Ramón Rolando Garrido Quevedo
A dialogue with a Chilean Adventist artist
Ramón Rolando Garrido Quevedo was born in the city of Concepción, in the central-south region of Chile. His mother introduced him as a child to the joy and variety of drawing and painting, and he has taken up painting with a passion for accomplishing a mission that is always in his mind. Although art is not Garrido’s primary profession (he is a medical technician), he spends every bit of his free time drawing and painting – an activity that gives him immense joy and provides a means of sharing his love of the beautiful with those around him.
Garrido was 20 years old when he accepted Jesus as his personal Savior, an experience that influenced his artistic expression. From that time onward, he began to find inspiration in the different stories of the Bible, and he helped make local Seventh-day Adventist churches more colorful. But his witnessing is not limited to the arts. Currently, Garrido serves his local church in various capacities, including direct witnessing, since his dream is to plant a new congregation in the near future.
Besides his artistic hobby, Garrido’s professional activities are also oriented toward service to the community. He completed studies in Chile and at Montemorelos University in Mexico, and has worked as a nurse and dental assistant in mountain areas and faraway islands in southern Chile. Presently, Garrido serves on the campus of Chile Adventist University, close to the city of Chillán, where he lives with his wife, Elizabeth.
How did you find your calling for painting?
It was rather spontaneous. When I was a primary school student, my mother tried to help me do my drawing class homework. It was at that moment that I noticed how easy it was for me to draw, even better than what she was trying to teach me. I found out my hand was able to draw as if water was springing out of it. It was not perfect, but it was easy. I soon became aware that for my classmates, or even my mother, it was not that simple.
Did you go then to art classes or art school?
No, I did not have the opportunity; in fact, I was not aware of the need. Art was just a hobby, but since I was so involved, I began to make progress, thanks to some books and the motivation of some of my teachers in grade school. They would amuse themselves watching what I could do with a pencil. Of course, I used to take part in every school contest where some kind of drawing or graphic outline was involved. As I look back, I acknowledge that some kind of training with a professional would have been very useful for me, but in my case, it was more of a progressive vocation or a hobby, and not as much a professional means of earning a living.
What kind of drawings and paintings did you produce in that first stage?
During grade school, I mostly drew and painted within the setting of the schools where I was studying. I took part in school contests, illustrated and assisted with works of art for educational events, and became known in local newspapers, which used to ask me for specific illustrations. These beginnings opened the opportunity to work for a publishing house in Santiago, the capital city of Chile.
At what time did you decide to set those opportunities aside to focus on different themes and styles?
The big change occurred when I met Jesus Christ and decided to be baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. At that moment, I felt the urge to improve and grow; I felt the longing to express the presence of God, which had become a very important reality in my life. So I began to draw inspiration from religious motifs, focusing specifically on the faces of Bible characters. I got particularly interested in mastering the use of light and shadows better, and in resorting to oil painting more often and with better techniques.
What do you mean by improving and growing?
I mean, during my first years as a Seventh-day Adventist, I usually was not more than a copyist or an imitator of very well-known Seventh-day Adventist artists, such as Harry Anderson or Nathan Green. Since then, my spiritual growth has helped me produce my own creations, where I am able to express myself the way I desire.
Can you explain this kind of growth by specifically referring to some of your paintings?
Of course. I worked on a painting based on the well-known mountain range Torres del Paine, those imposing rocky formations that impressively rise as a solid natural monument in the isolated and faraway south of Chile. In that painting, I tried to show the sound and stable life of someone who clings to the Rock of Ages. On the other hand, as I increasingly drew inspiration from Bible characters, I got interested in improving my technique of painting hands. So, I painted a higher hand, very strong, which holds a lower hand that looks safe under the powerful hand of God. I also created a painting whose center is a shaky boat in the midst of a big storm, but which somehow keeps itself afloat, thanks to God’s protection.
I understand that at the same time, you served the church in various evangelistic endeavors. What can you say about that?
Often, I was asked to prepare illustrations for various church programs and activities. For instance, from the fantasy-inspired art of my youth, I turned to illustrating Bible prophecies, especially during the time when it was common to preach about Daniel and Revelation. I also worked on paintings inspired by Bible scenes. I began to reflect my personal experience with the Bible. Thus, I have paintings that try to illustrate the kindness and mercy of God as expressed in His creation and natural wonders. For me it has always been a great satisfaction to see those paintings in churches or friends’ homes, both as exhibits but also as my life’s testimony. Nevertheless, it is very clear for me that since I belong to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, my gift should be used to serve the church. Some time ago, I painted a 9-foot by 18-foot mural for one of our schools. It often happens that I donate those projects, because not every congregation can pay for them, and because my major motivation is the satisfaction that I get from painting in a church, not particularly the business reward.
Can you give us some details about your technical choices?
I prefer oil painting. I like it because is flexible, even when I decide to make changes on the go or when I do not feel particularly inspired. I can even leave the project aside and go back days later. I like painting in a 70 by 80 format. Any time of day is the same for me. When I feel inspired, I just take a piece of paper and pencils, and outline the idea.
You have lived in areas of varied landscapes and natural colors. Do you feel that being close to nature has increased your artistic sensitivity? I am talking not only about the landscape itself, but also about your interest in colors, light, etc.
Of course. Being close to nature has helped me to develop my perception. I have become more sensitive and more attentive to detail, and my range of topics has become wider.
What do you think: is an artist born or made?
From my personal experience, I know that I cannot deny that there is a gift, a natural inclination from birth, something that is inside you. It is essential, however, for a process of growth and development to take place, by which what is still fledgling or rudimentary is learned and perfected. Day after day, I am thankful for my gift, but I am also conscious of my limitations. So I am now planning to attend an art academy to get professional assistance. I feel that my artistic expression will be boosted with the help and guidance of professional painters. I am sure that not only my technique will improve, but also my creativity. I began by imitating other painters, by being more of a copyist, who would only add a few personal touches. But an artist is always trying to show more of his own personality and feelings through his paintings; it is a way of expressing himself.
How would you define the creative process?
I think it is like the action of using the brush to express something that is personal, a detail – even intimate – of my life. For instance, some of my paintings show how God reached and transformed me. On the other hand, painting is a way of explaining how I perceive life. Every artist “speaks” through his/her works; it is a way of expression. In my case, I do it by using shapes and colors. Other people use sounds and rhythms, matter and volume... . Art can be expressed in many different ways.
Has it ever happened to you that ywhat you saw on the canvas did not agree with what you were trying to convey? Have you destroyed or set some of your works aside? Do you keep working on them even when you are not satisfied with the results?
Yes. There were times I had to set my work aside and come back at some other time, when I felt more inspired to complete it. This is one of the advantages of oil painting: you can always leave it and restart after many days, or definitely introduce major changes.
Well, from your standpoint, what is failure?
Failure is to have been defeated; it is not failing to reach your goal. This can be applied to every aspect of our existence, not just to artistic creation. But thanks to God, it does not end there, because the Lord already made everything so we can be overcomers. I think we are born to be successful, in spite of all our circumstances. Heaven will be the ultimate triumph; we will not get there on our own merits, but our Savior’s. Heaven is the opposite of failure.
Do you follow a specific philosophy of art?
Of course. Art is an expression of the way I see life, a visible expression of my worldview. In my case, it results in a tendency to express my picture of God. Thus, I have come to know Him as the God of art, which underlies how much I depend on him.
Do you think that art and the God of art are not too abstract?
I do not think so. It is true, you have abstract painting, which is not the style I prefer, since often it lends itself to various interpretations, some of them mutually exclusive. I would rather follow realism and impressionism, which I feel convey a message, a testimony.
Do you have any life advice for our readers?
Based on my experience, my advice is that no one should allow themselves to feel intimidated as a result of either seeming or real setbacks. Never allow anyone to take away your desire to make your dreams come true. God helped me realize that not everything is easily achieved. I have shared this piece of advice before, and I have seen with satisfaction that other people have benefited from it. I joyfully serve as a paramedic, and find time to spend on my passion, which is painting. I feel a sense of fulfillment when I am able to use the gifts God has given me.
Enrique Becerra (Doctorat en Sciences Religieuses, Université de Strasbourg, France) is a native of Chile and a former associate director of education, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. His email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ramón Garrido Quevedo may be reached at email@example.com.
The art of Ramón Rolando Garrido Quevedo
70 x 80 cm. Oil painting on canvas. While I was in the city of La Paz, Bolivia, I usually was able to witness the details of my surroundings from my seventh floor window. As an artist, I tried to depict the perfect spot for a romantic encounter.
70 x 80 cm. Oil painting on canvas. I tried to show the freedom, the strength, and the single-mindedness of the horses in an open landscape, so as to somehow reflect the original strength and the tenacity of a created human being.
80 x 70 cm. Oil painting on canvas. There is light, brightness and depth, the basic ingredients an artist try to incorporate in a painting so as to transmit realism in the form of some fruit.