March is Contemporary Art Month!  The King William Association is participating this year by inviting local artist A.J. Rodriguez to display some of his paintings in our office.  The exhibit will be on view from February 20 through mid-April.  There will be a “Meet the Artist” reception on Thursday, April 6 from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. 

I recently met A.J. at Radius Center where his paintings were on exhibit.  Over lunch at Pharm Table at the Center, we got acquainted and he shared his artistic journey with me.  A.J. gave me a guided tour of his paintings, explaining his technique using acrylic paint in vibrant colors in the series he has named “Figuras.” 

A.J. was born in San Antonio and he and his wife, Estelle, and three children live in a house on Arsenal Street that has housed six generations of his family.  Rather than sell the duplex following his grandmother’s passing, they decided to restore it, making it a single-family home once more.  

As a four-year old and beyond, A.J. was always drawing.  His grandmother gave him lots of different things to draw on.  Even now, no napkin, receipt or other scrap of paper is safe from his pencil or pen.  He even experimented with using nail polish.  He poured over comic books and tried to copy the way the artists used shading.  He is primarily self-taught.

A.J. credits Estelle with urging him to get back to drawing and painting.  She bought him a canvas and asked him to make art for their newly-restored home.  Both were pleased with the result, and that inspired him to make a complementary painting for another wall.  He used the desk in his study to paint the works that he named “Dos Leones,” or “Two Lions.”

He explained that his ideas often come from his subconscious.  For the larger paintings, he will make a sketch first.  He focuses on lines, design depth and movement.  He likes to listen to music as he paints – the Rolling Stones, classical, classic rock and a big favorite, Vicente Fernandez. 

A.J. has received a lot of encouragement from other artists and curators.  Gilbert Duran sponsored his first show at 911 Studio in 2015.  The opening was attended mostly by family and friends.  He sold a couple of pictures.  Then Arturo Almeida, curator at UTSA, took A.J. under his wing.  This led to a show at the Plaza Club curated by Karen Evans.  Local artists Jesus Toro Martinez and Bill Fitzgibbons have also hosted A.J.’s work at their studio galleries.  A.J. donated a piece to support a cause and it sold at auction for more than expected, and to a stranger.  He felt very gratified, and told me it was like putting gasoline on the fire of his creativity. 

Paintings that A.J. called his Riverwalk Series were the last exhibit at UTSA’s Downtown Gallery before it was closed.  He did a South Texas Bird series and the current exhibit of “Figuras,” curated by Joan Grona at Radius.  A.J. continues to paint at home and has a studio in Lone Star Art Space for his larger work.  He is currently trying his hand at sculpture with clay.  You can find out more on his web site, ajrodriguezarte.com. 

- Nora Peterson