John Rivera-Resto is a self-taught artist. That is, he learned how to paint on his own. This does not mean that he is an uneducated artist. Nothing could be farther from the truth. He has attended five colleges and universities, had two years of theological seminary, and has completed several workshops and internship programs in business, education, communication, theater, creative writing, film making, architectural drawing and, of course, art. He is well-traveled and reads everything and anything in several languages (assisted by his always-nearby dictionary); before the world-wide-web, the libraries were his home away from home. Today, John is considered a master painter and one of the best mural artists in the United States. In between commissions, he teaches and lectures about art. After gaining international exposure with the establishment this educational website,
Before doing his first painting commission at age sixteen (go to the mural page for details), which he did in order to win a bet from his father (see
After completing his first mural painting in one of the largest temples in the island of Puerto Rico, he became an overnight sensation. There was no shortage of commissions and he also became the lead artist in the Las Piedras schools beautification program (1974-1976). Painting was a great 'part-time' source of income while he attended school. But the theater was still his main focus. So while completing high school, painting for the schools during the afternoons, studying evenings in a religious seminary, and doing private commissions during weekends, he also prepared for a theater competition sponsored by the Ministry of Education. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity; the winner had a shot at Julliard school in New York. And so, encourage by Mr. Encarnación, his theater teacher in high school, John wrote a one-act, cast his friends in it, played the lead, directed the piece, choreographed a sword-fighting sequence, and won. But he had three things going against him. First, he couldn't speak English; second, he was only sixteen (a minor); third, his church did not permit "godless" theater. Not knowing where to turn (the noble profession of accounting was hinted at him more than once), John decide to take an easy way out and in the summer of 1977 he moved to Cleveland, Ohio (his birthplace), to study art... at least until something better came along.
He attended Cooper School of Art for a year (Cooper was one of the top-ten commercial art school in the United States). His first assignment was 'to draw a headache'. This was a bad sign (to read more about this episode, go to the
Things turned for the worst. At the Institute, to his great disappointment, he had to repeat many of the same classes he had taken at Cooper (the same ones he had also taken at the University of Puerto Rico!). Again, he was taught more aesthetics -but not much painting, and he starved to pay for tuition and books while working nights as a welder. Then, at the end of the year when it was time to declare a choice of study, he applied for the painting program (studio arts), and out of all the applicants, he was the only one rejected (he was also the only one that did not submit abstract art). All his friends were shocked; he was devastated -for a day or two. Rather than try again to enter the painting program during the following term, he decided to quit art school. The high fees and the Institute's weak concentration on painting made it easier. And besides, he had other interests in mind, places to go, and paintings to do to pay for it. The next week, he got an offer to paint murals in a villa south of the border. Adventure called! This opened the world to a completely new phase in his life and his ever-growing skills and bold moves opened new doors of opportunities.
In retrospect, being left to his own brand of eclectic education turned out for the best. The results can be seen by clicking on the thumbnails (which include commentary on the paintings). Furthermore, John's bad experiences with formal art education has lead him to continue on to an Master of Fine Art in Studio Arts at Vermont College of Norwich University, 2001, (-"...so that my mother would stop nagging me"). Now he could teach at a college. His goal: not to bore students to death in the classroom by teaching the art of painting from his point of view. After all, John has experience on something that art schools completely neglect to teach its students: how to make a living as an artist in the real world. This a subject that invariably comes up in presentations, or in private conversations with students, other artists, and art lovers as well. So one of John's main objectives in writing content for Muralmaster, from the very beginning, was to tell the "raw story" of his experiences without glossing over on the glamor and false illusions and perceptions that many people have about the artistic life.
John warns many young students entering the field that a day in the limelight comes after many years of reading, learning, practicing, perfecting ones skills, and painful self-critism to be ready for the spotlight. That there is a price to pay, time and sacrifice invested so that you can "act the artist" that matches public expectation. To learn about John's painting methods and habits, go to the
In this long overdue 2019 revision of Muralmaster, we have tried to adjust colors to match the colors in the original paintings, but take into account that each browser handle color in different way, so there are variations. Also, details are lost in many of the low-resolution images available to us. Nonetheless, you will still be able to discover and enjoy many of the features that make John's images and compositions so interesting. Perhaps the one predictable thing about John's painting habits is that he does not like to waste time on a painting. So he works fast with an economy of both paint and time to achieve only what he intended to do in the first place -tell a story, create a mood, or simply capture your attention on a subject. He is not interested in dazzling you with technical details or painterly flourishes. What he wants is to take you into the world of the subject and make you forget about the painting -just like in a stage play or a movie. This is one of the open secrets that have always made John an interesting painter.
In addition to being an excellent traditional painter, John is also an accomplished photographer. Not many people know about his work as a guest lecturer and a competition judge and critic at the Cleveland Photographic Society (CPS), founded in 1887. This is because he usually combines his skills in photography and traditional painting to produce digital paintings and photo-realistic design renderings. This method allows John to produce finished artworks at a faster rate, which are then printed for application at a lower cost than traditional painting. He has also applied this same method of production to several of his latest large scale murals when budgets are restrictive (see the Murals page). Examples of his digital paintings are provided below for your viewing pleasure. If one were hard pressed to point out one of the main reasons John has managed to stay above others in his long career, then it as to be his versatility and ability to adapt and embrace new mediums and technologies as a painter and an artist. It goes well with his philosophy that the final rendering and its intention is what matters, not how it was produced. Enjoy.