Painter Miguel Torres painted a portrait of Ambassador Manuel Torres ahead of the 2021 AL DÍA Archetype Hispanic Heritage Gala & Awards Ceremony.
Painter Miguel Torres painted a portrait of Ambassador Manuel Torres ahead of the 2021 AL DÍA Archetype Hispanic Heritage Gala & Awards Ceremony.

Miguel Torres, the painter who created the masterpiece of Ambassador Manuel Torres

During a Q&A with AL DÍA, painter Miguel Torres spoke about his artistic background, journey, inspirations, and gave advice for the new generation of artists.


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With this year’s sixth annual AL DÍA Archetype Hispanic Heritage Gala & Awards Ceremony event coming up, AL DIA wanted to do something special. 

To that end, this year’s event was rebranded as the AL DÍA Archetypes: Ambassador Manuel Torres Awards Gala.

The 10 archetypes at this year’s event will become the inaugural recipients of the Manuel Torres Award, named after the first ambassador of modern-day Colombia in 1821.

To add another layer of celebration for the trailblazer, AL DÍA found a painter who was tasked with creating a portrait of the historic ambassador — a challenging task due to the lack of photography at the time.

Nonetheless, AL DIA contacted Miguel Torres, a veteran painter who created the masterpiece, which will be on display at the upcoming event.

On the eve of the 2021 AL DIA Archetypes, Torres agreed to participate in a Q&A. 

This interview has been condensed for length and clarity.

1. Can you tell us a little about your background?

Since I was in elementary school, I spent much of my time drawing and painting with all kinds of material at hand. Being very young, I entered the School of Fine Arts in Bucaramanga. On the first day of classes I was promoted to the second semester and the totality of the four semesters that I had to study, I did it in record time.

As a teenager I participated in the first exhibition of painting at the level of the department of Santander, and was awarded first place. This encouraged me to work harder and more tenaciously. 

I participated in several group exhibitions, and organized some individual exhibitions in the main halls of the city, starting with the largest hall there was, the Bank of the Republic, then continued by the Casa Custodio Garcia Rovira, Louis Peru de la Croix, the Chamber of Commerce and so on.

At that time, the Consul of Venezuela in Bucaramanga invited me to exhibit in Caracas and she herself got me a photo of the President of that nation, (Carlos Andres Perez). and he received me in the Miraflores Palace for the delivery of the same. I remained there for a year, living and painting.

2. How did you start as a painter? When did your interest in art begin?

The above is a part of my trajectory, because later I returned to Bucaramanga and continued with other samples of my work.

In 1990, I decided to set aside one day a week to give workshops (painting classes) and I continued to do so. From this have come out artists who are already recognized, some at the national level and others at the international level.

In 1995, I traveled with my wife to Europe, Asia and Africa, and was able to enrich my artistic work by visiting important museums.

Upon my return, I made other important exhibitions, including the new building of the Senate of the Republic of Bogota, in the hall Signs and Laws by the year 1998. Then in the Comfamiliar Building in Barranquilla, in the New Acropolis in Bogota, International Exhibition at the Unicentro Shopping Center in Medellin, Casa del Libro Total in Bucaramanga, Urban Madrid Gallery, .... among several more.

In 2018, I was based all year with my wife in Spain, painting a series of commissioned portraits there, and made an exhibition at the town hall of Fuerteventura, Gran Canary Islands.

My work has been published in several national art books, and I am currently organizing material for a book to be made in Spain.

I have obtained several mentions in different national and international exhibitions.

3. How would you describe your artistic style? Were there other artists or painters who inspired or influenced you?

Since my beginnings as a painter, I have not changed the style, (Figurative realism) although on occasion for some commission, I have painted something with a modern trend, but carrying a good message.

I determined that everyone understands realism more when it carries a good message. 

In addition, we must contribute in these changing times to stabilize what is already quite destabilized, as is already happening with the environment and climate change.

The most recent invitations that I have been invited to exhibit, in most of the countries of five continents,...suggest to the participating artists to work on the theme related to the environment, as something exclusive.

My first inspiration, or influence, has been the GOD and Father of my Lord JESUS CHRIST, creator of the universe.

Painters as such that I have admired, there are several. Nationally: Ricardo Acevedo Bernal, Epifanio Garay. Foreigners, the Rembrandt, great master of color, Diego de Silva y Velázquez, among others.

4. What is the process you follow when carrying out a project?

There is no specific rule to start a painting; if it is a commission, first talk to the client about how he wants it, if he wants it with thick color impasto, and alla prima (work that begins to be painted is continued until it is finished, without retouching afterwards). Or if you want it worked with glazes, which must be left to dry, and then continue, and so on for several sections.

First a sketch is made, then the definitive sketch and it is continued until its completion; along the way the charges are fixed.

5. How were you able to create the painting of Ambassador Manuel Torres, considering that there are no photographs of him?

Some sketches are made to achieve an initial prototype, from which we start so that as we work, we can achieve the proposed objective.

In the case of the oil painting of Manuel Torres, I called my friend Paula from Spain, since he was born there, so she could help me to get a drawing or painting of him, because at that time there was no camera, and she was able to get a small sketch not very defined, which I took as a reference to support me and work from there defining features, expression, skin tone, hair etc.

6. What kind of message or feeling do you want, or expect, people to receive when they see your paintings?

Through my paintings, what I want is to carry a message, and that message always goes in a scenario and it is the landscape, whether it is a rocky landscape, a city landscape or an open field. The model or models to be painted are placed in it.

The spectator can see in the landscape according to the sunlight, what time it is and what climate it is according to the colors applied.

7. What advice would you give to the next generation of emerging artists and painters? 

To the generation of emerging artists I advise them not to let themselves be carried away by the easiness that today eats away at many people on the planet. The comfort of not working does not allow them to advance, and leads to failure. We see a lot of that... global art critics have realized that what many are looking for is something new, but they have already realized that there is a lot of canned art, without craft, without effort, without the tenacity of those great masters of the most important museums on the planet.

In today's art there is a lot of disrespect to the people, to those who take seriously to go to the galleries to see what is of value in today's art, and they get great surprises, which they dare to sell at high prices.

It is the decadence of the human being, wanting to sell what is discarded, and that only transmits disgust and lack of values.

This is just a small sample of so much junk that people buy to collect, which began to be sold back in the 60s.

Good work with a healthy and clear message transmits life to the good observer! 

The 2021 AL DÍA Archetypes Hispanic Heritage Gala & Awards Ceremony will take place on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021 at the Union League of Philadelphia. To reserve your seat at the premier celebration of America’s Hispanic Heritage, click here


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