Jungle Of My Own
The fanciful wildlife canvas menageries of Gustavo Novoa
By Dale King & Julia Hebert
Chilean-born artist Gustavo Novoa speaks candidly, paints portraits meticulously and thinks whimsically. A writer and painter who grew up in a family of lawyers in Santiago, the charming gentleman with a smooth, engaging Spanish accent pondered his own beginnings.
“I suppose painting came first,” he said. “It was a given. I was practically born with colored pencils in my hands. During my early years in school, by the end of the term, my books were unreadable because of the drawings I put in them.”
From Paint To Pen
“My passion for writing came much later in life, and derived from reading literary works in Spanish, and, eventually, in English.” Novoa has written four books, some of which he also illustrated.
Before leaving home, Novoa took a shot at the family business, attending law school for a year. He quickly discovered that a career behind a desk wasn’t his calling. He took to painting with passion and worked in various styles – “landscapes, nudes, still life works, boat scenes and so on, until I fell into my own menagerie.”
Since then, feline creatures of the wild have become the focal point of his artwork. They “reflect our own emotions in every painting.”
“My animals have become quite anthropomorphic and, in reality, they are characters,” said Novoa. “When I first started drawing them, they consisted of more decorative aspects, kind of ‘National Geographic’ style in their habitats. Over the years, they have moved on to create their own stages.”
In some Novoa paintings, panthers or leopards have jumped from an internal frame and sit, ready to pounce on or stare down the patron viewing the portrait.
Quest To Become A Contemporary Great
Novoa’s career has taken him from the sidewalks of Paris in the 1960s, where he sold watercolors and works in crayon, to the back tents of the Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey Circus. The budding artist – barely in his 20s – traded Paris for the lure of New York with its funky pop culture and “you can make it anywhere” brashness.
One-man shows in Paris, New York, Palm Beach and Beverly Hills established him as a contemporary great in the field. His subject matter has branded him a champion of ecology and wildlife preservation.
Novoa has been involved in many philanthropic causes related to saving creatures in the wild, including Panthera, the Palm Beach Zoo and the San Antonio Zoo.
The artist spent 25 years in New York before moving to Miami. In one of his most dramatic portraits, he depicts two jungle cats on one side of the Hudson River looking across to ghostly images of the World Trade Center. “The Twin Towers were part of my New York pride. I witnessed them being built. In the painting, they will always be there as ghosts, standing tall above the clouds, no matter what takes their place.” The artist finds inspiration in many places. “It comes from all the imagery that surrounds us.”
Pointing out he has never been to Africa, Novoa said, “At this point, I don’t want to go. I am far more comfortable creating my own imagery. And from the photos I’ve seen of people who have gone on safaris, I like my own backgrounds better.”
A Quarter Century Of Success
Earlier this year, Novoa celebrated his 25 years as a portrait master with a display of his works called “A Utopian Jungle of His Own” at the Miami-Dade Public Library. He presented lectures and mingled with visitors, many of them students.
Defining his niche, Novoa describes himself as “between a surreal painter and a primitive painter. I’m a combination of the two. But always in jungle fields. It’s where I feel comfortable.”
Gustavo Novoa’s information is available at www.gustavonovoa.com. The Wally Findlay Galleries in New York and Palm Beach, where his work is often on display, can be found at www.wallyfindlay.com
For more information about Gustavo Novoa, go to www.gustavonovoa.com