asked why he painted the cat in the foreground, he replied, "It was there!"|
In a more recent development, as Arreguin related, he hadn't been known in Mexico for his art as he had been living in Seattle for so long. Now, however, he's pleased that his work is being shown in a San Antonio, TX, gallery as one of the "Mexican Masters" alongside Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.
|A young Arreguin, right, with the late writer Raymond Carver and his wife, poet Tess Gallagher. Carver's short story "Menudo" was written about Arreguin.|
|Arreguin's portrait of Carver features a poem by Gallagher , the words of which the artist painted over the entire image.|
|A portrait of Carver barely emerges from the typical Northwest fish|
Noting that he recently turned 80, Arreguin is not looking to mount big exhibitions any more. "A big show drains you," he says, "and I now have just enough energy to paint every day." Given the amount of creative inspiration and just plain detailed work that goes into each of his pieces. that seems just about right.
|This piece combines Arreguin's signature patterns with the "big wave" typical of many Japanese paintings. The artist was in Japan during his Army duty as well as on later trips: "I am like a sponge," he says, "I soak in everything I see!"|
|Arreguin's impression of Washington's Rialto Beach on the Pacific Coast|
More about Arreguin and his work may be seen on his website--www.alfredoarreguin.com/. He is represented by Linda Hodges Gallery in Seattle, where his bio and resume may be found at http://www.lindahodgesgallery.com/#!alfredo-arreguin/c18o6. University of Washington Press published a book on Arreguin and his work, "Alfredo Arreguin: Patterns of Dreams and Nature," now in a second edition--http://www.washington.edu/uwpress/search/books/FLOALP.html.