Why does someone become an artist?

It’s a big question that can yield seemingly inconsequential answers. Sometimes, it all comes down to a chance encounter — stumbling across a comic strip, accidentally walking into a band’s practice session or visiting an artist studio for the first time. I ask our feature artist, Jose Jimenez, to tell us about the pivotal moment that inspired his desire to create and set him on his career path.

Jose Jimenez, in the studio, Florence, Italy

Tell us about yourself.

As a child, I was very interested in drawing, colour and nature. When I was 20 years old, a family friend who owned a jewelry store asked me if I wanted to work for him and he would teach me the art of jewelry-making. Until that point, I don’t think I had ever set a foot in a jewelry store. However, he began teaching me and I absolutely loved it. It was fascinating working with gold and silver. Creating pieces from melted metal was just a surreal experience for me. After five years working with and learning from him, I decided to go to Canada to study Jewelry and pursue it as a professional career. I believe at that moment I was set to follow my passion not for painting but for jewelry.

I was born and raised in Venezuela, but there, it is very difficult to pursue any artistic career. In fact, while I was working at the jewelry store, I was studying Business Administration because it was supposed to be my professional career and jewelry was just a pastime. I chose to move to Canada to study and have a professional career as a jewelry maker.

Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your passion for art?

Once in Canada, I encountered painting for the very first time and it changed everything. I visited an art studio in downtown Toronto full of artists creating and I had never seen anything like that before. I recall walking around and seeing what everybody was doing and seeing all of their materials such as palettes, brushes, colours, and canvases. And then there’s the memory of smelling for the first time what ultimately became my all time favorite scent: oil paint. In that moment without knowing anything about painting, never having been in a gallery, not knowing any artists, I knew I wanted to paint.  I decided to change my major from Jewelry to Drawing and Painting. I applied and was accepted to the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) University. After graduating in 2018, I began working as a full time artist. In that very moment in that artists’ studio was my pivotal moment to follow my passion for painting; it took one second.

Landscape painting, Boboli Gardens, Florence Italy

Jose Jimenez, An Italian Renaissance Landscape, oil on canvas, 31.5″ x 23.6″

Walk me through a day in the studio.

I have recently moved to Florence, Italy and set up my studio in my apartment.

The first thing I do is look at what I did the day before. I meditate for 45 minutes before quickly going through some books or watching a video about art. Then I begin to work. I have been working on multiple pieces at the same time, going from one piece to the next throughout the whole day. Since I came to Florence,  I’ve found it more productive and entertaining to work in this way. I take some moments away from the pieces to observe and contemplate what I’m doing. I usually grab a pair of drumsticks and play along with the song playing in the background. I surround myself with music the whole day. It is a necessity for me. I love music. I usually work 12 to 14 hours each day, so it is a long day but I’m always busy and having a good time and the time just speeds by. In fact, I have a hard time to stop working.

From where do you draw your inspiration? 

Definitely from nature. I love going to different places and seeing a variety of landscapes. I’m always looking intensely when I’m in a natural space. Since I was a child, I was always exposed to nature and my deep love for it comes from that young experience.  In Venezuela, it is very warm the whole year and that allows you to be outside; day or night. Venezuela has rich nature and different landscapes such as mountains, beaches, fields and jungles.  However, I also draw my inspiration from art itself. I’m always acquiring new books, and going to museums and galleries.

I’m constantly looking at contemporary artists. I read and watch musicians’ and artists’ interviews. To learn about other artists’ creative processes, struggles and successes is something I enjoy. In fact, I’ve read all the interviews you have done for this Artist Spotlight Series and I loved them. I found them so interesting and captivating.

Boboli Gardens, landscape oil painting

Jose Jimenez, Rhythmic and Decorative Nature, oil on canvas, 31.5″ x 23.6″

What is your favourite museum or gallery that you’ve visited?

Galleries and museums are my main attraction when I go to a new city or country. The Art Gallery of Ontario has a special place in my heart. It neighbours OCAD University, so I used to go there frequently, and it was the first art gallery I ever visited. I also really like the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I had the opportunity to visit the museum of Latin American Art in Buenos Aires, Argentina (MALBA). For me, it was a version of MoMA but focused on Latin American art. In Buenos Aires, there is also the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. They have an impressive collection of Rodin sculptures, Rembrandt paintings, Goya prints and when I went they had an astonishing exhibition of Turner’s watercolours. I cannot pick one specific gallery or museum; I enjoy every single one I go to.

In reflecting on your career so far, what is the most useful advice you have received?

In 2016, I went to an exhibition of J.M.W Turner at the Art Gallery of Ontario titled: Painting Set Free. It was an incredible exhibition, and at the end of it just above the exit door, there was a phrase from Turner himself which was a response when he was asked if he had any secret to his success and he said:  “The only secret I have got is damned hard work”. Right there, in that moment I received the best advice I have ever gotten. Since then, I have not stopped making art for one day and I love it.

Landscape, ink on paper, Boboli Gardens, Italy

Along Its Walks, ink on paper, 11.7″ x 8.3″

Can you tell me about your process of making a work? 

The beginning of my process depends on the source I’m using. I work mostly from photographs. I usually take hundreds of photographs of one single place in one day.

Back in the studio, I pick the photos I like most and start to work. I usually transform them to black and white and begin to draw. I do countless sketches in ink. I draw until I have memorized the space and I can do it without looking at the photo anymore. Afterward, I move on to colour studies. This usually doesn’t take too much time because when I work from a specific photograph, it is because the composition attracts me and I have the colour combination in my mind.

What materials do you like to use? 

I primarily use acrylic paint and oil paint. Before coming to Italy, I worked on a series of acrylic paintings called Autumn in Marmora, Ontario (1) (2) and (3). This series of works started with a video I did with musician Andres Puche. I created a painting en plein air while Andres Puche produced the music. The video goes from morning to night. For the night scenes, we used a lot of colourful lights. I wanted to introduce all of those artificial colours to the painting, so I did them in acrylic. With acrylic paint, I can attain less organic colours but more plastic and artificial. An example of this is Autumn in Marmora, Ontario (Number 3) where the saturation and unnatural colours of the trees are visible.

Where I look for a more organic feel, I use oil paints, which I’m currently working on based on the Boboli Gardens in Florence. I also use a lot of ink. The majority of my drawings are done in ink because I like the intensity of it and the risk of making a mistake because it can’t be fixed. Thus, I have to be very focused when I draw. I also use oil pastels, oil markers and recently I have been working on the iPad which is fantastic. It is incredible how fast one can apply colours; the feeling is completely different from working on canvas or paper. It is like working on a sheet of glass.

Colorful landscape, Marmora Ontario

Jose Jimenez,  Autumn in Marmora, Ontario (Number 3), acrylic on canvas, 48″ x 36″

“Prior to moving to Canada, I had not been in any other country besides Venezuela. When I arrived in Toronto I saw the whole world in one city… For me it was like travelling all over the world without leaving the city.”

Which cultural experience changed the way you see the world?

I believe my most life changing cultural experience has been moving to Canada. Prior to moving to Canada, I had not been in any other country besides Venezuela. When I arrived in Toronto I saw the whole world in one city. What an experience that was. Toronto is a city rich in culture and that was something I had never experienced before. Being exposed to so many different cultures and people really gave me a completely new look of the world. For me it was like travelling all over the world without leaving the city. It was fascinating for me to walk on the streets, listen to a wide range of languages, and see people from a variety of countries. It definitely changed me. I owe a lot to Canada. While at university I learned about history and became captivated by it. History is such an important part of culture and learning from it allows you to understand any culture on a deeper level.

What has been the highlight of your career so far? 

I believe the highlight has been the opportunity I’ve had to sell my work to different parts of the world. Days after I graduated from OCAD University, my art studio caught fire and destroyed all of the work I had produced in the past five years. It took me a year and a half to create more work, but then the pandemic hit and everything closed. Even though the conditions have been difficult, I’m very happy to have pieces in different parts of the world.

Painting of sculpture in Boboli Gardens, Italy

Jose Jimenez, Boboli Gardens: Pleasure and Enlightenment, oil on canvas, 31.5″ x 23.6″

Can you tell me more about the painting “Boboli Gardens: Pleasure and Enlightenment”?

The painting is based on a large sculpture called Tyndareus Screpolato (Cracked) which is situated in the centre of the gardens. The sculpture was created by Igor Mitoraj, a Polish-born sculptor. The colossal face is named after Tyndareus, a figure from Greek mythology, King of the ancient city of Sparta. The sculpture appears to be done from fragments of bronze. This fragmentation aims to show the passing of time, our human fragility, the everlasting characteristic of classical beauty and the moral and aesthetic values it represents.

After I painted the canvases representing the natural beauty of the gardens, it was important to me to create an artwork that encapsulates the Boboli Gardens cultural role as an open-air museum. The title Boboli Gardens: Pleasure and Enlightenment is in reference to the pleasure we can get from the natural spaces while Enlightenment refers to the cultural heritage represented by the sculpture.

If you could choose just one work of art to live with, what would it be?

Well, this is a very difficult question! Actually, an impossible one. I’m in love with too many pieces of art, so I’m going to list the top three of all the ones I deeply love. One of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. One of David Hockney’s landscapes from his series: The Arrival of Spring in 2011. I absolutely love these landscapes. I just recently went to see a Jenny Saville exhibition here in Florence and I have to say I was really impressed. Definitely living with one of her portraits would be a complete privilege. As a bonus I need to mention any work from the Italian masters and any of the modern artists Matisse and Picasso.

What music or other audio do you listen to while you’re working?

Music is an essential part of my work and my life. When I start to work, I start with something very mellow like jazz, for example, but it changes throughout the day. I can be listening to meditative music and then switch to heavy metal music. That is how the whole work day goes from one style to another, from one band to the other. I also listen to podcasts, mostly about music and history.

What do you hope people will experience when they look at one of your paintings?

I want people to experience colour, universality, and nature without the limitation of a specific place. Even when I title them with the name of the place they belong to, it is because of the colours that they become accessible to everyone. I want people to experience joy, peace and an appreciation of nature.  I’ve had people say to me they now pay more attention to the shape of mountains and trees because they have experienced my work. For them, it becomes a way to enjoy and see nature more closely.

Jose Jimenez in the studio

Jose F Jimenez was born and grew up in Venezuela surrounded by mountains and the sea. At the age of twenty, he began to learn the basics of working with metals, making jewelry.  After five years working with jewelry, he left Venezuela to pursue a university degree as a jewelry maker in Toronto, Canada. A chance encounter working as a volunteer in an art studio changed his life. He tried painting for the first time and fell in love with it. He applied and was accepted into the Drawing and Painting program at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) University.

In 2018, he received his Bachelor’s Degree in Drawing and Painting from OCAD University. Far from home, he began to explore his own life and memories. His encounters with nature and his childhood memories began to take form as landscape paintings. A great part of his inspiration comes from traveling to other countries, exploring new landscapes. Jimenez and his wife are currently living and working in Florence, Italy.


 JULY 14 – AUGUST 20, 2022


All works are available at time of publishing. For more information on work by Jose Jimenez please get in touch by email:  info@artoffice.ca or call 604 730 9611.  @jose_fj