Paintings & Drawings

I paint in oil and watercolor. My paintings range along a continuum: mathematical/abstract, visionary, illustrational. I’m influenced by Paul Klee, Georgia O’Keeffe, Henri Rousseau, Samuel Palmer, William Blake, and Edmund Dulac. Some of my pieces are inspired by folk art and others by the cover art of vintage paperbacks. My work has been displayed at galleries in Uvalde, Del Rio, and Alpine.

In his "Ode on a Grecian Urn," Keats famously wrote, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty." For me, mathematics concerns the beauty of truth, whereas art concerns the truth of beauty. I do produce mathematical art from time to time, but it seems more appropriate somehow to make it digitally and algorithmically; the pleasure I obtain from creating such pieces is distinct from my enjoyment of painting.

Fractal Art

If interested in how I distinguish between the two kinds of abstraction (mathematical and artistic), please take a look at my artist's statement:

Artist's Statement

 


El Santuario de Chimayó
watercolor on hot-pressed paper
4" x 5"

A chapel in the hills north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, an area to which I frequently travel.

 


Santa Maria sopra Minerva
watercolor on hot-pressed paper
8" x 12"

A piazza in Rome. The elephant statue, carved by Bernini, upholds an Egyptian obelisk brought to the city in ancient times. The church behind it is named after the old temple it's built on top of (a temple of Isis, incidentally, not Minerva). St. Catherine of Siena and the artist Fra Angelico are buried inside.

What most impressed me about Rome when I visited it was how deeply layered it was, with strata going back thousands of years to a time when history merged with legend. For me this picture evokes that accretion of times and cultures.

I completed most of the painting when my son was a baby. I rocked him with one foot while I painted late at night. Then I got bored of it and set it aside, but returned to finish it six years later.

 


Green June Beetle
oil on clay ground
3.5" x 5"

When I was a kid I wanted to be an entomologist. I still like to study insects and I often depict them in my art. The green june beetle is one of my favorites. It's like a living jewel.

I used to have a colony of giant hissing cockroaches from Madagascar. Very interesting to watch, but not so interesting to paint.

 


The King of Nightspore's Crown
watercolor on hot-pressed paper
13" x 9"

Inspired by awesome wrap-around mass market paperback cover images from the sixties and seventies. Can you spot the pseudosphere?

 


Taos Pueblo
oil on clay ground
6" x 6"

 


Chicken Man
watercolor on hot-pressed paper
5" x 7"

Inspired by a video about doodling suggested to me by a student, born from a drawing completed on my mother-in-law's kitchen table. Is he a chicken? A man? An indeterminate embryo trapped on a microscope slide? A once-punctured non-orientable surface of genus 10?

 


Ant on Rose Petal
oil on clay ground
5" x 3.5"

Social insects are the best.

 


Dragonfly
watercolor on hot-pressed paper
13" x 9"

Another piece inspired by wrap-around book cover images. I like to work images from Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur into my paintings. The one-winged hero is a reference to Paul Klee's The Hero with the Wing. I don't paint much like Klee but he is my favorite modern artist. His Pedagogical Sketchbook draws numerous abstract metaphors from math and physics.

 


Saguaro Bud
oil on clay ground
5" x 5"

 


San Francisco de Asís, Los Ranchos de Taos
oil on clay ground
7" x 5"

The back of the church made famous for having been painted many times by Georgia O'Keeffe.

 


Bosque-Larios I
watercolor on hot-pressed paper
5" x 7"

Based on a legend related to the first Spanish explorers in the Uvalde area; you can read about their expedition on the historical marker just north of the Nueces River between Uvalde and La Pryor on U.S. Highway 83. (Just don't be late to class.) The image is inspired by the tombs of St. Cecilia and St. Sebastian in Rome.

The story tells of a Spanish girl who was martyred by a local tribe; when her body was found incorrupt in the brush two years later, they placed it in a secret cave and held in reverence. There are sealed-off caverns below Uvalde, and I like to imagine the miraculously incorrupt body of the girl slain with arrows resting somewhere down below our city streets.

 


Saguaro Bloom
oil on clay ground
5" x 5"

 


Crucifixion (after Velazquez)
scratch drawing in india ink
3.5" x 5"

 


Saint Michael the Archangel
oil on clay ground
3.5" x 5"

 


Bernini's Elephant
gouache on clay ground
3.5" x 5"

A study for my Santa Maria sopra Minerva which turned into a little work in its own right. Completed in one sitting, which is pretty unusual for me.

 

Third Day of Creation
watercolor on clay ground
3.5" x 5"

 


St. Catherine of Siena
watercolor on clay ground
2.5" x 3.5"

 


Capybara
watercolor on clay ground
4" x 4"

 


Jacob's Dream
watercolor on clay ground
5" x 7"

 


Badlands
oil on gesso
7" x 5"

 


Entombment
w
atercolor on clay ground
5" x 7"

I'm someone who has trouble seeing the forest for the trees, and that's reflected in my painting. I use small brushes (size 000 or 0000) and paint every blade of grass, tree leaf, and strand of hair. I've noticed that I have this in common one of my favorite artists, Henri Rousseau, who, I've always suspected, shared my disorder. His paintings usually consist of areas of meticulously repetitive detail relieved by broad regions of solid color.

One consequence of my style is that I paint very slowly. There doesn't seem to be much I can do about it, however, so I try to turn it into a strength instead.

 


Green June Beetle
watercolor on hot-pressed paper
7" x 5"

 


Mescal Bean
oil on clay ground
3.5" x 2.5"

One day the electric company wanted to cut down the mountain laurel tree on the corner of our lot. We complained, and they ended up leaving it alone. So I painted a bean from the tree to celebrate.

 


Honeybee
watercolor on hot-pressed paper
5" x 7"

When I was a boy my favorite book was No Holidays for Honeybees. It told the life cycle of the bee and the hive. As an adult I've enjoyed Maurice Maeterlinck's Life of the Bee. I've always enjoyed watching bees more than any other insect, and I hope to have an indoor hive one day.

 


Triacontahedron
watercolor on hot-pressed paper
5" x 7"

Painted while I prepared for a graduate course on regular polytopes, using the description of the triacontahedron given by Coxeter, in a format more or less copied from Leonardo da Vinci's illustration's to Luca Pacioli's Da Divina Proportione (see title image). The colors reflect the symmetry of the compound of five tetrahedra inscribed in the dodecahedron.

Michael Ortiz, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Mathematics
Department of Natural and Behavioral Sciences

Sul Ross State University Rio Grande College

About | Courses | Resources | Philosophy | Art

Mathematical Miscellany

Copyright © 2017 Michael Luis Ortiz. All rights reserved.