When asked how long he’s been interested in art, Clayton Santiago had a simple answer.
“I don’t remember not doing it,” he said. “I guess it’s just one of those things that I’ve always done. I’ve always had some hand in art creation all my life.”
The lifelong artist continues to show that with his recent collection of work on display from Aug. 18 to Oct. 15 as part of the fall exhibitions at Quinlan Visual Arts Center in Gainesville.
Before attending the University of North Georgia and graduating with a degree in art marketing, Santiago was “a kid drawing comic books.” That developed into “painting and mixed media” through middle and high school.
After college, Santiago later returned to UNG as a graduate student and worked in the area before becoming an art teacher at Lakeview Academy. At the same time, he exhibited and sold his artwork through various galleries.
While in the medical industry now, Clayton said his “artwork is just something that runs in parallel with that.”
For the fall exhibition, his collection reflects the same inspiration most of his work always has.
“Everything really comes from the source of the natural world and kind of spirituality in the natural world,” he said. “A lot of it is derived from our Southern, kind of Appalachian mountainous region. The images, the symbolism, the landscape — a lot of it comes from that.”
Plus, he loves the outdoors and incorporates it into his artwork.
“I spend a lot of time, as much as I can, in the outdoors,” he said. “It’s a powerful piece of my work.”
Santiago said his collection is pulled from the region and collectively put together in one body of work. And while the “source” of those pieces makes his artwork his own, he said his style is one-of-a-kind. He deemed it “a refinement over time,” and it’s what continues to make his artwork unique.
“I’ve been working in this style for probably 20 years now, and it’s a mixed-media process of layering epoxies with various other types of paints and gold leaf and tar and objects and kind of building the composition with texture along with painting the composition,” he said. “The work is pretty identifiable. I would consider it unique. I like to work large as well.”