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Painting Miguel Salguero

Miguel Salguero is a well known author, TV and film producer, former member of Parliament and one-time candidate for the Presidency in Costa Rica. He also happens to be my Dad. ('Salguero' is a pen name; 'Zuniga' is his birth name.) To honor him, as he gets older, I decided to paint his portrait. This was difficult not only technically, but also personally. Despite all the good he was doing for the country, when I was growing up, he wasn't always present. Looking him in the eye for many days as I painted gave me time to see the good, and let go of any hurtful feelings. After all, to paint a genuine portrait, the artist has to genuinely empathize with the good in the person. You have to feel their character at an intuitive level.

The process started with a photo provided by a photographer during a family reunion. Based on that, I simplified the composition to focus on the elemental character of the man, namely, the story teller. Dad has traveled the entire country to bring back chronicles of the people of Costa Rica, and he's beloved by the people for it. Even today, everywhere we go together, he is recognized and warmly received.

He gets his knack for telling stories from his mother, who was a 'campesina' living on coffee plantations. My abuelito (grandfather) was a 'mandador', i.e. supervisor, at plantations. Being the influencer that he is, Dad persuaded a land owner to donate a parcel that had 'la Casa Grande' on it to a local municipality, so it could become a museum. Dad lived in the Casa Grande as a child, so we were lucky to be able to visit that child hood home. I could tell Dad was transported back in time as he described the houses and landscape that used to surround the lot.

Miguel Salguero at his child hood home (in the back). Now the property is El Museo de la Carreta in Desamparados, San Jose, Costa Rica.

I brought his portrait with me on a recent visit to Costa Rica, and we also brought it to the museum to give it some visibility.

The actual painting process took several weeks back in Washington State, where I live. Here's a shot of the work in progress in my studio.

I'm wearing a hat to keep the overhead lights out of my eyes while I paint!

In the end, it was great fun to both paint and deliver the portrait. The family was fascinated, especially with the hands. In the future, we'll look at having the painting installed in a local museum.

-- Roy

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