In this personal interview, we are giving you a sneak at the life voyage and Surrealist artistry of the modern-day Master: Jose Roosevelt. Heavily influenced by Dali’s works, Jose’s creative talents are untapped at a very early age by experimenting with the traditional medium, indulging in literature, and creating depictions of his innate subconscious imagery. Roosevelt’s has an idiosyncratic surrealist style that does not follow the convention in the movement. Instead, he explores his own themes, subjects, and language, entirely distinct and recognizable by collectors and connoisseurs around the world. His craftsmanship as a painter and a graphic novelist- he owes entirely to his natural proclivity for creating, drawing, and great curiosity - spanning over multiple forms of art and illustration. We introduce to you, Jose Roosevelt and his unique pictorial language of figures, shapes, and unimaginable fantasy recreations...
Tell us a bit about José Roosevelt and your history as an artist.
I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1958. Since I was a young boy, I have always been interested in the visual expression of all sorts: drawing, sketching, painting...and comic books in particular. My first ever dream as a child was to become a comic book author.
Later on at the age of 15, I found out about the psychedelic work of Salvador Dalí and I become completely fascinated by it... It was like a revelation. It didn’t take long into my newfound passion before I bought my first sets of colors, brushes, and canvases.
For me, that was a marking point. Soon after, I had already started learning how to paint...
My ambition was to reach the craftsmanship level of the great masters from the past. Personally speaking, I could see this as being the only way to make my own visions and dreams come true. My professional career as a surrealist artist began when I was 20 years old, following two decades of exhibitions- showcasing my paintings in several countries, but mainly across Brazil and Europe. At that time I was delving deeply into exploring my inner worlds.
In 1990, I moved to the French region of Switzerland to live with the woman who later on became my wife. In 2000, I published a graphic novel called "L'Horloge" (The Clock), based on my surreal visions and showing some reproductions of my oil canvases. Since then, I spent my time in-between painting and novels, up until 2015, which was when I decided to devote my time exclusively to graphic novels.
Your artworks are heavily influenced by surrealism. What inspired you to follow this path in your paintings? What is your preferred medium these days: oils, acrylic, or else?
In 1973, when I first touched on Surrealism, there was no Internet…The only way to gain knowledge about art was through books and reviews. So, I began reading everything that I could find about Dalí and the Surrealism movement. It was like discovering a new vision of the world and life itself. I think that Surrealism was something I had always looked for because even at that age, I just couldn't believe that life was only about going to school, getting a job, marrying, bringing up children, and dying.
I knew then that I was born to create, that I was in fact an artist.
I have always worked with the traditional techniques of painting. My artworks in colors are mostly made in oils on canvas. My drawings are made in pencil or in Indian ink, as it greatly depends on the effect I’m looking for. I know that today you can create very impressive images with a computer; however, I can’t help but feel that there’s just always something missing with digital works- the material.
For me, a picture needs the heavy and necessary reality of an art object.
I mean, a true painting on a canvas, that you can hang on a wall, one that you can touch and feel its living presence.
Apart from painting, you have written novels and done some illustration work in the past. What made you choose painting as your main vocation?
I already talked briefly about my journey as an artist and novelist. It's true, painting was my main occupation for several years, and I still see it as the queen of arts. But today, my work as a graphic novel author is just as important to me… I discovered, twenty years ago, that I could tell stories and create characters, without leaving the surrealism path, I walked practically all my life.
Your work has been featured in many international exhibitions. Can you tell us about your journey to becoming successful on that front?
One thing I can tell you is that things that matter always come by chance. The exhibitions I made were mostly a consequence of fortuitous encounters with people that love art - amateurs, merchants, or collectors.
When you begin to show your work in galleries or other places, there's always somebody that will be enthusiastic about it and will spread the word about it, and perhaps even buy it, so it goes. That is often enough to make other people talk about your work, and yearn to see or have it. It's like the domino effect: you make the first piece fall, which triggers a chain reaction, letting all pieces fall one by one. Success is also very uncertain. Sometimes, you can see huge success for a certain period or at a place, and a few years down the line, potentially in another country, face a poor outcome. Same as football basically. From 2015 onwards, I started making fewer exhibitions since writing, drawing, and publishing my books took up most of my time. Sometimes, I am invited to show the drawings of my graphic novels, but exhibitions are not my main goal anymore.
What influences you to create and come up with new ideas? What is the process that you go through to finish one piece?
That's a hard question. I thought about the process of creation throughout my entire life… I read books and listened to lectures, but I still think it's a real mystery what drives the creative spirit. Sometimes, it seems to me that the ideas exist already somewhere - in the air perhaps? In a psychological heritage? Or in some sort of collective subconscious? Frankly speaking, I don’t know. Mainly because most of the time I cannot explain the inspiration behind my own creations… They have a meaning and a logic that escape the objective analysis. I can only say that they come with a force that amazes me, I feel that I have a mission: to bring life to them through the power of my heart.
Do you feel very accomplished as a painter? What tips can you give to newly emerging professionals?
I have always been very happy to paint or to draw. Creating my graphic novels has also brought a lot of joy to me. As I said, I was born to become an artist and for more than 40 years, I walked my way towards living up to my destiny. What more could I ask for in life?
I don't know if I have the authority to give tips to the young artists… Better still: I think they don't really need tips. The best artists are people that will know one day that art is the primary reason for their existence... and nobody else should have the power to convince them otherwise.
How do you see the future ahead of you?
For me, the future has always been unknown, and it still is. Fortunately! Life is beautiful because it surprises us constantly.
You see more artworks by José Roosevelt if you CLICK HERE