EK Interview: Alicia Martin Lopez


This summer we are proud to announce the first Empty Kingdom Art Show at 111 Minna.  Within the show will be a host of fantastic artists, one of whom is Alicia Martin Lopez.  Alicia works with both digital painting and oil, which she describes rather well.  Her work is mysterious and other worldly, she herself is intelligent and well spoken.  Check out her art and interview!

Please introduce yourself.  What part of Spain are you from?

I am from a beautiful town in midwestern Spain called Plasencia, in Extremadura.  After graduating with a degree in English Literature in the city of Salamanca, I went to Madrid to study Advertising and worked there for several years as a web designer. Afterwards I came to New York and completed my MFA degree at the School of Visual Arts with a concentration on digital and traditional painting.


How do Madrid and New York differ?  

I feel like New York is the best place to reinvent yourself. There is so much energy, inspiration, different cultures… you can borrow a bit from everything and play around. You always have to be prepared for the unexpected. However, the ‘new yorker’ fast-paced daily routine can wear you out if you don’t take a break from it once in a while.

Madrid for me is more balanced, even though it’s also a large city, it’s easier to handle. It breathes history, it is elegant and clean.  It also has a great cultural scene. I spent many good years there so all I can say are beautiful things about it!

What have you learned from each?

From Madrid I learned that despite growing up in a small town I really enjoyed the life in a large city because of the feeling of independence and anonymity and cultural variety. New York has taught me to be stronger, to test my limits and be more aware of my capacities.

How do the digital art and traditional painting differ in terms of execution and approach?  You can ctrl+z an error with digital art, how do you fix an error in a traditional painting?  How does the feel of each medium differ?  What personal response do you have?

Nowadays digital painting software differs very little from the traditional mediums. I approach them in a very similar way.  My background is mainly digital and I started painting in oils recently, so I think in my case my digital painting approach evolved since I started painting in the traditional way, using mainly one layer on the computer, working first on the values and glazing color afterwards.  For me the digital medium is great when I am in the ‘experimental’ stage of my creative process, I can go crazy without worrying about ruining anything.  I have more creative freedom that way.  The traditional medium for me is what makes it more meaningful, it’s a different process in the sense that it’s more of a reciprocal conversation between myself and the medium.  On the computer I have the absolute control over everything but with painting, the material also has something to say and to contribute to the final result; that is beautiful.  Well, it’s more like a little fight we have, more visceral and authentic.  I enjoy both processes.  I like the creative freedom and total control of digital painting, but I also need the sometimes painful and passionate process of taking over a traditional painting.  I learn a lot from both.


What was your masters project?

My masters project was an installation, it consisted of a mural-sized painting combined with a video projection.  I first painted the image digitally and then made the oil painting.  Afterwards, the video projection showed a 3D recreation of the volumes and space of the painting in a 3D scene.  I created a night and day loop where the sun lit up the interior space with the rays coming through the window and revealing a bit of the elements of the painting.  A good friend of mine helped me with the 3D aspect.

What did you learn about yourself and your work through your Masters program?

My masters thesis project was the scariest thing I’ve done.  I had no idea what I was about to get into.  It was the first time I painted something that big and I was panicking  during the whole process.  In the end, I was happy with the result, but wish I had enjoyed the process a bit more.

The most valuable lesson I learned is that there is nothing better than a deadline and the fear of showing your work in public to force you to get it done!  We convince ourselves so many times that we cannot do it, but that is not true at all.

As a student of advertising as well as an artist you have studied communication from two very different angles, what have you learned from each?

Advertising is about solving clients’ needs and your personal work is about understanding/knowing yourself, which is way harder!  I have learned a lot from both, even when you are working for clients there is always a bit of your personal thinking and style on it.  Also client’s work forces you to get out of your comfort zone and explore new things with each new project.  But finding my own voice is a great learning experience.  You are the only one that can decide what feels right or if it’s not quite there yet… heading into the unknown is always exciting.


How did you mature during each separate stage of your education?

In my advertising education and working experience I matured in the sense that I learned to be a team worker.  You are just a little part of something bigger and the success of the final piece depends on the work of the team.  I really liked that feeling.

In my masters degree I learned to look inside me and to pay attention to the things I am genuinely interested in.  I had to work really hard on self exploration because it was the first time I had to do that at a deeper level.

During your time in Madrid, were you working on your own art?  What was it like to work without the structure of school?  How have you benefitted from the structure of school?  How have you been hindered by it?

While I was working in Madrid I combined my work at the agency with a one year course in Illustration during the evenings at ESDIP, a great art school.  It was my first time working with more traditional mediums, like watercolor, acrylics, anatomical drawing with model… so I was more focused on doing the assignments to learn the techniques than in exploring on my own personal work.  It was a great year though, wonderful classmates and teachers.

The first time I really worked in my personal art was here in New York at SVA.  The structure of school was the best system for me;  you had weekly deadlines in every class so you were forced to get your work done.  The added pressure to show your work in front of your classmates and expose your ideas meant we really made the effort to reach the level we wanted to be at.  My classmates were all very talented people coming from all over the world with different art backgrounds, so I really wanted to push myself as well as learn from them and collaborate together.


Tell us about your subject matter.  It is strange, seemingly from another world, where does it come from?  What are the creatures in your work and where are they?  How does it reflect you personally?  What is your message?

I am attracted to the beauty of strangeness, the mysteries of the unconscious and the darkness of its depths.  Understanding gives light to the unknown and makes it more familiar to us.  I don’t have any specific message with my work, for me it is more about the difficult process of self-understanding and shedding light on what I consider that deserves a chance to be seen.  It’s more intuitive and explorative, I am never sure what the final result is going to be.

My work reflects a lot of my personality for sure, I still stare at some of my images trying to identify things about myself in them.  It’s very interesting and revealing.

Tell us about the pieces you are sending to the Empty Kingdom show.  What is Oddity II?

These pieces are part of an exploratory process.  The imagery I create usually shows melancholy, stillness, some sort of tension and tragedy within beauty.

I like to leave the interpretation to the viewer, as long as they have some sort of reaction when they look at the image, I consider it an accomplishment.


Are you a morning person or a night person?  What is your favorite time of day?  What is your favorite beverage to drink when you wake up?

I am definitely a morning person.  Early in the morning having my breakfast is my favorite time, when I feel so energetic and usually overly optimistic about getting tons of things done for the day.  Coffee is my best ally.