Artist based in Denver, CO
Saul Acevedo Gomez, Portrait of the artist.
Tell us about yourself, what's your background?
I was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and throughout my childhood, I was surrounded by family artists. As a fraternal twin, competing for attention and then immigrating to the U.S. as a person of color with a language barrier, made it difficult for me to find a sense of belonging. As a result, I became a quiet and reserved child, avoiding mistakes, behaving good, and seeking comfort in art. Although I enjoyed creating art from a young age, I didn't seriously consider pursuing it as a career until I attended college.
“Detachment” 2023, Watercolored pencils, colored pencils, and thread on paper, 24 x 18 x 1.5 in
Initially, my father, who is also an artist, suggested that I explore other career paths. Wanting to please others, I followed his advice during the first semester of college. However, my academic performance suffered, and I was eventually expelled. This setback compelled me to prove to myself and others that I could succeed as an artist. I recommitted to my artistic pursuits, balancing my artwork, employment, and studies. I returned to the same school from which I was expelled and successfully graduated in 2019 with a BFA from CSU Stanislaus in California.
(left) “Until It Flourishes” 2023, Natural dye, dye, thread, and watercolored pencil on canvas, 16 x 12 x 1.5 in (right) “How Could I Exist?” 2023, Dye, citric acid, watercolored pencil, thread, and colored pencil on canvas, 24 x 18 x 1.5 in
In 2020, a conversation with a friend encouraged me to question how well I knew myself on a scale of 1 to 100. Realizing that I still had much to discover about myself, I embarked on a journey of self-exploration that I consider a lifelong endeavor. This process led me to reevaluate my motivations for creating art and inspired me to incorporate my personal story into my artistic expression.
It took me a while to come to accept my story, but the difficult sense of belonging made me realize that I was different and that I had the chance to detach from everything and build my own identity. I became an outsider, an outlier. That's why I characterized my art as an eclectic fusion of influences and themes. I draw inspiration from a wide range of subjects, including self-development, art theory, philosophy, metaphysics, human history, our relationship with nature, and spirituality. Through my creative process, I strive to establish a harmonious balance between the mind, body, and soul, addressing themes such as anxiety, masculinity, perfectionism, liberation, self-discovery, overthinking, and purpose.
“Gambling With The Mind” 2023, Colored pencils, charcoal, watercolored pencils, thread, and fire on canvas, 16 x 16 x 1.5 in
Overall, my background and experiences have shaped me into an artist who seeks to delve deep into the ordinary and the complexities of human existence, blending diverse influences to create thought-provoking and introspective artwork.
"Through my creative process, I strive to establish a harmonious balance between the mind, body, and soul, addressing themes such as anxiety, masculinity, perfectionism, liberation, self-discovery, overthinking, and purpose."
“Oneness” 2023, Colored pencils and thread on paper, 26 x 19 in
What are you currently working on and where did the inspiration for it come from?
Right now I’m working on a body of work for a solo exhibition at Spring/Break in New York in September with curator Antonio Del Valle-Lago. The body of work is influenced by the acts, struggles, and anxieties of my perfectionism as second nature. I want to make these works reflect the complexities of reality by making perfect and imperfect collide between drawing, collage, and painting. Working on them will become a way to cultivate detachment from perfectionism and embrace imperfection.
Work in progress on an imperfect sun.
Innovation does not only happen in the field of technology — it occurs everyday in a creative practice. What do you do for inspiration?
I find that by being and doing I allow myself to experience and discover. Bringing the imaginary, the real, and the spiritual into the work. Talking to people, reading, sleeping, not sleeping, cutting an onion, and shacking it inside a container to break it apart. Or rolling a mandarin on the table back to back between my hands, and then observing its skin and comparing it to human skin with a mole on one side and a scar on the other. all of it. I like to approach things in different ways to maintain a consistency of inspiration that has no limits. These are some things I occasionally do:
(left) “New Mental Map” 2023, Colored pencil and collage on paper, 26 x 19 in (right) “Captivated by the Thoughts of Nature” 2023, Colored pencil on paper, 26 x 19 in
Museum marathons. Where I walk as fast as I can in a museum and only stop to see the works that capture my attention, and at the end, I go back and spend some time with the ones that stayed in my mind and I ask myself, "What does this artwork say about my life". I get to stay focused and learn about what I like and why. At the same time, I do people-watching. I like to see how people perform around an artwork. particularly with sculptures. Hal Foster from the book “The Return of the Real” calls it, "The Theatrical Space." it's like a competition for space so the artwork becomes alive. Think of the massive works by Louise Bourgeois or Richard Sierra, and bring that experience into a painting.
I also like the idea of elevating a dish from cooking competition shows. Where I take a previous drawing and combine it with another drawing to come up with something new. it's an endless game that contributes to making art from the subconscious.
Another thing that usually happens is nature walks and introspection. As I walk I pause and ask myself “What am I thinking” and use that thought to make an artwork. It makes me look inward to create works that are honest, and vulnerable. I find that these works resonate the most with people.
Work in progress for my show with Swivel Gallery back in November 2022.
Describe your practice and process. Where do ideas start for you? In the studio or being in the world?
My practice and process are a combination of planning, exploring, and discovering. A combination between the imaginary and the real. or the visible and the invisible.
Ideas start between the studio and the world. It's how I keep a balance between making art and living life. I spend a lot of time in solitude so I have to force myself to go out of my comfort and try new things. Some of the things I enjoy doing are traveling, spending time with family and friends, being around nature, and going to museums. Then I bring the outside world into my studio, where I reflect on my experiences and transform them into experiences of introspection.
Experimenting with natural dye.
For me, my art has become a vehicle to process and liberate myself from my insecurities, pleasures, perfectionism, masculinity, fear, and traumas. I don't get to experience a lot of things in life and it is through people that I have learned the most by listening to their stories of struggles, and accomplishments. Although I love learning from others, I know that there is more to life, so for the last 4 years, I have been working to break old habits through risk-taking, courage, and purpose by giving myself the chance to live and grow and create a balance between making art and experience life.
Work in progress for my show with Swivel Gallery back in November 2022.
I think that's why I like to see my works of art as places of meditation where everyone is invited to contemplate and process their anxieties, and struggles and just let go of all expectations. I want to liberate people by giving them an experience of solitude for introspection where they can wander and feel a sense of purpose, feel safe and heal from their problems, have fun, laugh, and feel sad or happy. I want to give them the courage to take risks and be themselves. I want people to feel seen, heard and understood.
(left) Colored Pencils. (right) Sketchbooks 4 to 19.
How do you make your work, does it start with a sketch?
My work does start with a sketch. Sketching helps clarify my thoughts by planning abstract interpretations of the final works. facilitating the first step of creating which is starting. It gives me the confidence to conceive, trust and follow the process of creating. I have so many ideas that my sketchbook becomes an archive of thumbnails, where if I don't know what to work on next, I look into previous sketches to work on, helping me stay consistent. Sketching has become a fundamental step in making my work and it has become second nature for me, almost coming up with 1-3 drawings in one sit. Some drawings are completely visualized in my mind and others I like to let my subconsciousness present me with images that my consciousness has been avoiding.
Work in progress for my show with Swivel Gallery back in November 2022.
Painting and dyeing have become a way to accept imperfection, unlike drawing which tempts to be more planned and perfect. I like to relate my approach to art-making with the materials I use. Colored pencils as a compressed material, it is easier to control, whereas paint and dyeing, are fluid liquids, so I approach them loose and let the materials do their thing. And the thing I love the most about the materials is the ability to do mark-making.
My style is difficult to categorize although is mostly surrealism. When I was in college, I knew I wanted to be different, so I spend 4 years looking for my own visual language. I notice that most artists had their own language so I wanted to have my own. I started to look at different artists from different times and styles and combine them to create my own. Artists from modernism, minimalism, surrealism, abstract, post-modern, conceptual, and contemporary, were used to come up with my visual language.
I was working in sculpture, painting, and drawing. and it was through printmaking that I found my aesthetics. For a while, I did lithography and other printmaking mediums. But the multiples, how time-consuming is, and the aesthetics of printmaking, became limiting for me. So I started to overlap images and break away from the frame. And through sketching, I realized that I could use the bottom part to write other things.
“Searching For Balance” 2023, Colored pencils on paper, 26 x 19 in
Do you have your own studio ritual? What does that look like for you?
I am an early bird. I like to wake up at 5 am and begin my day with a workout or a walk, I do some journaling, practice gratitude, and other things to set my mind for the day.
Around 8 am I do some reading, writing, and sketching to come up with new ideas.
I try to only make art between 9 am and 7 pm and incorporate my to-do list as I make art. when I am making art, I like to focus on one artwork at a time until I finish it. This helps me stay consistent and focused, allowing me to trust my intuition, and make mistakes. Sometimes I work on a drawing and a painting at the same time, where both work as intermittents for when I get stuck or I need the painting to dray. I can go for hours making art, so I have to set random moments to rest my sight, stretch, and relax. and as I work, I like to watch podcasts on youtube, series, and movies, and listen to music. I also keep my sketchbook near because as I work I reflect on my life, and get spontaneous ideas, so I try to write them, otherwise, I will forget about them.
After 7 pm, I try to calm my mind. I am easily mentally stimulated so I have to be careful with what I do at night, otherwise, I won't sleep.
"Follow Your Nature And Your Shadow Will Be Free” 2023, Colored pencils and thread on paper, 26 x 20 in
Who are your biggest influences?
It changes constantly, so here is a list of friends, artists, entrepreneurs, and writers. I follow them because of their spiritual work, outlook on life, and innovation. Their work or persona has brought inspiration, calmness, freedom, courage, and challenge into my life.
Artist and friends:
Larissa De Jesús Negrón
Writers and entrepreneurs:
Yuval Noah Harari
Vanessa Van Edwards
Are there books or films that are an important source of inspiration?
Usually, the last ones I read and watch become my source of inspiration. I always keep my sketchbook on the side to write phrases that make me contemplate, and I like to make work based on those phrases.
I just finished reading “Meditations by Marcus Aurelius” and The Greatest Sales Man in the World by Og Mandino. Both books are very similar, making analogies between life and nature. Meditations made me respect my mind by being careful about what and who I thinking About. It brought a lot of mental peace. The Greatest Salesman thought me to do things through love and I will never fail. And Both books thought me to see everything as a challenge instead of complaining. The challenge to be present, to love, to actively listen, to create, to be at service, to be patient.
The last movie I watch was Asteroid City. I wanted to do something different so I went to the movies to see it, but every time I go to the movies I fall asleep for like the first 10 minutes, somehow I have to catch up on my sleep. The movie was visually beautiful but I couldn't understand anything. I just wanted it to end. In the end, the only thing that I remember what a scene where all the characters say something like "To wake up you have to go to sleep." that phrase stayed on my mind and I want to make a drawing based on it.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
I recently was visiting my hometown in Mexico and I had a conversation with an old friend about how sometimes we act with urgency and many times compare ourselves with others’ success. He is not an artist himself, and he told me “You are an artist a creator, a giver. You are creating life, not a bomb” So, stop comparing yourself with others and enjoy your life. For some, their time comes in their 20s or 40s. in the meantime do whatever you need to do to make art and always show up for yourself.
Just do and be, there are still many things I have to live with to prepare me for what I am working for.
What is the best advice you would give to other artists?
I will say, create and be consistent. As an artist, you are here to create. Every artist is different, but no artist is an artist without art-making. Your external success which does not define your worthiness as who you are, will depend on the things you do, who you hang out with, and where you at. Show up for yourself every day, do things through love, see everything as a challenge, have fun, be authentic, and never look for praise. Don't waste your life trying to be accepted by appearing as someone you are not. Trust me, is exhausting. Respect the only life you get and be kind to yourself and others.