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Chopping Block: Pako Pablos

For this week's artist interview, we grouped up with Mexican artist Pako Pablos, who is internationally known for his detailed and culturally driven portraits of high profile celebrities. We talked about his surprising beginnings as a basketball player, what inspires him, and his charity work.

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POW: You grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico where you participated in several interests such as playing basketball for the Mexican national team and even runway modeling. What was your motivation for finally deciding on art as your lifelong career?

Pako: Though I’ve been interested in art since my childhood, I’ve always thought that you should use all the tools that you have, so I guess that’s what I was doing back then -  testing my skills and gifts and seeing how I could best use them.  I’m 6’7”, and being that tall helped a lot in both basketball and modeling, but after a while I realized my real passion would always be art, so that’s what I started to focus on and eventually dedicated myself to developing my skills and finding my style.

POW: You’re known for your extensive work of celebrity portraits. Which portrait was your favorite to work on?

Pako: All of my pieces have been a favorite at one time or another and all of them are an extension of myself.  Until recently, the Walter White portrait stuck with me most.  I think its depth and dimension makes it really appealing.  But now that I’ve completed the third portrait in the “tech giants” series, I’m really loving it.  The OG Jobs is probably my favorite because it feels like I was able to capture a truer element of who he was by representing him as an original gansta.

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 11.03.47 AMWalter White by Pako Pablos

POW: At what age did you become aware of your artistic abilities? Did you ever receive formal artistic training or are you completely self-taught?

Pako: I’ve had a pencil in my hand since I can remember.  I was always getting into trouble for drawing cartoons of the teachers when I was a kid in school.  In high school, I started working on little projects like comic characters and then started to experiment with different mediums like acrylics and pastels, even some digital artwork.  I then went to college and received my degree in fine art and graphic design, which is where I got my more formal training, which helped me to smooth out my rough edges and understand artistry and technique better.

POW: Your bio states that you are now living and working in La Jolla, CA, with a studio overlooking La Jolla Cove. With such a beautiful backdrop do you find it hard to focus on painting or does it inspire you to paint more often?

Pako: Funny you ask that - I just recently left La Jolla and that that was one of the reasons I had to go.  I’m the type of artist who likes to “feel” what I’m doing and I need to get lost in the process.  With so much traffic and the crowds of people there – not to mention the noisy seals and sea lions just outside the door - it was kind of hard to get my groove going.  Now I’ve got a home on top of a mountain in the California desert just outside of San Diego with a great view, beautiful sunsets and a lot of quiet.  I also have a show room and much larger studio space, which lets me focus 100% on the pieces I’m doing.  Loving it there so far.

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 11.04.13 AMModern Day Miracles by Pako Pablos

POW: You’ve worked with several organizations that provide the means for children in the U.S and Mexico to pursue their artistic ventures and educations. Can you tell us a little bit more about these charities and what they mean to you as an artist?

Pako: I’ve worked with a variety of organizations, particularly in Mexico to help promote the arts with young people and with developing artists.  One of the reasons I came to the US was because of the limited opportunity for growth and exposure for artists south of the boarder.  It took sacrifice and hard work, but I feel so fortunate to have achieved a level of success here that I want to share it with others.  Let them know anything is possible and that there is someone out there who will support their efforts and look out for them.

That’s one of the reasons I moved to the mountains, too.  The property I just bought includes 10 acres and it’s my intention to develop part of the land into an artistic retreat.  My goal is to create an inspirational place for select artists to come stay and work for a few weeks or months. I am working on the logistics of sponsoring emerging artists who are visiting the US and who may not normally have the chance or the space to produce works here.

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 11.04.56 AM

OG Jobs by Pako Pablos

POW: Your take on Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs are awesome!  They are in fact the “Original Ganster’s” of the tech industry. How did you come up with the idea for these pieces?

Pako: Well…I’d done a number of portraits of ganstas and rappers previously.  When I saw a documentary about Steve Jobs and found that he was ruthless and scary to the people around him, it struck me that he was just another gansta. No black sweater could hide that!  So I decided to merge the two genres and see what came up and the OG Jobs piece is the result.  After that piece, I thought to myself that he wasn’t the only one, so started to look at Bill Gates, then Mark Zuckerberg and found that they had similar reputations – single minded and ruthless, focused only on getting the job done no matter what it cost them or others. So I did portraits of them, too.

Each is different and represents a specific aspect of the person’s character – like Jobs has a certain hard yet intimate quality about him.  Gates has a crown like the famous Notorious BIG picture, and he’s the undeniable leader in old school tech, but he doesn’t quite pull off the same “cool factor” that Jobs does.  And then there’s Zuckerberg, who may be ruthless and successful in business but is still sort of a dorky young dude.

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For more information on Pako Pablos, visit http://pakopablos.com/