Internationally-acclaimed artist Cristobal Sanchez-Lopez got an early start, painting the white walls of his parent’s house in his native Spain as a youngster. Nearly four decades later, the Fort Lauderdale resident is going to nurture the talents of students as part of the faculty of the Boca Raton Museum – The Art School.
“My parents decided to send me to children’s art school at age eight. There, I started to do my first oils on canvas and learned different techniques, making my first art sales to neighbors and relatives,” recalled Chris, who said they were really weary of seeing his artwork all over the house.
Lopez continued to develop his skills in classical painting and drawing techniques, as well as photography and set design, before earning two bachelors degrees in graphic design and illustration at Pau Gargallo University in Barcelona. His work earned him a place on the team that designed graphics for the opening ceremonies of the 1992 Summer Olympics.
Lopez first became aware of his sexuality at an early age, visiting his first gay bar at 15. He built a network of friends and finally coming out to his family three years later.
“It was not an easy decision, but I was prepared. My parents saw that I was very confident about being gay, and I helped them to accept the situation. I was aware it was my role to teach them about being gay,” he said.
Lopez spent the next decade working in the family business and designing t-shirts. Like the snowbirds who gravitate to South Florida, he yearned to escape European winters and ended up spending several years in Puerto Rico before eventually settling in Fort Lauderdale in 2001. In his first weekend, he met his partner, Oscar, who has been an advocate of his career every step of the way.
Lopez quickly developed a following, recognized for his paintings of striking, masculine male figures, “muscle bears.” His traditional and graphic design-infused works have been featured in galleries in Wilton Manors and his own studio on Federal Highway.
“I like to paint mostly the type of men that I like—a stronger type. They are not fat guys or skinny guys, bodies that have nice definition,” he explained. “My artwork is not sexual, rather intimate and comforting. It conveys the pleasure of being alone naked by ourselves. Nudity for me is that intimate moment where there is nothing to hide when we are alone with our own vulnerability.”
He has published three books of his work, and his images have also appeared in international magazines and art anthologies.
This fall, he will again coach aspiring young artists like himself, some who may have drawn and colored on the walls of their homes, too.
Lopez, who has been on the staff at several youth arts camps and teaches several private students in his studio, looks forward to working with students of all ages again.
“I’m very excited; it is something I always wanted to do again. I’m almost 50 and have been working in art since the age of eight. I want to share everything I learned from my teachers and the things I’ve learned by myself,” he said. “I’m very proud that I’m going to be at the school.”
And the Boca Raton school is looking forward to Lopez’s contributions:
“Chris will bring his strong background in classical drawing and contemporary design to the drawing classes he will be teaching,” said Walter O’Neill, director, who noted Lopez joins a faculty of 40 master artists/teachers in disciplines from drawing and painting to sculpture and jewelry making. “We’re very excited and fortunate to have him.”
The Boca Raton Museum of Art – The Art School, 801 W. Palmetto Rd. in Boca Raton, will hold an open house on Saturday, Aug. 23 from 1 – 4 p.m. For more information, go to BocaMuseum.org/TheArtSchool. Chris Lopez Studio, 831 N. Federal Hwy. Suite F in Fort Lauderdale, is open daily and by appointment. For more information, go to LopezGallery.com.