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It’s no secret that I like texture in a painting. There’s something incredibly appealing (and satisfying) about being able to see something that you know can be touched.

That’s why I absolutely love today’s portraits by Paul Ruiz.

Each one of Paul’s paintings contains amazingly textured, nearly sculptural, elements. They’re full of ridges and lines, canvas texture and piles of paint. . . all of which are working to either conceal or reveal the physical and emotional state of the subject.

Saltimbanque by Paul Ruiz

Saltimbanque, above, offers a careworn visage with shadowed, tired eyes. . . that much is clear just by looking at the lower 2/3rds of the painting.

But notice the thick, opaque knife-strokes of paint that Paul has added to the top of the painting for even more visual weight. This action further emphasizes the clouded, shadowed emotions of the piece.

Paul also plays with colors and lighting rarely used in figurative or portrait work—check out this painting, Ausencia xxi.

Ausencia xxi by Paul Riz

While his colors may look chaotic or random, they’re actually not. Paul chose cooler colors to allow parts of the face to recede (and contrast with the background) while using slightly warmer colors bring other areas of the face forward towards the viewer.

And of course, no matter what colors you use, it’s value that really ties a painting together. Those very dark darks give the face a recognizable human structure, drawing us into the emotion that we feel is hidden just behind those shadowed eyes.

SEE MORE: Unique portrait and figure paintings at NUMA Gallery

Finally, with this third painting I just have to mention again the extraordinary way that Paul’s subjects seem to be enveloped, concealed, or surrounded by the very medium which he uses to depict them.

Untitled Man by Paul Ruiz

In Untitled Man, it’s not clear whether the partially visible figure is breaking free of his surroundings or being engulfed by them. . . and that’s probably as intended.

Either way the imagery is powerfully tragic: the figure’s face is bathed in golden light, but he appears unable to see it.

For more of Paul Ruiz’s paintings, please visit his website and take a look around. (I’d highly recommend it.) He also has a blog, artcatalyst.wordpress.com where you can go to learn more about the ideas behind his work.

*Note: this post may contain affiliate links*

This week's featured artist is Sally Tharp, a self-taught painter from Ohio.

If you visit her blog (which I hope you will) one of the first things you'll notice is that although many of her older paintings conform to the traditional size for daily paintings, lately she's taken a turn towards much larger works.

That fact, more than. . . read more

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