Blog | Robert Allen
Peter Valcarcel shares his thoughts behind his paintings and his views on life, art, and following your dreams.
“When things don’t work, I don’t see it as a failure. I see it as a test. And I’ll do the next thing.”
By Shelly Stone
We're thrilled to count Peter as one of our artists in the FOUND by Robert Allen Collection. His geometric paintings are playful and add joy to every room. His art and the stories behind it will inspire you to follow your dreams at any age and find inspiration in your life through your everyday experiences.
Since immigrating from Peru at 17, Peter Valcarcel has persevered over hardships and proven to naysayers that he is an artist and his time is now. Following political unrest in Peru, he was fortunate to move in with his mother in NYC. He describes the move as a blessing in disguise.
"There's some satisfaction about being with people that appreciate art. If I had stayed in Peru, it would have been a lot more difficult to be creative."
Who are your biggest influences?
When I think of inspiration, I would definitely have to say that Matisse is the biggest one. Matisse has always been an inspiration since I was very young. He worked on paper, which is something I do. Carmen Herrera - she is a Cuban American painter who has the most beautiful geometric shapes. I also love Picasso, Frida Kahlo, and Van Gogh.
What does your work aim to say?
My art teachers would tell me that you have to have something to say to be a good artist. And for the longest time, I thought I didn't have that much to say. Even though I follow politics as a citizen, I don't always want to say things aloud.
As I got older, I decided that for me, that's not what my art is. It's something that you look at. Sometimes my art says something, but at times it just awakens a feeling. Suppose I make art or create things that make people smile. That would be good enough.
It doesn't have to have a message, but it has to have a purpose. At the end of the day, the way that you or anybody sees my art is up to you, and it is up to your interpretation. It has nothing to do with me. For me, my message is, I hope you enjoy it.
Do you have a network of other artists you rely on - and what do you do to support each other?
I have creative people that I run things by. My friend Gary Brown is one of those people, and he has excellent taste. And I have a couple of other friends, but I try not to show too much stuff to too many people because, in my crazy head, I lose a little bit of what that thing is. There are just three people that I run things by. They are all creatives, but they are very different.
How would you describe your brand?
My brand is very organic. I know that people use that word a lot, but mine is organic in shapes and styles. Even though there is color in the artwork, there's not a tremendous amount of color in the objects. And I think there is a sort of artisanal look and feel to my work that has been elevated by my experiences in New York, Europe, and travels around Peru.
Is there something you know today that you wished you had learned to do years ago?
YEP! It's basically just do it. Don't be afraid! And just do it.
That has come, unfortunately, a little late for me. But I am on a quest to do as much work as I can now. Just do it! Whatever it is that you want to do. Because by doing it you will find out who you really are. Having thoughts of being creative in your head is fantastic and very helpful, but doing the actual craft is what's going to get you where you want in your head.
What is your dream project?
I would love to do furniture. I would feel very accomplished if I had a furniture line.
Speaking of dream projects and current projects. Can you tell me about your inspiration and your thought process behind a few of your pieces that we have in the FOUND by Robert Allen Collection?
(Top to Bottom: Peter Vacarcel. Girl. 2020.Acrylic on canvas. 36 in. x 36 in Peter Vacarcel. Boy. 2020. Acrylic on canvas. 36 in. x 36 in)
Paintings Girl and Boy
When I was little before my brother was born, my mom said we should paint my room blue and my sister's room pink. And I hate blue rooms - especially baby blue. There are some blue rooms that I like, but for the most part, not my favorite. I remember fighting with my mother, saying, "No, just paint it white." And like all mothers in the 70's she said, "boys take blue and girls take pink."
So I want to reverse that, and I want anyone to pick any color that they want. Not what society tells you that you should take. In a way, I wanted to liberate us from these rules about what boys and girls do. I'm not the first person to do that. But this was my way.
(From left to right Peter Vacarcel. Stroke #03. 2021. Acrylic on paper. 24 in. x 18 in. Peter Vacarcel. Stroke #05. 2021. Acrylic on paper. 24 in. x 18 in. Peter Vacarcel. Stroke #02. 2021. Acrylic on paper. 24 in. x 18 in.)
That came because it reminded me of a 70's print but in a very organic way. I didn't use a brush; it's done with a spatula. I dragged it. And you know there's something playful about doing that.
Phone Call Series
(Peter Vacarcel. Phone Call. 2021. Acrylic on paper. 30 in. x 23 in. Set of four)
When I was very little, my father worked for a phone company in Peru, and he was the supervisor. There were some weekends where he had to go in between shifts, and he would bring me with him. While he worked, he entertained me by sitting me at the switchboard. He taught me to put on the headpiece and just plug into people's conversations. So those waves are the sounds when I would hear people talking. So I used to listen to all kinds of crazy conversations as a child. I would be there for maybe an hour or hour and a half, and my dad would say, "ok, let's go home."
What is your favorite piece of all time?
With artwork, it's always what you're doing now that is your favorite thing. But I did a pottery collection a couple of years ago - all black. I know what it took to get them done. There's something about working with your hands. When you're painting, there's a brush in between, but pottery is super intimate.
Do you have a piece that you regret selling?
No, I firmly believe that you have to let go. That's part of the deal. I love seeing the joy and reaction it gets when hung.
Have you ever said 'no' to an opportunity? How did you decide to say no?
Yes, I had an offer to do a rug collection in Peru. I did it for a couple of years, and I used all my time and resources to push it. And it wasn't going anywhere because they didn't have the capabilities to export. I had an opportunity to do a third collection with them, and I had to tell them that I don't want to do that anymore.
I found somebody here in NY that does have access to distribution. Obviously, I would have loved to continue producing in the country that I was born in. But sometimes, you have to think of the future and the bigger picture.
I know that you also work as an interior designer. What room in any house is your favorite to design?
Living rooms because I love that a living room is not always what it seems to be. You can be manipulative. There's a psychology to a living room. A living room tells you where to sit, how to sit, and how long to sit. And that depends primarily on how you arrange the furniture. And what kind of furniture you put into the living room.
There are living rooms for visits and living rooms for lounging. Anything that doesn't have an arm, no matter how plush, is uncomfortable sitting for a long time because you don't have any place to rest your elbows. You have to know the purpose of the room.
How do you make sure you have time to create? Do you have a set time or build it into your calendar?
I'm one of those people that has a pad. If I have an idea, I write it down or draw, or else it goes away. I also take 50 million different pictures with my iPhone. And on Sundays, I go back and look at them. I do have a schedule in terms of juggling my projects.
If you could only choose one talent to pursue for the rest of your life, including paint, textile design, or interior design, which one would you choose?
Painting! That will always come first.
We wrapped our interview with Peter with this one last thought.
I would like for people who read this to feel joyful. In spite of it all, there is a moment of joy. What gets me going is creating, and I hope other people can find their joy, whether it be creating, painting, writing, cooking, or tending to their garden.