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Clayton Santiago creates 3-D image using a mix of media
Dawsonville man to be featured at Quinlan Visual Arts Center Fine Art Auction and Gala
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Clayton Santiago, right, created a 20-by-30-foot wooden plank piece at North Point Community Church’s new campus Gwinnett Church in Sugar Hill. Artist Aaron Harris commissioned Santiago for the artwork.

Quinlan Visual Arts Center Fine Art Auction and Gala preview night

When: 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday, March 5

Where: 514 Green St. NE, Gainesville

Cost: Free

More info: www.quinlanartscenter.org

Using taupes and neutral colors, Clayton Santiago can bring to life a landscape full of imagery on a wooden plank.

“A flat two-dimensional photograph cannot capture the depth of his work,” art admirer Ann Nixon said. “He creates a visual depth through the materials and the processes he uses, and it is unlike artwork I’ve seen elsewhere. It is really compelling.”

North Georgia residents can view Santiago’s artwork during the preview night of the Quinlan Visual Arts Center Fine Art Auction and Gala in Gainesville. The preview night is from 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday, March 5, at 514 Green St. NE in Gainesville. The gala is March 7, but is sold out.

Pulling his inspiration from the Southern landscape and North Georgia mountains, Santiago uses mixed media and layers of epoxy to create his pieces of treasure.

“I always knew I would paint and I knew I would be successful at it in some form or fashion,” Santiago said.

Painting and drawing since he can remember, the North Georgia College & State University graduate taught art at Lakeview Academy for five years.

Knowing him as an artist and art teacher, Nixon attempted to buy her favorite piece of work during an auction at the academy but was unable to obtain the painting.

“It was a landscape with a tree line, a lake view and it was, to me, sort of a misty morning,” Nixon said.

Before Santiago found his own groove, his paintings were more of a realism style and gradually matured to a stylized version of realism.

“Over time (my style) developed and changed,” Santiago said. “I was settling in with what was comfortable and what aligned with my perspective and the way I see the natural world.”

Santiago’s favorite piece is his latest project at Gwinnett Church in Sugar Hill, the most recent satellite location for North Point Community Church. 

“You rarely have the opportunity to do something on a scale 30 feet wide by 20 feet tall,” Santiago said. “It was really fun to tackle.”

The work is made of several wooden planks and shows a tree surrounded by a field with words of encouragement and faith that correlate to the message that Gwinnett Church tries to teach, “Am I growing?”

Over the years, Santiago’s work has constantly gotten larger and larger. Most of his pieces are 3 feet to 4 feet tall, but recently he has become comfortable with working on slabs 6 to 8 feet tall.

Santiago prefers to work at his studio instead of his Dawsonville home.

“I can go and close everything out,” Santiago said. “I try not to paint at home, if possible.”

When the father of two daughters is not painting, he sells poster printers and wide-format printers to schools.

“Setting up print shops gives students another life skill to learn,” Santiago said. “They learn advertising and promotion skills along with how to run a printing press.”

Recently featured in area magazines such as Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles, Santiago’s work is better in person than as a picture.

“You can take a photograph of a Norman Rockwell piece and you’re going to get a very similar feel as you would looking at the original, but (Santiago’s) work, the experience is being in front of it and the light that is put on it,” Nixon said.