How I Work: Imagined Scenes
by Jose Antonio Sorolla Gallén


Normally I work on more than one painting at a time and the materials I am most comfortable with are oil on canvas.


The motifs that I use in my work arise in the most unexpected ways, without hardly looking for them. Any day on the beach, walking, in the pool, etc. there is an image that attracts me. From that moment, I try to turn that image into a scene. I imagine the painting. I study the possibilities of light, colors, movement, dresses, etc. I always try to be very careful with the details.


I remember that in "Elena in the Pool" series, what really attracted me at the beginning was simply the floating bright colors on the blue water. Then I imagined the scene and added the sunbather sunbathing, relaxed, with her Panama hat, her bikini, etc.


In "The Artist" series, what attracted me was a young woman with a camera who photographed the sea. I assumed that this young woman could be an artist doing her job. First came the scene and after the paintings.


A different case is, for example, the series of "The Lifeguards". Here I had to ask permission to photograph them and I don't direct the movements of the lifeguard. I just look and shoot when I think the time is right.


So, once the scene is clear and I can already imagine the painting, I call the models and take pictures. I like to work with people who are close to me because I find it easier to direct them. Finally, before I start to paint, I have to make a selection, which is complicated and I sometimes need help since I usually take many photographs and then choose very few to work with.


In short, this is my way of working; quite simple but not without some difficulty. I hope that this will deepen your understanding of my work a little.



b. 1959

Born in Onda (Castellón) Spain from a long line of Spanish pottery craftsmen, José Antonio Sorolla Gallén picked up his first paintbrush at the tender age of eleven. Not having received a formal education in studio arts, Gallén gathered considerable technical skill and invaluable aesthetic knowledge via observation and hands-on work in the family studios, painting and glazing ceramics.


A self-described ‘sponge’, his fascination with painting grew, and by the age of twenty, he was assiduously studying books and manuals on oil painting. His first foray at the easel resulted in an Expressionist period, using various media such as straw, paper, and hessian leftover from paint cans. Improvisation was exciting to the new painter, and not knowing the final result left him exhilarated and especially eager to broaden all possibilities.


His painting stages were liberated without abrupt change and smoothly linked in transition, where one style gently emancipated itself from the former. Just when things got ‘easy’, or after a long time immersed in the same series, he would grow restless and seek new horizons to explore. He states; “I have always liked to drink from different fountains, as we say in Spanish”.


The shift to figurative painting seemed natural in evolution, as he has consistently desired to challenge himself methodologically and intellectually. His current influences are from the figurative periods of Gerhard Richter and Edward Hopper, likening the images to still frames from a movie screen.


In the midst of a contemporary photorealistic phase, Gallén is working simultaneously with nature and the human form. His subjects are found through his camera lens, painstakingly and theatrically positioned in the foreground of immense skies and seascapes. At other times, he catches his subjects quite candidly in natural poses, which strikes him as honest and endearing; the weary slouch of a shoulder, a lazily bent knee, faded denim awash in vivid sunlight, or a group of tourists gazing idly at a cloudy ocean panorama.


Exhibiting internationally and selling successfully since 1983, painting has been the only vocation and livelihood Gallén has known. This is a veritable testament to his inherent gift of relating viscerally and visually to art buyers across the span of three decades...a rare occurrence in today’s competitive art world.

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