CUBAN ARTIST, Jake Fernandez
By Kay Harwell Fernandez
Some people work to live; others live to work, as is the case with Cuban artist Jake Fernandez.
Unfailingly, he works seven days a week. Whenever he does take a day off, more often than not, it is an
art-related trip, he says.
Based in Southwest Florida, Fernandez says he is better known for his landscapes. “But I like to think I
am a representational artist.”
Fernandez’s work has followed a natural progression over the course of 30 years as an artist. After he
received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Florida, he went on to graduate school in
art at the University of South Florida—thus beginning a stellar career.
However, long before his college days, Fernandez gravitated toward art as a youngster. Born in Havana,
Cuba, he settled with his family in Consolacion del Sur. He happened to live a few houses away from
famed salsa musician Willy Chirino. “I had a love for the music, but not the talent,” explains Fernandez.
“So I put my guitar away,” he laughs.
“One day Willy showed up with charcoal drawings that he had sketched. Fascinated, I thought maybe I could do this. I picked up my first paintbrush when I was about nine years After the family moved to Miami in 1960, his parents encouraged his artistic talents. They arranged for him to study under Felix Ramos, son of Cuban landscape painter Domingo Ramos, an important influence on Fernandez. As a young adult armed with his master’s degree, Fernandez made the move to New York where he remained for 12 years (before returning to Florida). “By the time I left college, I had a lot of technical experience, a solid base and a classical education. I had to concentrate on any way to make a contribution. I entered a more conceptual phase and tested ideas. “When I went to New York, I decided to strip everything down and rebuild an aesthetic
Fernandez recounts. “I worked with plaster on paper with some dimension where the light shines
through. Then for about 10 years, I drew almost exclusively in black and white until I was confident to
His art evolved into using other media, but he says he has no favorite medium. “I love pastels because of
the diversity of colors. I have thousands of pastels in diverse colors. I love oil because it is so versatile. I
like graphite since the drawings are very small. I can pack detail into 6x6 inches.”
Nowadays, the artist often takes a tiny brush to dozens of panels (wood or canvas) to collectively
produce one large art form. “I work one section at a time, generally from the center out. I start almost like
a mosaic with each panel being a different painting.”
For inspiration, Fernandez ventures outside his studio to natural environments. He takes his camera, not
his paintbrush. “I take random photos,” says Fernandez. “I snap, snap, snap; I don’t look at the view
finder. I shoot from various angles, up and down. Sometimes I return to the site and re-photograph
different times of day and weather conditions. Then, I bring the pile of photos to my studio and make
mental notes of the color palette.”
The end result may be paintings that are 7x7 feet or 8x12 feet such as Myakka Fork, which is comprised
of 24 oil panels on wood. Rhea Chiles purchased Myakka Fork for the Lawton Chiles Foundation (late
governor of Florida). The painting is on permanent exhibit at The Studio in Anna Maria Island, FL.
Fernandez’s work has exhibited in dozens of galleries such as ACA Galleries in New York; Southeastern
Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, NC; Frances Wolfson Art Center, Miami; Gallery Gemini,
Palm Beach; and Florida State University Museum, Tallahassee. Selected collections have shown in the
Florida State Capitol, American Express Corporation and IBM Corporation, among others.
Fernandez is married to classical realist artist Linda Chapman. Although they have separate studios,
they do share a deep passion for art.
“I like the idea of a work of art that’s completely handmade from one’s imagination rather than a
juxtaposition. I like the idea of a plain white canvas and having a vision to put across,” says Fernandez.
Judging from the artist’s stunning paintings, he does, indeed, put his vision across.
Writer’s Note: Jake Fernandez and Kay Harwell Fernandez are not related.