New York-based artist A.V. Flores wants to open peoples’ eyes to art. Not the kind of art that pulls on heartstrings, but the kind that wows viewers with its intricacy.
“I’m trying to put out really detailed, lengthy pieces,” he said, “because I feel as though so much has been lost in the past couple centuries… It’s like the skill is not recognized. It’s not rewarded anymore.” In speaking about the past few centuries, Flores mentioned the amount of detail that Michelangelo and da Vinci put into their work, compared to the abstract work of Jackson Pollock. He explained that currently, art is praised for the emotional reaction it draws from viewers, rather than the technical skills the artist devoted to the piece, and that other artists — not just himself — “aren’t receiving the respect they deserve” for their skills nowadays.
But his own art is a perfect example of this attention to detail: He often combines humans, animals and machines into pieces that look like they came out of a science fiction movie. “I’m drawn to science, technology,” he said. “For some reason I’ve always been drawn to that style. It just manifested over the years.”
For Flores, inspiration comes from all kinds of places in addition to science: fashion, even literature. His piece Caviar was based on the events in a book by the same name; he licensed the piece to the author, and it’s now on the cover of that book. For his “animal series,” he made five sheets of paint splatters, letting the color run into abstract shapes. “And then just staring at the splats,” he said, “I just thought of animals.” He finished the pieces with pencil and ink.
Jumping an Extra Hurdle
One piece can take him up to three months to create — and not just because of the level of detail. Flores has a nerve condition called essential tremor which makes it hard to draw straight lines. So the biggest obstacle for him isn’t finding ideas — it’s executing them. “My problem is, I have ideas all the time but I can’t always draw them,” he said. “Not that I don’t have the ability to, but that my disability kind of holds me back.”
“If I even feel remotely hungry, my arms are going to shake a lot,” he said, “So painting has always been much more difficult for me than it would be to just anyone who gets into it.” He also takes a beta blocker prescribed to him for the tremor an hour before he starts painting. When he works in watercolors, he has to let each layer dry before resting his hand on the page to go over the details in fountain pen.
Flores has been drawing since he first learned how to hold a pencil: He would copy his cousins and his mom eventually noticed that he had talent beyond his years. He grew interested in graffiti as he got older and worked as a tattoo artist after he finished high school. Eventually he saw that computers were on the rise, and he wanted to be part of the digital world. “The whole digital world was new to me. That was something I really wanted to get into.”
If I gain enough exposure, I can make a living off of what I love to do. ~A.V. Flores
For many years he hid his fine art away while he held other jobs, including as a tattoo artist and a creative director at an art department; he said he was overprotective of his work. Since it took months to complete some of them, it was easy to get attached. He finally decided to go public with his art when he went to a gallery with some friends and saw that a simple pencil sketch had a price tag of $12,000.
He didn’t want to criticize that artist or others for doing what they loved, but while at that gallery, he realized that he had the capability and talent to sell his work too. “I think right there is where I had the epiphany. If I gain enough exposure, I can make a living off of what I love to do.”
He now splits his time between commissions and personal pieces. Having gone public with his art only a year ago, Flores is still building a gathering. He has an agent now and is planning on bringing his artwork to the next Art Basel in Miami. But he says there are always new opportunities and ideas brewing, more things to come. “There’s so many new ideas in the works and I just can’t wait to share them with the world.”