Expressionist portraiture in black and white is what makes 21-year-old Aimee Diaz tick. An artist who describes herself as ‘having gone through a lot’, she is now settled in a busy job that gets her daily – and nightly – in touch with the human condition: tragedy, drama, and hopefully the serene horizon of happy endings.
Art is her escape, and has always been since childhood, she says. She is proud of being self-taught, after a creative and technique-consolidating stint in comprehensive school under the inspirational guidance of Christian Hook, whom she has painted a few portraits of – and entered one in this year’s International Art Exhibition.
“After school, I felt that university was not for me, as I wanted to become independent. I had the opportunity to apply for a government position and I was successful,” shares Aimee. Demanding working hours don’t stifle her creativity, they boost it, actually, and while she might be sketching during a quiet nightshift, Aimee will always carve out some free time to paint or draw. She experiments with acrylics, permanent markers, charcoal, crayons… any medium really, as long as she can ‘make a mess’ of it, on canvas, on paper, or even digitally.
I am a black and white person, blocky and bold.
“My work and my art aren’t separate, and they inspire each other: for example, I painted or sketched self-portraits showing the sadness I see and feel at work, and how it reflects on me,” she says.
Working in a clinical environment is directing her towards painting anatomy, especially bones, in Andy Warhol style, or turning anatomy into abstract to express how someone can be present physically but not emotionally. Her favourite production is the body of a man featuring vividly coloured scribbles all over his face, its features hidden by them, because, ‘he is here but she cannot see him because he’s no longer there after all, but he was important to her.’
Colour is so far outside her comfort zone, she admits. Of course, she wants to push her limits with it, sometimes ‘overdoing’ it. Other times she keeps it a sort of monochrome, adding a single bright colour to her B&W work, such as the case of one of her Hook’s portraits where the red paint expresses her national pride in paying tribute to her former art teacher as worldwide ambassador of Gibraltarian fine arts genius.
She acknowledges Hook for having taught her to distance herself from subject matter and technique alone, towards which students are usually directed in school. Instead, she got the message to focus her creativity on emotion primarily, and adjust the subject matter to inner feelings, reflecting and balancing the two ingredients of a meaningful painting.
Another inspirational artist and art teacher is Karl Ullger, who is monitoring Aimee to drop tips on how to improve and define her style. She painted a colourful portrait of him, slightly cartoonish, and with a sharp Andy Warhol vibe about it.
Aimee likes to use a single brush for each painting, so that her brushstroke is quite assertive, whether a palette knife or her iPad pen. Her hand dances on the support, canvas or screen, following the flurry of emotions unleashed by personal experiences: “I am not good at expressing myself in words, but I feel I can do that effectively by drawing. I am a black and white person, blocky and bold, and when I make a mess with my lines, I cherish my mistakes as further validation of my individuality.
“Mistakes are meant to happen and usually enhance my work, personalise it and make it unique,” Aimee concludes, to assert a blossoming style and the artistic trademark that she is still seeking to make her own. “Permanent markers, being so definitive, make you search and find ways to turn eventual mistakes into a feature, or learn how to disguise them with further layering.”
Aimee has entered several art exhibitions so far, prominently the frontline workers one sparked by the covid-19 lockdown in 2020, with a collection of portraits and sketches of Emergency Room clinicians, later presented to then-Minister for Health Paul Balban.
Portraits are indeed her forte, but she won’t make you look prettier just because you have commissioned her with one: “I am not a cosmetic surgeon,” she quips, “so I shall paint you as I see you. I will strive to capture your expression, your feelings, or at least how I feel your feelings.”
So, if beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, the sitter may turn out portrayed in unexpected ways, and bestow upon Aimee unexpected fortunes, like the time she posted on Instagram her sketch of an actress from The Vampire Diaries, and that celeb liked it, shared and reposted it in her own page, earning Aimee a bunch of followers.
Like a true millennial, Aimee is partial to digital art, and she sketches on her iPad, a respectable medium with a lot of potential and a few bumps on the road: “Sometimes it is more difficult than brushes and canvas or paper, and sometimes it is too polished or too perfect for my liking, but I am progressing in exploring it and finding my voice there. In digital, like in traditional painting, layering is the key to authenticity.”
Visit Aimeediazart.com to browse Aimee’s portfolio.