The first time I met Carlos Salamanca, he was sitting in a coffee shop painting a yellow paper cup, set in front of him, with gouache paint. We chatted broadly about art, our experiences and our preferred methods of painting. Salamanca is evidently passionate about artistry; he loves to paint anything, anywhere. The second time I met him, I got to dive deep into the personal philosophy behind his work, which is the importance of having an artistic community. At the end of my conversation with the Lima-born contemporary artist, he shared this quote from another unnamed Peruvian artist:
“Creative people need creative people.”
Carlos Salamanca is a Montreal-based painter and digital artist, who specializes in landscape and still life art. When I asked Salamanca how he started painting, I was surprised to learn that he only seriously began practicing arts in university. Salamanca briefly studied law at The Universidad Catolica del Peru, but soon switched into the graphic design program after joining his university's improv club, which he explained to me, helped him realize that he was naturally drawn to a more creative field.
Post-grad, he began drawing on his iPad, remarking that “It was a journal, 2013 was a rough year so I drew and drew. It may sound cheesy but drawing saved my life.” During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Salamanca once again journaled his feelings of isolation through painting. These experiences are in large part the reason why building a community is so important to Salamanca -- he doesn’t want anybody to feel alone and sees artistry as an important tool of connection.
Building a community is the underlying philosophy behind Salamaca’s plein-air group, MTL Plein Air Painters, which he co-founded alongside Montreal-based artist Coline Cadilhac in April 2022. Plein air painting is the practice of freehanded outdoor landscape painting, which provides a rich study of light and is an immersive opportunity for local artists.
Once a week, he and other artists meet at an outdoor location and paint urban scenery together. While MTL Plein Air Painters seeks to establish community networks for Montreal artists, Salamanca also acknowledged how the fast-paced techniques of plein-air have helped him embrace less restricted rules of form, and encouraged him to have more fun with his creative process. Outdoor scenery changes quickly, and “more time is more attachment [to the work], which causes more pressure and more overthinking that blocks you.” Like “a sunset, for example, can change in five minutes,” Salamanca emphasizes that plein-air painting requires the ability to work quickly.
The informalities of plein-air sketches, Salamanca expresses, have been helpful skills as he develops a portfolio of concept art for animation. His goal over the next year is to be able to execute the imaginative ideas he has as realistically and convincingly as possible on digital mediums, which is why he spends so much time perfecting his style by painting from observation.
Salamanca is currently challenging himself to paint every single day for one year to develop his observational drawing skills. He constricts himself to a quick 45 minute sketch to prevent pressurizing his creative process. By doing so, he explains he is “trying to be more conscious of what [he’s] painting.” I enjoy following his journey, posted on his instagram (@salamanca.art) where he posts daily portraits, landscapes, and everyday objects. These pieces exhibit a blend of impressionism and realism through soft colors and broad shapes.
A major inspiration for Salamanca is the work of other artists. He supports and encourages collaboration with other artists as he works on his own projects, advising that “it’s better to focus on what you can learn from other people rather than whether you’re better or worse than them, I think that’s what’s so great about being in a community.” Salamanca insists, “the important thing about being in a group is just what you can learn.” He believes that the influence of other artists is a vital tool in developing one’s own style. Analyzing other artists' stylistic details such as line work, values, shapes, and colors is an important tool that helps curate an individual artistic language. He especially experiences this when he is painting the same subject along with other artists with different styles.
Salamanca’s upcoming projects seek to fuse his roots in digital design with fine arts techniques. He wants to “tell [his] stories using art and animation” in his future works. He continues to gain inspiration from his experiences as well as movies, family stories, and music, which he cites as major sources of artistic vision, as they connect to moments in his life and provoke imaginative daydreams. I am most excited and curious about Salamanca’s current animation project which he described to me as a “love letter to my city,” in which he plans to explore his Peruvian heritage through illustrations of Lima.
In the future, Salamanca hopes to grow MTL Plein Air Painters and is planning an upcoming exhibition for plein-air art at L’Orbit opening on January 26th, 2023. He wants to keep working on his portfolio as well as short animation projects, but above all, Salamanca wants to be able to give back to his community through the stories he tells with art.
Through our interview, it became apparent to me that Carlos Salamanca’s creativity is open and experimental; he is continuously perfecting his art and trying new things. He finds inspiration through the motivations of the people around him and sees growing a community of artists as part of his future in Montreal and in his hometown, Lima, Peru. He finds appreciation for the seemingly mundane: In closing, he told me, “living life is inspiring.”