Seattle Artist Series:
Claudio and I meet at an office building in Sodo. This is the home-base of Seas and Peas, a delightfully wry, pop-culture laden greeting card company Claudio and his husband Chad founded. The two show me around their space, sending me off with Arrested Development cards and Breakfast Club buttons. Claudio and I take some portraits on the roof before heading off to run errands, picking up artwork on our way back to his home studio.
Claudio was born in Chihuahua, Mexico and raised in Texas. He has drawn for as long as he can remember, consistently developing his work. It’s difficult to assign Claudio to an aesthetic – just when he establishes a pattern, he seeks to break it. Inspired by surrealism, many of his paintings blend stylized shapes and figures with distorted, industrial landscapes. His work balances harsh themes with soft expressions and colors, creating a sense of calm within chaos.
This day, he works on three pieces. His process is slow, he explains. Borrowing a notebook, I sketch along, asking questions along the way.
“I was actually adopted by my aunt and uncle. Right before I was born, my adoptive dad planned on visiting my parents in Mexico. After my adoptive parents got there and met me, my birth dad told him that they had to give me up. My birth parents were splitting up and my dad couldn’t take care of six children and a newborn. My adoptive parents thought about it and decided to keep me in the family. I was born on Christmas – on the way back from their trip, my adoptive parents decided to take me with them. My mom used to tell me that they first tried to get me over illegally because there was a place that falsified birth certificates. It got raided and everyone in their system got denied – one of the secretaries grabbed a stack of files and hid my name. My parents took that as a warning and decided to go the legal route after that, which took eight years. I’m glad I wasn’t one of the ones sent back. As a teenager, I found out that my birth dad was also an artist – he painted that painting up there (points). I only met him once.”
“Sometimes I’ll use reference photos if I like how they work, other times I’ll have a doodle that I’ve made and paint it. I always doodle when I’m nervous. Whatever I have around me, I doodle on. When I was in school, all of my notes were full of doodles.”
“On days I don’t work, I feel unaccomplished, I feel like I’ve wasted a day I could have been creating. Even if it isn’t something great, at least I’m going through the act of painting. It’s all practice. People say “you’re born with this gift”. It’s not really a gift – you work for it. You have to put in the hours, you have to sit there and mess up. And you keep trying to rework it, keep trying to rework it until you break that pattern.”
“I feel like my artwork is a diary, I know what was going on at the time I was painting. If I go back and revisit, I would feel those emotions."
“I didn’t want to make art my career. If this became my career, I would think of it differently. I think I would hate it. I would have to rely on it and consider what people want to see. Now, I do artwork for myself. This is where I’m happiest. I’d rather be in here than anywhere else.”