Thomas Anthony Gallery and Children’s Hospital will welcome Sottil | ParkRecord.com

Thomas Anthony Gallery and Children’s Hospital will welcome Sottil

Visual artist Luis Sottil has followed his heart throughout his 30-year career.
His family wanted him to take over the family's shrimping business and even sent him to business school.

However, Sottil loved to paint, and though he had no formal training, he continued his love of creating art of animals and nature.

"The struggle was that they realized I loved to paint, but you can't run a fleet of 70 shrimp boats from a painting studio," Sottil said with a laugh during an interview with The Park Record. "During my last year of school, I told my dad that I needed to explore the possibility of a painting career.

"I asked him for one year to see if I could develop my process and sell my paintings for something other than Christmas gifts," Sottil said. "A year later, I had my first show at the Thomas Anthony Gallery in Dallas. I had a full gallery and every painting sold."

That changed everything.

"I never went back to Mexico, which was fortunate, because the government nationalized my fathers business and took it away from the family," Sottil said.

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This Friday and Saturday, Park City's Thomas Anthony Gallery will welcome Sottil and nearly 22 of his new animal and nature paintings. Friday's reception, which will be held during the Park City Gallery Stroll, will run from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. and Saturday's event will run from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.

"We love going to Park City. It's such a great escape from the heat here in South Texas," Sottil said. "We are really looking forward to it."

The works for the exhibit were created through a process Sottil created called Naturalismo.

"It came from trial and error," he said, laughing. "I would go to the art supply store and buy everything on the shelves to try out different mediums. But since my paintings come from animals that I had found in natural environments, I found when you try to capture the voice of their souls that comes through their eyes, you cannot capture that with acrylic, oils or pastels."

Sottil remembered going on exhibitions and meeting people from remote communities who used natural colors to create art.

"These colors were all extracted from their environments — inks from insects, vegetable and fruit dyes," he said. "I started experimenting and that was the solution of my opportunity to evoke the emotions through my art."

Naturalismo not only requires natural colors, it also requires the artist to paint in different stages.

"You have to paint in layers," Sottil said. "I paint on gold leaf, mother of pearl, titanium white and the pigments act as a second layer and then I wrinkle the colors with heat and the effect is pretty emotional."

The artist learned over the years why he wanted to paint animals.

"Back then, the only thing I knew was that animals moved me," he said. "I fell madly in love with every animal that I adopted and brought into my home.

"I didn't know why until many years later that lessons of the heart should be followed and felt, but never explained," he said. "That's what I tell beginning artists. If you think with your heart, the results of their creations will never fail."

The paintings created for this weekend's opening are a series of geometric works for a series called "Act Like an Animal."

"Throughout the animal kingdom, one has the opportunity to find the virtues that humanity strives to pursue," Sottil said. "Animals don't step away from these virtues, because they are in their DNA. They are true to themselves and don't step away from their pattern of behavior. We can learn from the animal kingdom."

Although Sottil has enjoyed painting animals and nature for 30 years, he has found a new joy during the last 10.

That joy came when he formed the Luis Sottil Foundation.

"At the core of the foundation's purpose, it's my belief that we're here to leave this world better than we found it," Sottil said. "We are born with different talents, aptitudes and potentials. Regardless of what those are, we all have the same common purpose and can make a difference."

As an artist, Sottil realized that children are born with an amazing sensitivity to express emotions through color.

"You can sit a child in front of a blank piece of paper with crayons and you can witness how they explode with emotion and open up so sincerely," he said. "Looking at this, I had the idea of going to a hospital where there are children who don't have the opportunity to run, play and be free and be children because they have, unfortunately, confronted devastating and life-threatening situations.

"I wanted to go paint with them and see what would happen," he said. "I did not know the empowering consequence of going to paint with kids who are undergoing chemotherapy or who have had an organ transplant."

The first day, Sottil asked the children what they wanted to be when they grew up.

"I drew a heart on a white canvas in front of each child and told them to draw the eyes and smile of that person they wanted to be when they grew up," he said. "They drew the eyes and smiles of nurses, baseball players, princesses and a truly magical transformation took place right before my eyes."

There wasn't a dry eye in the room.

"The parents confessed to me and said their children had never spoken about what they wanted to be when they grow up," Sottil said. "The program was born that same morning and we baptized it as the Hearts of Hope project."

The project also raises money for these children.

"Afterwards, I take the art back to my studio and paint animals and plants around the hearts, and then we auction off the hearts during [fundraisers called] 'Evenings of Color and Hope,'" he said. "It creates such a high level of consciousness about their cause among the community. At the same time, we raise a lot of money through the auctions."

The paintings are usually auctioned off for $10,000 to $15,000 apiece and in the past 10 years, the program has raised more than $2.5 million.

"The money goes back to the hospitals where these kids are patients to make sure they don't miss any of their treatments," Sottil said.

On Thursday, July 28, Sottil will visit Primary Children's Hospital at the University of Utah at 10 a.m. to work with its patients.

"I consider myself so very blessed that something that is my passion and I enjoy so much can contribute to change the lives of children at such a level," he said. "This is my favorite part of my career."

The Thomas Anthony Gallery, 340 Main St., will welcome visual artist Luis Sottil on Friday, July 29, from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m., and on Saturday, July 30, from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.pc.gallery. For more information about Luis Sottil, visit http://www.luissottil.com.