Inspired by van Gogh and Rembrandt, Diego Sánchez puts his impressions of Cuenca on canvas

Feb 28, 2024 | 0 comments

Diego Sánchez’s painting of “Broken Bridge” is reminiscent of Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”

By Stephen Vargha

Saint-Remy-de-Provence, France had the famous Dutch painter. Cuenca has Diego Sánchez.

“I love van Gogh and Rembrandt,” said Sánchez. “I love to show the spirit if the people of Cuenca.”

Diego Sánchez presents some of his artwork in his gallery on Galo Plaza. It is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Sánchez, 47, is a self-taught impressionist artist. The Cuencano loves the artform, which was developed in France in the nineteenth century. The style is based on the practice of painting outdoors and on the spot.

With impressionism, landscapes and everyday activities and objects were highlighted. Ordinary life and outdoor scenes became the prime subjects of painters in this colorful period.

The French, including Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir were leaders of impressionism. Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh moved to Paris at the age of 33.

Various hummingbird mugs are on display and for sale at the front of Diego Sánchez’s studio.

Impressionism is one of the most widely known and celebrated art genres today. That includes Sánchez.

“I love impressionism. My intention is not to print exactly what I see,” said Sánchez. “It is my impression. I want to paint my own vision.”

Like van Gogh, Sánchez is largely self-taught. He got a degree in architecture in 2014 from Catholic University of Cuenca.

“I designed and built houses after I graduated for 10 years,” said Sánchez.

Closeup of Diego Sánchez’s painting of an Ecuadorian town done in the impressionism style of art.

During that time, painting crept into Sánchez’s life. It started out in his free time. Sánchez described it as a hobby, not a profession.

“My first painting was when I was 25 years old,” said Sánchez. “It was a portrait of an indigenous woman. After that I loved painting indigenous costumes, festivals, and their lives.”

That is just like van Gogh, who said, “There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.”

van Gogh started his career copying prints and reading nineteenth-century drawing manuals. Sánchez was able to go beyond that and consult Ecuadorian portraitists, illustrators, and muralists.

The first painting Diego Sánchez did was of an indigenous woman. To this day, he still paints life of the indigenous.

“I learned from other artists in Cuenca and Quito to do acrylic painting,” said Sánchez. “It was a great opportunity to learn more and more every year.”

Sánchez’s background in architecture was perfect for his journey of painting scenes, especially in Cuenca.

“I like to design houses, but I can combine my paintings with it,” said Sánchez. “What I like to paint keeps changing. Now, I paint cityscapes.”

With a plethora of historic buildings, stunning houses of worship, cobblestone streets, stone bridges, and with Cuenca’s El Centro UNESCO World Heritage Site, the subject matters for Sánchez are most welcomed.

There are 30 different paintings on Diego Sánchez’s very popular mugs.

“I love my city,” said Sánchez. “Cuenca has lots of landscapes to paint. That includes its churches and people.”

No doubt van Gogh would agree with Sánchez. The Dutch impressionist said, “It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”

Most of Sánchez’s gorgeous paintings are created at his gallery just northwest of El Centro, near Super AKÍ Arízaga and Hogar Cristo Rey. There, he applies an extensive palette of high-quality paints to his canvases with a palette knife.

Many customers love the cityscapes that Diego Sánchez paints, especially of the New Cathedral.

“Oil paintings are more expressive,” said Sánchez. “It has more vivid colors. Oil paints are the best for impressionism.”

van Gogh and Sánchez have similar idiosyncratic styles. One of Sánchez’s paintings is of Puente Roto (Broken Bridge).

The sky in Sánchez’s painting is very much like “Starry Night” by van Gogh, which was painted in June 1889, from the window of his asylum room at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Van Gogh used blues for the sky while Sánchez uses shades of green.

Fourteen months ago, Sánchez started putting his best work on coffee mugs.

Diego Sánchez published a small book of postcards of his creations.

“It was my daughter’s idea,” said Sánchez. “She thought it would be good to do it because its affordable and easy for people to take back to their countries.”

That is definitely the philosophy of Van Gogh. “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together,” said van Gogh.

During November and December, a lot of Sánchez’s mugs that are five dollars each, end up going to Germany and the United States.

“They love mugs as a souvenir,” said Sánchez.

There are 30 different paintings on Sánchez’s mugs.

Using a palette knife, Diego Sánchez applies paint to his latest creation.

“My favorite is the Flower Market,” said Sánchez. “Many people love the blue domes of the New Cathedral.”

The majority of his paintings are 30cm x 30cm (12 inches x 12 inches).

“Tourists are my biggest customers. The biggest reason is people can pack them and take the paintings back home,” said Sánchez. “People in Cuenca love my paintings as they love seeing their hometown.”

Van Gogh said, “I want to touch people with my art. I want them to say, ‘he feels deeply, he feels tenderly’.”

Diego Sánchez is happy to be painting. He loves painting in the style of Vincent van Gogh.

Sánchez feels a great way for people to be touched by his art is his booth with his works across the streets from the Flowers Market and next to the New Cathedral.

“The Municipality of Cuenca invited me to do that,” said Sánchez.

To further reach out to people, Sánchez has exhibited at Casa de la Cultura Núcleo del Azuay and Galería de la Alcaldía de Cuenca.

The Cuencano painter is working on an upcoming art exhibit. He hopes to have it this year.

The most popular size of Diego Sánchez’s paintings is 30cm x 30cm (12 inches x 12 inches)

Sánchez is looking at a new medium for his works for lovers of the arts to enjoy. He published a small book of postcards of his creations.

“I am currently working on a book of my paintings to show Cuenca as a heritage city,” said Sánchez. It is my hope to have it finished by the end of this year as I want my art to reach the greatest number of arts-loving people.”

That would have put a smile on van Gogh’s face. “So often, a visit to a bookshop has cheered me, and reminded me that there are good things in the world,” van Gogh said.
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Diego Sánchez Arte, Galo Plaza 1-42 y Pío Bravo, Cuenca, 098-599-0991 (WhatsApp), https://www.facebook.com/dissanchezart, https://www.instagram.com/diegosanchezarte/, Hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.   

Photos by Stephen Vargha

Stephen Vargha’s book about Cuenca, “Una Nueva Vida – A New Life” is available at Amazon in digital and paperback formats. His award-winning blog, “Becoming Cuenca,” supplements his book with the latest information and hundreds of professional photos by him.

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