I came across Carlos SanMillán's work late last year, and his "Interiors" especially drew me in. I really appreciate his use of light and colour! Carlos uses traditional subjects, such as figures or landscapes, to engage viewers through a more conceptual view of painting. He says that "there is a subtle narration into the paintings, a presence that overlays on the viewer's perception and loads images with tarnished evocation." Beautiful.
Carlos graduated from University of Baske Country School with degrees in painting and design in 1995, and has been featured in solo and group exhibitions in Spain and Latin America. I do hope you will take in with relish Carlos' interview and work!
What does Creativity mean to you?
In my opinion creativity has much to do with a children's playground; If
an artist, it would be about resolving eventual problems or questions by
using trial and error methods, trying to find the best solution possible to
that concrete moment.
How do you expand yourself creatively?
I think that continuous learning is really good to keep creative. This
learning doesn’t necessarily have to be related to painting, for example, I've
been learning to play guitar myself and I've found that my ability as
painter has grown simultaneously.
Were you creative as a child? If so, how have you evolved through the
When I was a child I liked comics and cartoons a lot, I can say that my
aptitude to drawing has evolved since then.
Did anyone encourage you, especially?
My parents thought that studying art was a waste of time and money, but
still they paid for my university studies and supported me. I'm really grateful to
them for it.
What inspires you most?
I'm really inspired lately by classic painters, including late XIX century
painters and XX century Vanguard figurative artists.
What turns you on creatively?
I'm amazed about that incredible capacity that some old masters had to
resolve their paintings in a way absolutely "economic". The "Less is
more" applied to the plastic and technical language of painting.
Do you daydream often? If so, does it inform your work?
I'm not a daydreamer, but when painting, I'm often thinking about new
ideas or solutions to old works or works in process.
How does a relationship and/or children affect your creativity?
I'm married and have two children. My wife is my best critic, and I
completely trust her: When I want to have an honest and objective
opinion about one of my paintings I consult her. And I learn every day
new things with my children - this is really beneficial as I said earlier.
Is there a Creative, past or present, that you would give just about
anything to work with? Who, and why?
I'd love to have been able to visit the ateliers of Velázquez, Turner,
Morandi, Auerbach, Freud, etc, and seen the creative and
technical process of any of them.
How do you care for yourself to ensure you’re available when ideas
I think that inspiration does not exist: Systematic work produces regular
results so the easiest way to ensure these results are working every day.
How do you balance life and art effectively? Or, do you?
Art and life are hardly interlaced to an artist. I rather try to reconcile my
professional life and my family time.
How do you deal with creative dry spells? Do you make space for them,
or push through?
Changing of activity moves away creative dry spells. Another way I do this is to draw
upon my archive: I usually write down some of my daily ideas and take
photographs when I have the chance.
How do you deal with change, especially when it comes to creative
mediums and passion?
I think that change is positive because adaptation requires new learning
and this is always beneficial.
How does criticism affect you?
Critics are necessary, and I'm aware about my limitations so I try to use
all of them to improve on my activity.
Has your work ever been copied? If so, how did you deal with it?
I have never seen a copy of any of my paintings, but I know painters that
imitate my techniques. I think it's not that bad; emulating new styles and procedures is
one of the best ways to learn (I've done it some times).
How important is self compassion to your creative process?
I believe self compassion is not beneficial but really harmful to artists.
Do you have any other mediums you use to express yourself creatively?
I play guitar, I love music.
Do you enjoy collaborating, or prefer to work alone?
I'm used to working alone and generally prefer it.
Do you work in a studio/space designed specifically for your creativity,
or on the spur of the moment/anywhere inspiration strikes?
I usually work at my studio but sometimes I can be painting outside, or
go to collective ateliers (to paint nude models, generally) I take notes or
make little sketches when ideas come out of my working space.
Is it important for you to have a creative, inspiring environment?
Being in touch with other artists is really important to me, talking to
them or seeing their work, and I usually do it by social media on the
Do you plan thoroughly for projects, or go with the flow?
I currently plan my work thinking of series of paintings, trying to get
Do you have a preferred way of cataloguing ideas?
I have not any method. I do it according to my current needs.
Do you utilize social media? If so, how?
Yes, I do. Most of the times to be in daily touch with other artists and
to promote my work.
What is your typical day like?
I work all the morning on my paintings, and then in the afternoon I
usually spend my time carrying out mechanical tasks, as priming canvas
or stretching new ones on their frames.
Do you have any rituals that help to set your creative time and/or space?
No, I don't have specific rituals - just be listening to music when working.
Do you believe art can change the world? If so, how?
Art changes the world, it is certain, but in a slow way. Art influences
culture directly, and culture modifies the education that every
Do you believe that connecting with your creativity, or helping others to
do so, can positively affect the world? If so, how?
I like to think I bring my bit, but no more than that.
Do you surround yourself on a daily basis with creative, inspiring
I like being in touch with my virtual community of artists on social
media, I can see new inspiring things every day.
What effect do you want your art to have on the world?
I like to think that people who contemplate my pictures can see a little
further through them and find something that gets them to identify or
reflect themselves in any moment of their own life or experience - and
ask themselves some questions about that.
What music, if any, plays while you work? What are you listening to at
this very moment?
Classic music most of the time. At this moment I was listening to
Mahler's 5th Symphony and remembering the film "Death in Venice"
directed by Visconti.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
"When you're comfortable on your techniques and procedure it's time to
change and experiment again."
Do you have any advice for aspiring creatives?
"It's absolutely necessary to keep fear away and leave space to
spontaneity and hazard when painting."
Do you have any favourite books?
Rayuela, by Julio Cortázar.
Do you have any upcoming projects/collections to share?
I'm starting the new year working on new subjects, I'll be posting new
paintings on my web in a short time.
Do you have a favourite quote?
"The pure and simple truth is that the truth is rarely pure and never
simple." ~Oscar Wilde
Where can we find your art?
On my web and blog, and for sale at Saatchi Art and New Blood Gallery