Born in Guatemala, Jose Ramirez came to the United States in 2012 hoping for a better life and hoping to make that life through making his art. He had studied art in Guatemala between 2007 and 2009, beginning his career as a professional artist in 2009 after attending the Manuel Herrarte Lemuz art school in Chiquimula, Guatemala. He says that he was from a small town in the country, about the size of Cambridge, that had no galleries . “Galleries were for the big cities, and even then there were not many opportunities to sell.”
Ramirez defines his art as “more traditional,” and he prefers to draw from life, not memory. He aspires “not to a photo realistic painting but rather to capture the feeling evoked” in him by his subject. He counts Monet as one of the painters he finds inspiring, because Monet painted outdoors, which he prefers to do himself. He also uses a lot of color in his paintings, and credits Renoir for his love of color. While his art does not support him here (yet), he says that living here has given him the opportunity to keep getting better at his art by providing lots of opportunities to paint outdoors with plein air folks. He is a member of the Plein Air Painters of the Chesapeake Bay based in Easton. On his website, photos of his work are accompanied by ribboned awards in various shows, attesting to his accomplishments.
“Plein Air” simply means painting outdoors with the artist’s subject in full view. Plein Air Easton is the largest and most prestigious juried plein air painting competition in the United States, and Ramirez has also participated with The Working Artists Forum shows held at the same time as the Plein Air festival there.
Ramirez says he was surprised to find that The Working Artist Forum was composed mostly of women. He notes that in Guatemala, professional painting is done mostly by men.
In October and November of 2023, the Dorchester Center for the Arts invited Ramirez to participate in a solo show. As part of the show, he held a well-attended demonstration of how he paints larger paintings using a watercolor sketch. I attended that demonstration and was taken with how comfortable he was at the easel, sketching in the painting first and then speaking to the use of color and light in that painting.
Ramirez notes that he always carries a sketchbook, brushes and a small watercolor pallet with him everywhere he goes since he never knows when he will be taken with a scene or have time to sit and sketch something that will later find it’s way to a larger, framed painting. He works on these larger paintings indoors in inclement weather, which allows him to work at his art all year round.
His watercolor sketchbook is impressive all by itself, and while the paintings are small, they are complete in themselves, perfectly capable of being framed as works of art on their own. Ramirez says he has been known to sell the sketches, which take as little as 20 minutes and up to an hour to complete, unframed if they catch someone’s eye.
“A lot of people think I am a watercolor artist,” says Ramirez. “But my larger paintings are done in oil. I like the process, the ability to do many layers in oil which you cannot do in watercolor. You can also take a rag and wipe away something you don’t like, which you can’t do with watercolors. Switching from watercolor to oil is also a good practice in being present with what I am creating because with watercolor, I work from light colors to dark colors, while with oils I work dark colors to light colors. I have to pay attention to what and how I am creating.” He says that painting soothes him and helps him to remain calm.
Ramirez has been juried into shows in Annapolis and Columbia, MD, in addition to multiple shows around the Eastern Shore. He notes that he has applied to several shows already for this year and is waiting to hear back. He expects to be showing in Oxford at the Fine Arts Show, May 17 – 19 this year, as he was accepted in 2022 and 2023 and did very well there, selling eight of his paintings in 2023. His traditional land- and waterscapes find an appreciative audience of art lovers there. This show, held at the Oxford Community Center, attracts clients from “Baltimore-Washington, Philadelphia, Virginia and New York” according to its website.
In addition to his landscapes, Ramirez accepts commissions for portraits of people and of favorite pets clients want to remember.
Expecting his first child any day now, Ramirez says that may slow him down a little as he works into the new routine a baby brings to the house.
You can reach Ramirez by email: [email protected], find him on FaceBook under his name , Jose Ramirez (and keep up with his prolific sketches and paintings), and on Instagram at joserami9779. You will find more of his work and information on shows in which he has participated on his website: https://joserami439.faso.com/about
Tammy Vitale. an artist herself, has fallen in love with all the facets of art available in Cambridge/Dorchester County, and wants the rest of the world to get to know and love the arts and artists of this area as much as she does. Cambridge artists (broadly defined) are invited to contact her [email protected], subject line “Arts.”