Licita Fernández

San Francisco Bay Area, USA

Licita FernandezMediums:  As a professional artist (one who sells her/his art) I started out primarily with watercolors for about 30 or so years.  I’ve also worked in oils, acrylics, collage, Prismacolor pencil, monotypes and charcoal.  As a watercolor artist, I focused on botanical subject matter, especially cacti and other succulents.  I found in the forms of the plants not only beauty, but humor, rhythm, and sometimes foreboding.  Especially with the cactus paintings, I relish the juxtaposition of thorny and sometimes unattractive shapes that produce exquisite flowers. 

Many of these paintings are realistic, but my favorites are when I used only my imagination in creating a composition.  But the cost of framing and (at the time) the concept that watercolor was just drawing, lesser than a painting in acrylic or oil, turned me to acrylic on canvas.  That’s been my favorite medium for the last several years.  I’ve also made some forays into mosaic, but need a bigger space where I can make a mess.

(Above) My favorite from a series I call "Ain't Misbehavin'...", named after the 1929 Jazz classic by Thomas "Fats" Waller.  This series features objects on shelves; the lyrics to the song go something like this, "Ain't misbehavin', just sittin' on the shelf, savin' all my love for you.


Style:  I would put my watercolors under two categories: Botanical Realism and Whimsical Fantasies.  My acrylics on canvas are very colorful and whimsical in nature; realism is not my primary goal.  So I call my acrylics on canvas Whimsical Fantasies, although a few have realistic objects in them.

Favorite Quotes: “You have nothing to fear but fear itself,” Franklin Delano Roosevelt 
“Yesterday was the past, tomorrow is the future, and today is a gift.  That’s why we call it the present,” Eleanor Roosevelt; also by Eleanor Roosevelt, “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  

Favorite Books:  I’m a voracious reader, so this is a tough one for me to answer.  I finally gave away most of my books and now get them from the library.  Books that I bought and I’ve kept to reread are Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold, The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber, Their Eyes Are Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, The Passion Dream Book by Whitney Otto, and Volume 1 (1935-1936) and Volume 2 (1936-1937) of The Komplete Kolor “Krazy Kat” George Herriman edited by Rick Marschall.  I wish I had ALL the volumes.  I’ve read hundreds of library books since I stopped buying books and have too many favorites to mention here.

Favorite Movies:  I love Fellini films and any movie that has Sofia Loren in it.  I especially love her movies Love Italian Style and Divorce Italian Style.  Other all-time favorites are Marx Brothers’ movies, Mae West’s Diamond Lil, and all of Mel Brooks’ films.   For its fantastic stage sets, the 1910 German noir film, “The Somnambulist” has had an impact on my art.  And I can’t forget Betty Boop cartoons, especially Minnie the Moocher.  I guess I’m dating myself here, but I am 67!  Krazy Kat comic strips and Max Fleischer’s Betty Boop have really had an impact on my art.

I’ve been creating art since I can remember.  I’ve always considered myself an artist, and that I would grow up to be a professional artist.  I absorbed the stark, arid landscapes of El Paso, Texas, where I was born and resided briefly before I moved with my family to San Diego.  In San Diego, where the desert meets the beach, I continued my love affair with the desert as can be seen in my earlier art.  I moved to the San Francisco East Bay to finish my education at the University of California at Berkeley. Initially drawing my inspiration from botanical subject matter, especially cactus and other succulents, I found watercolor to be the medium that best enabled me to express myself.  Cacti captured my imagination because of the contrasts of the thorny and oftentimes bizarre forms with the stunning, vulnerable flowers that cacti produce.  I found in nature harmony, rhythm, beauty and contrasts.  I also discovered I could express happiness, joy, panic, fear, power, foreboding—various emotions, moods and states of being through my depiction of botanical landscapes.  

During this realistic period, I depended on my photographs for my subject matter, but I periodically took a vacation from the intense concentration required of realism to paint from my imagination.  These paintings are whimsical, humorous, and fanciful.  Some are abstract.  Also during this period, I created Prismacolor pencil drawings, graphite and ink drawings, often using the same imagery (botanical) but many times diverging into other imagery.  After working in watercolor for decades, I tried my hand at acrylics.  Although having also worked on printmaking (monoprints) and in gouache, acrylics have become my favorite means of conveying my artistic vision.


Please tell us about your first experience creating.

The first experience that I can remember is painting wagon trains crossing the desert in tempura when I was in kindergarten.


What music do you like to have playing while creating art?

I listen to Jazz, Afro-Latin, African, Haitian, Trinidadian, Hawaiian and Mexican music, reggae and oldies dating from the 1950s to 1970s, and sometimes classical music.


If you have a job besides being an artist, can you tell us about it?

I have a tiny job tutoring kids up to fourth grade who are struggling readers and beginning writers.  I’m retired, so this gets me out of the house and makes a small income for me.  I want to enlarge this business because I really enjoy it and it doesn’t interfere with my art.


What are you trying to convey to viewers through your art?

Through my art I’m trying to convey to my viewers the joy of life, humor, beauty, rhythm and a different way of looking at things.


  Ignatz Spies a Brick

This acrylic on canvas is influenced by my love of "Krazy Kat" comics. I completed this in 2013.  The asparagus painting was also completed in 2013, but the drawing that I used was from 1997!


Tell us about your creative process, from the beginning of a typical piece to its completion:

I’m such an unspontaneous artist!  I make a series of drawings on paper first, choose one or two that I think would make interesting paintings, then I grid the paper, grid the canvas and transfer the drawing on to the canvas.  It helps if the paper with the drawing is proportional to the canvas, but that doesn’t always happen.  I’ve even gone back to drawings of a few years back and created paintings from them.  Then I begin to paint, using washes to layer my paint.  My favorite part of creating a painting is at the end when I tie everything together and work on making my colors sing.


What things inspire you to create art?

That’s a hard one because life situations have changed so drastically for me since 2002.  A back problem became symptomatic then and continued to get worse so by 2010 I demanded spinal surgery… which I got.  So I used to travel for inspiration but can’t anymore. Dancing also inspired me, but I can’t do that anymore. I use music, viewing art of others, and anything close to where I live that might offer inspiration.  Finally, selling art inspires me to create more!


What exhibitions have you had?

Since my CV starts from 1974, you can imagine I’ve had numerous exhibitions.  I’m not represented at this time by any gallery, but I’ve exhibited all over the Bay Area and other parts of California; Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico; Portland, OR; Mexico City, Guadalajara and Tijuana, Mexico; Colombia, SA.


Have you sold any of your artworks?

I’ve sold many pieces of artwork, some at exhibits mentioned above, and many from the East Bay’s annual Pro Arts Open Studios.  How?  I keep my prices reasonable; I know how to talk about my art to potential customers and I am now using the Internet to attract potential buyers.


How do you promote your art on the internet?

That’s a hard one because I’m so technologically challenged.  I have my Facebook page, but don’t visit it on a regular basis.  I try to follow the instructions on ArtProMotivate to do this or that on the computer and I’m lost.  But I shall perservere!


Ruth's Babies II

This watercolor is from a time when I was painting realistic botanical subject matter.  It's name is "Ruth's Babies" after Ruth Bancroft of Walnut Creek, CA, whose magical succulent gardens have become a real treasure.


Tell us about influences:

Klee, Kandinsky, Van Gogh, Delacroix, Matisse, Max Fleischer (Betty Boop), George Herriman (Krazy Kat), and the film The Somnambulist also known as The Box of Dr. Caligari.


Please recommend another artist you admire.

Patricia Rodriguez is an artist I admire.  She’s my same age, mas o menos, and she’s a real go-getter!  She’s fearless about trying new things, she developed the first Chicano Art studies program at UC Berkeley when she was in her twenties, she’s one of the original Muralistas in San Francisco, she’s traveled the country showing her art and teaching at universities and colleges, and she’s still going strong.  She was recently invited to lecture all about herself at UC Berkeley by Professor Celia Cruz of Chicano Studies.


Tell us something interesting in your life.

I could say, “I coulda been a contendah!” because I was very athletic up until my back problem put an end to that.  I climbed the face of Half Dome without any prior rock-climbing experience, I was an excellent tennis player, I ran up to 10 miles at a time, I completed my first century (100 miles) biking on a very scenic biking-camping trip in the Southwest when I was 40, and I could dance up a storm to any kind of music I heard…well maybe not EVERY kind.  I’ve found one type of dancing that doesn’t require wiggling my hips: square dancing!  Yeehaw!!


Do you have an embarrassing moment in your life?

I’m sure I do, but I don’t remember any of them, so I guess the embarrassment has worn off.  As I grow older, it’s harder to embarrass me or for me to embarrass myself.


If you could live your life over again, would there be anything you would do differently?

I don’t like questions that smack of regret, but if I could live life over again, I would not have had kids so early in life (I had to drop out of high school!) so that I could have gone to a college of my choice and gone on to grad school.  I was lucky to gain a BFA, but not at an art school and was lucky to have found extension courses and junior college courses that helped me get over the hard edge minimalism taught at the universities.  On the other hand, I wouldn’t have my two wonderful children and three remarkable grandchildren.


What plans do you have for the future of your art?

I want to explore different venues for exhibiting my art and I plan to keep creating even if I’m crowded out of my space by stacked up paintings hanging on and leaning against the walls.


Do you have any good advice for emerging artists?

Keep creating!  Don’t get discouraged.  Learn how social media can help you.  Keep up to date technologically.  Hang out with other artists.  Create a critique group of artists to help you and to whom you can be held accountable.  Finally, protect your future monetarily by saving as much as you can.


Licita Fernández

San Francisco Bay Area, USA

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