It’s amazing what Ernesto Yerena can do with a blank canvas. His unique mix of colors, culture, and politics has spawned some of the most unique portraits of the late 2000’s. Ernie’s magic with the ink and paint has created iconic imagery like "Bear of the Dead," "Ganas Soldier," and (our personal favorite) the Cantinflas lithograph. But more importantly, he creates art with a message and one that coincides perfectly with Hispanic Heritage Month.
Yerena was born just outside Mexicali and actually comes from a long line of artists. He cites his abuelo as a major influence (and the one who gave him his first stencil kit), as well as his father. Ernesto’s dad actually made a living customizing cars and gave the young Yerena a taste of the lifestyle at a very young age. "I kind of grew up in an artistic environment," he said. "I had art all around me. I was using a spray gun when I was eight years old."
But it wasn’t just family members who enjoyed working on the sketch pad, Ernesto’s amigos heavily influenced him as well. He went on to say how studying design was actually discouraged by the adults in his hometown. "A lot of my friends were artists growing up. But their parents wouldn’t allow them to go to art school. They would say, 'that’s not a real career'."
Thankfully Yerena’s parents felt otherwise. They encouraged him to earn a degree in graphic design and eventually work as an intern for the legendary Obey Giant studios. While at Obey, Ernesto was put in very close quarters with legendary artist Shepard Fairey, who soon became a mentor.
"With Shep, you had an intense learning environment," Yerena said. "And I liked that a lot. I was always a fast learner and Shep’s work ethic was very inspirational."
Fairey, of course, designed the now iconic "Hope" posters used the election campaign for President Barack Obama. You can actually see his influence in a lot of Ernesto’s designs. Except instead of figures like Andre the Giant, Yereda prefers red and green Che Guevaras.
Ernesto went on to emphasize how historical Latin American figures are an important part of his style. He explained how they can help give his work "relevance" and add more layers of depth. Sure on the surface, his Fidel Castro portrait may look like a typical headshot. But look closer at the image and you’ll see plenty of subliminal political messages.
Ernesto went on to say how creating each piece was rather therapeutic and a great outlet for him to express his inner feelings. "I’m a very frustrated person at times with the power structures of this country," he said. "Instead of getting angry, this is the way I take action. I create a piece about it."
He’s also created quite an interesting online gallery, which he calls Hecho Con Ganas. There, you can not only view each piece of art, you can buy signed versions of them. Ernesto also has his own blog on the site where he displays new works and offers input to those new to the art world.
One particular piece of advice he gave to us was, "Before you become an artist, figure out who you are. Get to know yourself and always stay true to yourself."
Who’s your favorite Latino artist? Sound off in the comments or @MTV3.
Copyright : Tr3s