Figurative Art Convention art scholarship
Miguel Espinosa, “Self-Portrait” (1-24-19), graphite on paper, 5 x 7 in.

When portrait painter Miguel Espinosa won a scholarship to the Figurative Art Convention & Expo (FACE), we invited him to join us in a Q&A about his art, his challenges, and his experience at FACE. Read more to be inspired.

Cherie Dawn Haas: How and why did you first begin your artistic path?
Miguel Espinosa: When I was little, I was super into Hot Wheels and would draw dozens of my own cars and tell my mom that I wanted to be a car designer when I grew up. In middle school I wanted to design my own shoes and made an imaginary skateboard company and designed all the dorky products myself. My mom always encouraged my art making from a kid to now, so my transition from drawing Hot Wheels to portraits felt seamless. So thanks, Mom, for always making me feel like an artist!

Oil portrait painting
Miguel Espinosa, “I’ll Take You There (Eruption),” oil on canvas, 18 x 24 in.

Was there a specific media or subject matter that drew you in?
In high school I had not studied art history yet, but I remember knowing that I wanted to paint people and I especially loved faces. I didn’t know the terms yet, but I basically wanted to do representational art and found a gallery/school, The Modbo in Colorado Springs, that taught me about life drawing and art history.

Related Article > Masters of Figurative Art Gather to Teach

How has your art changed over time?
For the longest time I was really only concerned with realistic drawing and painting. Now I have great appreciation for design and try to appreciate all types of styles. You are what you look at.

Acrylic portrait painting
Miguel Espinosa, “She’s Only a Baby Herself (W. Robinson),” acrylic on paper, 15 x 15 in.

What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way? And how have you overcome it?
Getting over myself was a pretty big challenge. I was still pretty angsty and naive going into college and thought I was Mr. Big Stuff. My teachers and peers at LCAD humbled me, and I realized my ego was holding me back. Once I dropped this know-it-all attitude, I started to learn much faster, saw improvement in my work, and took on the mindset to never settle and always strive to improve.

What advice do you have for someone with less experience than you?
Draw in your sketchbook every day! Dare yourself to draw figures from memory, and try to keep anatomy in mind. It is probably going to suck at first but if you do it every day, here and there it’ll pay off. Use these daily sketches as opportunities to quickly practice design and make finished-looking statements.

Graphite portrait drawing
Miguel Espinosa, “Grandma Lupe,” graphite on paper, 12 x 12 in.

How did you originally hear about the Figurative Art Convention?
I was already following a bunch of artists on Instagram who were going to be faculty at FACE, then I saw that there were going to be scholarships awarded and I applied to attend.

What surprised you at the event? What was different from what you expected?
It was amazing to be surrounded by my peers at the Figurative Art Convention! I loved it because everyone was a complete stranger to me, but I could start a conversation with someone about Anders Zorn and they would already know who he is. You could just skip the small talk and jump straight to the juicy talk about art history and painting! For real this was my favorite part of the conference, just getting to meet strangers and feel like you should already know each other.

Figurative art - Oil portrait painting
Miguel Espinosa, “The Hump (B. Williams),” oil on panel, 12 x 12 in.

What’s the most important thing you learned or experienced at the Figurative Art Convention?
Jove Wang explained his method for mark making that was extremely poignant. He said that there are two ways to make a straight line. One way is to slowly and carefully make a mark so it is even and looks the same from beginning to end. The second way to make a straight line is to approach the canvas with energy and drag your brush with gestural energy then lift it off the canvas quickly. The second mark accomplishes what the first did by simply connecting point a to point b. The second mark tells a much more meaningful and interesting story with its inconsistent and varied shape, giving it a visible beginning, middle, and end.

Contemporary realism Still life
Miguel Espinosa, “Still Life in Studio” (1-12-19), charcoal, ink, and acrylic on paper, 8.5 x 11 in.
Contemporary realism Still life
Miguel Espinosa, “Still Life with Jobim and Sostenuto,” acrylic on paper, 10 x 14 in.

Anything else you’d like to add, about the event, your art, etc.?
Thank you, Streamline Publishing, for my scholarship to attend! I made great friends and learned new wisdoms that have already benefited and informed my art. My website is and that includes recent paintings from my senior thesis, past assignments, photography, and a few illustration examples.

Join us for the next Figurative Art Convention & Expo, to be held October 29–November 1, 2020, in Baltimore, Maryland! Stay tuned — the 2020 art scholarship program will be announced soon.

In the meantime, enjoy a preview of “Painting Expressive Portraits & Essential Drawing Skills,” a video workshop by Jove Wang:

Learn about the Figurative Art Convention and Expo