My name is Rafael DeSoto, Jr. I’m originally from Long Island, NY and have been living in northern and central California since the mid-1970s. I’m fortunate to have been taught and guided by my father, a renown New York artist and teacher who graciously shared his first name with me (a Spanish tradition).
His mastery of art and dedication to its practice have guided me to this day. He encouraged my visual art abilities through an informal maestro-apprentice environment. This has enabled me to acquire a variety of traditional drawing and painting skills.
My formal training in commercial art included hand-lettering, airbrush, illustration, graphic design/ production, and photography which helped broaden my creative acumen. I also delved into television broadcast design as well as website design, back when companies needed visual designers for quality presence and promotions.
I’ve been an art director/senior designer for high-tech companies in Silicon Valley for over 20 years. I’m self-taught as a digital artist having started in this field when it was just beginning. I’ve also been a radio programmer (DJ) specializing in Jazz and African music. I teach art around the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as smaller, private classes in my studio.
I consider myself a creative evangelist. I truly believe that art can and does save lives. Watercolors have always attracted me because of the convenience, quick-drying, and the juxtaposition of having to be in control yet work spontaneously. I paint realistically using an impressionistic style. I think it’s important to embrace intuition along with technical prowess to enable your brush strokes to reveal moments of clairvoyance.
I always paint using quality materials even if only sketching just in case it turns out better than expected. The paint brands I prefer are Winsor & Newton, M. Graham, Daniel Smith, and QOR. I prefer Arches 100% cotton rag paper at least 140 lb. Sizes over 16” requires 300 lb. paper to avoid buckling.
I use cold press “rough” for most of my work because it lends itself to drybrush techniques I often use. My favorite brushes are 1/4” to 1” long FLAT because I can use it for either a wash or a sharp line depending on how it’s held. I also like using what’s called a “lettering” brush which is a long, sharp ROUND brush that holds a lot of paint.
A subject matter that appeals to me often has rust and/or old wood with dramatic lighting. I love painting things in decay with interesting textures. I also enjoy painting portraits and figures. When inspiration runs dry, I rely on painting skies to get creative juices flowing.
Artists who inspire me include Joaquin Sorolla, Anders Zorn, John Singer Sargent, Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper. My favorite contemporary watercolor artists include Stanislaw Zoladz, Angus McEwan, Daniel Marshall, Stan Miller, Tom Hughes, Michael Reardon.
My advice to those just starting out is to keep at it. Look at a lot of art that inspires you and keep a reference for it. If you want to paint realistically don’t try and copy it. Interpret the subject as shapes, tones, textures, and composition. This will allow you to focus on the process instead of the what end result is supposed to look like.
If you don’t get frustrated you aren’t working hard enough. Have several pieces going at the same time. This helps to avoid overworking which is the most common mistake in painting watercolors. Keep your palette moist, you water container clean, and try and enjoy the process more than the end result.Recommended5 recommendationsPublished in