Artist Gabriel Portillo, also known as “Paste,” was born in Alpine, Texas, and now lives and works in Austin. While his work ranges from portraiture to landscapes and abstraction, in recent years his interest in public and street art has resulted in his transition to painting murals. Gabriel’s inspiration comes in many shapes and forms: music, people, and West Texas have all been big influences. Always evolving and constantly keeping an eye out for new ideas, Gabriel’s paintings range across many styles—yet they all encompass one unifying factor: the skillful, versatile techniques of the artist.
1. What gets your motor running, artistically?
Many things get me going: music, books, people, scenery . . . But I believe my artistic peers get my motor running the most. Austin is filled with so many talented artists that are so inspirational. They motivate me to create art.
2. Tell us about a work of art you feel is woefully misunderstood or underappreciated.
The fine arts world in public schools is underappreciated. People don’t understand what an important role [the arts] can play in enhancing overall learning. The fine arts have so much to offerm like encouraging creativity, self-expression and cultural appreciation. There are also artists who aren’t as well-known as they deserve to be. Charlie Bell is an artist out of Alpine, Texas; he was my first art teacher. His work is incredible and unique. Every time I’m out in West Texas, I love studio visits with him! No social media. Just a lifetime of skill, work and ideas.
3. When did you know you first wanted to be an artist?
I’ve always been intrigued by art. I started art lessons in the second grade, with a local artist in my hometown. I continued taking art classes through middle school and high school and college. Art has always been special to me.
4. You work in a lot of mediums, from oil painting to spray-paint murals to digital art. What’s your favorite?
I love oil paint. It’s become my go-to in the studio. Although, I will say painting murals in spray paint on a large scale is very satisfying. A large mural has more engagement with the community than, say, a work on canvas. It’s hard to choose one medium; it depends on what I’m going to paint, the size and color. I just love to create.
5. Austin’s art scene has come a long way in the last few years. What changes and trends are you seeing?
I’m seeing more opportunities for people of color, which is really beautiful and inspiring. More galleries are starting to emerge in the city. That’s a good thing for galleries, to continue to show support for the local artists. It’s important to show support to the people who make Austin Austin. The art scene here has grown so much in the time I’ve been here. All my peers have continued to work and be great, which in turn has elevated the art scene here in Austin. It’s truly beautiful to see friends succeed!
6. How do your Latin roots influence your art?
My Latin roots are starting to influence me more now that I’m getting older and wiser. Art can be such a powerful tool to show feelings, power, struggle and freedom. Art should be shared throughout cultures because it can carry a person to a deeper level. It should invite one to understand and feel the culture. I feel [like my heritage is] starting to show in the subjects I paint and in the colors I’m choosing.
7. How do you take your whiskey?
I take my whiskey neat or on the rocks, depending on the weather. Cheers!