From Canvas to Runway
Angel Blanco might be the hardest working artist in Knoxville. He’s been at it since he was a little kid. Now at age thirty-three his art is taking him in may different directions.
Angel grew up poor in a small town in Venezuela. That is when he sold his first works of art. He glued sea shells to scraps of wood and sold them to tourists on the local beach.
He got out of that difficult life when he got a contract as a fashion model and moved to Hong Kong. There he discovered he had a talent for painting when a friend talked him into giving it a try. “I fell in love with painting there” he said. Without any lessons he continued to paint and also became interested in fashion design.
Photos above taken by Jim Martin
His contract in Hong Kong ended so he moved to New York to try modeling there. “It was tough, difficult and I said well I know how to paint so I sold paintings.”
In 2013 he was struggled to make a living in New York so sight unseen, he hopped on a bus and moved to Knoxville to start a new life. Friends gave him a place to stay and a job in a restaurant bussing tables.
He continued to paint and over the past few years his work has been featured in local galleries including the Knoxville Museum of Art and in an International Exhibition in Mexico.
Then he had an idea to paint on a dress for an art exhibition and brought in a model to wear it. He says, “People loved it”. That re-sparked his interest in fashion design. He bought a sewing machine and taught himself to sew by watching Youtube videos. In 2014 he created his first dress collection. He continued to design clothing and was featured in the 2017 Knoxville Fashion Week.
Photos above taken by Jasmine Newton of Javon Renee Photography
Now he is more focused on his abstract contemporary paintings. Angel says the images are his memories and emotions, “When I use many colors I want to transfer how happy you can be in life. Even if you have a lot or you don’t have anything. I will try to paint you a happy feeling.”
“I have a lot going on”, he says. While holding down a full time job in manufacturing he comes home to his apartment to paint at night. “When I come home from work I spend as much time as I can creating art. My artistic world is a relaxing escape for me so it doesn’t stress me out to create these pieces after work”. That doesn’t mean he’s giving up fashion design. He plans to release one collection per year. “I feel like can’t live without one of them.” He is also setting up a T-shirt design and printing company that he hopes will become profitable.
All of his hard work and success is not for himself. He sends money and packages to support his family in Venezuela.
He recently became an American citizen. Because of that he can’t get a visa to return because of the political situation at home. Despite that he says he wants to be an inspiration to kids where he grew up. “I came from a small town where sometimes people told me I would not make it, so I feel that I have the heavy but honored responsibility to guide others, to encourage people, to set an example of strength and persistence, showing we should never give up. Even if it feels like the world is falling apart, keep going and create a new world because we can all succeed.”
In his thirty-three years of life he’s accomplished a lot and traveled around the world. He will always consider Venezuela his home but Knoxville is his second home. “I feel so blessed to be in Knoxville” He says the city has the nicest people. He says his English is not good and he’s from another country but that has never been a problem. “Knoxvillians have shown me true love.”
His long term dream is to be a full time artist that will include painting, fashion design and creating costumes for Hollywood movies. He is also a writer working on publishing a book. It doesn’t end there, he wants to try his artistic hand at sculpture. “As for why I do so many different things, I feel it is a waste of talent and passion to choose only one approach to life and expression.”
You can find Angel Blanco on social media at: Instagram@angleblancoartist and Facebook Angel Blanco. To see his artwork go to his website: www.angleblancoartwork.com