Artist Snapshot: Amaya Gurpide

Exploring the mind and habits of artists in twenty-five questions

Amaya Gurpide interview
Amaya Gurpide in her studio, 2022

At what age did you decide to become an artist?

I recall my earliest memory when I was four, perhaps the first memory I remember, watching my father doing a portrait of my brother. He was sitting down quietly in a chair and my father was capturing his likeness through a simple line, accurately describing his profile. I remember being completely captivated by the idea of bringing the presence of life onto a simple piece of paper.

How did your parents react when you told them you wanted to be an artist?

My father said he would sell his shoes if it was necessary, so I could pursue my artistic career. Both of my parents were extremely supportive and bought some of my best work as a student, so I could continue funding my studies in New York.

Who are your favorite artists?

I gravitate towards baroque art and music. At the Prado Museum in Madrid, it’s quite fascinating to analyze two of the most relevant artists of the seventeenth century, Velázquez and Ribera, the intellectual and the visceral. Both artists had an incredible ability to infuse their work with life and humanity. The Flemish primitives are also a great source of inspiration in the way they consecrate nature and connect with something otherworldly and evocative. I see parallels between their work and that of modern artists like Käthe Kollwitz, whose work I really admire, as she’s able to extract the unnecessary, and imbue her work with an emotional and intimate narrative.

Who is your favorite artist whose work is unlike your own?

Over the last several years I’ve found great inspiration in cinema and photography, and the way these visual worlds incorporate art into their creative and aesthetic decisions. I’ve been obsessively devouring the book Sculpting in Time by Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. It gives such magnificent insight into his creative process. He is able to capture life in an incredibly imaginative and poetic way, transforming scenes through unpredictable compositions and dreamy light effects. His films are an endless source of inspiration.

Art book you cannot live without?

Two Worlds of Andrew Wyeth: A Conversation with Andrew Wyeth. Anytime I’m in need of nurturing an internal dialogue with my work, I read excerpts from this insightful conversation between former Metropolitan Museum director Thomas Hoving and Andrew Wyeth. Wyeth communicates his world in such a truthful and poetic way, he’s able to see the beauty in the ordinary. Reading it always opens a channel of conversation in my head.

What is the quality you most admire in an artist?

Integrity, and the capacity to delve deeply into their own personal view and experience, and reflect that in their work.

Do you keep a sketchbook? Amaya Gurpide interview

I do. I always have a pocket-size book I keep with me on every trip, along with a pocket-size bag of watercolors and pencils.

What’s your favorite museum in all the world?

That’s a tough one, I’ve been in many museums but certainly not enough, and I absolutely love traveling and observing how culture is reflected in the artwork. I particularly enjoy the Prado Museum, I’m always impressed with how much thought and effort are placed in the curation of their exhibitions, themes, space, and the historical background they present with every exhibition. They really transform their temporary exhibition space, immersing the viewer in different worlds.

What’s the best exhibition you have ever attended?

One of the best exhibitions I’ve seen was at the Prado Museum, and was called La belleza encerrada. De Fra Angelico a Fortuny (Captive Beauty. Fra Angelico to Fortuny). It was an exquisite selection of around 300 pieces, most of them studies and small format paintings, sculptures and reliefs that were rarely seen before. I particularly enjoyed the way the space was designed architecturally, it was like a maze that connected the entire exhibition allowing the pieces to converse with one another through the different time periods. The museum cleverly removed the labels of the pieces and offered a free pocket catalogue which you were encouraged to flip through in order to learn more information about each artwork. I loved how it pleased all the senses on so many levels.

If you were not an artist, what would you be? Amaya Gurpide interview

Cinematographer, inventor, medical researcher, designer, journalist, explorer.

Did you have an artistic cohort that influenced your early creative development?

I was lucky enough to have met incredibly talented artists throughout my education that inspired me with their work ethic, earnestness, and discipline. I feel like a huge percentage of one’s education comes from community and being humbled by the talent of other artists.

What is one thing you didn’t learn in art school that you wish you had?

Focusing more on critical and conceptual discourse, which is something I’ve been trying to engage in on my own through research and reading. I studied art history in school but I would have enjoyed digging deeper into the content and meaning of the works I was learning about.

What work of art have you looked at most and why?

Rogier Van der Weyden’s Descent of the Cross, a well kept jewel at the Prado Museum. The mystery, execution, richness in palette and textures, composition, and emotional impact of this piece are otherworldly. It leaves me speechless. It has a visual narrative that draws one around in such a cinematic way. It’s incredible this piece was created in 1435. It’s sublime.

What is your secret visual pleasure outside of art?

Photography. I enjoy analog and alternative photographic processes, and own a few antique cameras. Photography has become a new medium I use to depict more immediate scenes and subjects that I couldn’t otherwise, with the lengthy process of my studio work. I enjoy the process of post-editing and spend long periods of time processing an image, much in the same way I would with a drawing or painting.

Do you listen to music in your studio? Amaya Gurpide interview

I work extremely well in silence as I need to be able to dialogue with myself, but I go through periods of listening to various podcasts to tap into the way other creative minds thinks and communicate visually. It really feeds my mental process and helps with my internal dialogue while I’m working. Team Deakins podcast has been one of my favorites during the lockdown.

What is the last gallery you visited?


Who is an underrated artist people should be looking at?

Over the last few years I’ve been following the work of British artist Joanna Allen, whose sculptures have a monumental quality fusing figuration and abstraction with a very strong emphasis on design. I love the way the work speaks in such a unique way about humankind.

What art materials can you not live without?

My drawing arsenal.

Do you paint/sculpt/create art every day?

Yes, absolutely, but never as much as I would love to.

What is the longest time you went without creating art?

During the first three months of motherhood, but I felt I was creating my biggest masterpiece.

What do you do when you are feeling uninspired?

I read, I leave the studio and enjoy life, usually in the boiling energy of the city. Having people around, seeing the world, and traveling is also an incredible source of inspiration. It opens up a conversation bigger than you.

What are the questions that drive your work?

My attempts to explain my experiences in this world.

What is the most important quality in an artist?


What is something you haven’t yet achieved in art?

Recently, while I was analyzing Death, Woman and Child by Käthe Kollwitz, I was completely
taken by her ability to deeply connect to her work on such a truthful and emotional level, using
her personal experiences to build a larger overarching theme that in return connects us all. I’m
striving to bring my work to that level.

What is the best thing about art in the era of social media?

The artist’s independence from the gallery as the main conduit to the public, and the ability to
reach directly to a greater international audience. As well as to be exposed to and inspired by the work of a worldwide community of artists.

AMAYA GURPIDE (@amayagurpide) is the co-Artistic Director and Director of Drawing at the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts.

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