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Daily Inspiration: Meet Juan Villegas

Today we’d like to introduce you to Juan Villegas.

Hi Juan, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I grew up in the city of Cali, Colombia. My dad’s side of the family was very artistic, his cousins all played music and painted, and there is where I started developing an interest in the arts. When I was five, my dad started buying me these big newsprint pads and would sit and draw with me, he would also buy clay for us to sculpt animals. Drawing quickly became my favorite thing to do, and so my dad started calling me “el lapiz magico” (the magic pencil). I loved making up characters and creatures, oftentimes building worlds for them to live in. In school, I took all the drawing classes I could, started with caricatures, human anatomy, comic strips, and basic design. Art class was always the highlight of my day.

When I turned 13, I asked for a guitar for Christmas and started learning how to play music with a little manual that came with it. Playing music and making art became my pillars, and they kept me out of trouble. I started playing music with friends and starting bands, we would go rehearse at this old school rocker dude’s academy who had rooms filled with instruments and you would just pay by the hour. He would host mini-festivals once a month where all the bands who rehearsed at his studio had a chance to play, it was really fun. When I turned 16, I knew in my heart I wanted to be an artist and started taking up painting, though I didn’t get a chance to be in painting class in high school, I took it upon myself to start learning on my own, and painted my first mural in my room. At 17, my mom who was moving to the U.S. asked me and my sister if we wanted to move with her and we said yes. Artists in my hometown were not well supported by the city, and I saw an opportunity to pursue my dreams in the states.

I moved to Houston, Texas in 2005 and enrolled at a San Jac community college to begin art school. I didn’t know anyone and barely spoke the language so it was a big challenge for me, but I felt it was the best option for me to meet like-minded individuals. I quickly made friends and started pursuing both art and music in the city. I also worked at the art gallery in the art department where I had the chance to learn more about exhibitions and studio practices.

In 2008, I transferred to Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. And entered the art program, met new friends and kept pursuing art and music together. In 2010 I received a Bachelors in Fine Arts, focusing in drawing and painting. I moved back to Houston, got a job at Texas Art Supply, and started involving myself in the art scene there more deeply. I was part of several group shows at Watson galleries and volunteered time helping with hanging and installing shows. Playing music was becoming a love/hate relationship for me so I stopped playing in bands and decided to dedicate my full attention to visual art.

In 2014, my daughter was born and I moved to Austin, Texas. I landed a job as Production and Collections manager at Mexic-Arte museum and worked there for six months until I got laid off. I worked odd jobs while continuing to put myself out there and in 2017, I found Cherry Cola Dog, an all-inclusive art space that changed the course of my career for the better. I met some of my closest friends and my now wife Rosemary Allen there, and since then we have been painting, curating, and organizing shows together with different venues and galleries in town.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
It has not been a smooth road, I don’t think any road worth taking is. Moving to a different country at 17 and leaving everything I knew behind is one of the hardest challenges I overcame. I’ve had countless rejections from many galleries and countless disappointments from shows where nothing sells or barely anyone shows up. It takes a while to develop your message and your craft, and you have to be resilient in order to keep going. I had to have many day jobs to support myself for many years until I was able to become a full-time artist. Even now, you’re always faced with the unknown. Learning lessons to help you grow and believing in yourself are paramount.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I’m a visual artist, I specialize in drawing and painting. I’m known for painting surreal works that highlight nature in a mystical and whimsical way, aiming to connect us to its beauty and wisdom while illuminating its profound influence on our own spirituality and evolution of consciousness. My vast imagination allows me to create unique and original works of art that portray our oneness with nature and take you out to realms of mystery and wonder.

Where we are in life is often partly because of others. Who/what else deserves credit for how your story turned out?
My parents, thanks to their support and cheerleading, I’ve been able to keep going even when times are tough. My college professors, their knowledge and expertise greatly impacted my love for art and my practice.

My daughter, she keeps me grounded and centered.

My wife, she’s my muse and partner in crime.

My patrons, everyone who has bought art from me owns a little piece of me, thanks to them I can continue to create and make a living off my work.

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