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Artist of the Month: Alex Ramos focuses on details in his realistic still-life paintings

by on January 29, 2020 12:11 PM

Alex Ramos has always had an eye for detail. As a child, he created meticulously detailed pencil drawings. As a production editor, he focuses on the fine details of text. And as an artist, his attention to detail allows him to create intricately realistic still-life paintings.

Ramos picked up painting as a hobby in 2012, just as he was beginning a PhD program in religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He had grown up watching his mother paint in acrylics, so he decided to give it a try during a trip home for winter break. Acrylics is still the medium he exclusively uses today.

“I work with small brushes and do really fine detail work, and I try to shoot for a realist result,” he says. “The details really find themselves in small gradations in light, reflection, and change of color. I like to find subjects that really allow me to emphasize the strong contrasts in light and shadow, strong colors, and objects that have a lot of intricacy to them.”

While his early works were mainly landscape and architectural paintings, these days his subjects usually involve food or glassware and ceramics. Whatever the subject, he starts most paintings with a photo session.

“For the still-lifes, I’ll stage something and I’ll take about 100 photographs in different lighting settings, using different angles and different setups. Then I go back and evaluate them and decide what I like and what I don’t like,” he says. “Lately, I’m gravitating toward more simple backgrounds.”

Ramos then grids out a canvas, does a pencil sketch, and paints a base coat before getting to the detail work – and no detail is overlooked. When painting the inside of a pomegranate, for example, he recreates the minute differences in every individual seed. He takes this approach to every still-life he paints.

“It’s really about examining and exploring in detail the ways that light plays with objects and different materials and surfaces, and how that affects color, too, which plays out in my meticulous detail and shading,” he says.

Still-life may be Ramos’ current genre of choice, but his best selling prints are something quite different. Combining his religious studies background with his love of Star Wars and a sense of humor, Ramos created a series of Byzantine-style Icons of Science Fiction, placing famous characters from Star Wars into recognizable iconic art poses, such as C-3PO and R2-D2 as the Madonna and Child. The series was featured last year in an exhibit at Harvard University’s Center for the Study of World Religions.

“It is a translation of Star Wars fans’ devotion to the series and a parallel form of devotional art – a playful take on Star Wars’ quasi-religious sort of background,” he explains. “People who are fans recognize it as sort of parallel to religious devotion at times; there’s this deep background knowledge of lore that is parallel to biblical lore.”

Ramos has lived in State College for two years, moving here to take a job as a production editor at the Penn State University Press. Even with a full-time job and a 7-month-old baby at home, he makes time to paint for at least an hour each night, and he feels that moving to the area has helped him branch out as an artist.

“Coming to State College has really been great for getting started. My wife had been encouraging me for a few years to reach out to galleries in Philadelphia, but I was daunted by the whole prospect. Coming to a smaller town, it just seemed a little less daunting and I felt a lot more comfortable taking the steps,” he says.

Currently, Ramos’ works can be found on display at State College Framing Company. He was also recently part of the holiday show at the Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County.

Considering he has been painting for only about eight years, he felt gratified to have been chosen as an exhibitor for the 2019 Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, and hopes to have a booth there again this year. His art can also be seen and purchased on his website:


Karen Walker is a freelance writer in State College.


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