'Bullfight:' Colombian artist Fernando Botero reflects on his career of passion

“Many things happen when you paint for 65 years,” says Fernando Botero.

On the occasion of the launch of his new book, Bullfight: Paintings and Works on Paper, the 82-year-old legend from Medellín, Colombia sat down with Fox News Latino and reflected on his successful career, his deep passion for bullfighting and the art of painting in general.

The bulky and elegant edition features over 170 paintings and drawings inspired by bullfighting. This is his second book featuring thematic compilations of his work, after last year’s critically acclaimed Circus. Bullfight includes a foreword by the current President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, and an introduction by the late American journalist Curtis Bill Pepper.

You need to give yourself completely to the art.

— Fernando Botero

The subject matter of bullfights or corridas de toros has always been a special one for Botero. Before he became a painter, he says, he dreamed of being a matador.

“I had an uncle who took me to the ring in Medellín when I was 15 years old. In school we had someone who taught us how to bullfight,” he says.

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Actually, he says he developed an interest in painting because of his love of bullfighting. “Before anything else, I started painting bulls and matadors. That was my initiation to paint,” he says.

Botero believes that bullfighting is a great subject matter for a painter to grab on to because of all the great details that it features. “Bullfights have so much color. Not just the matador but also the bull, the arena and the public. It’s all very festive.”

Botero is also aware of the controversy that bullfighting attracts. The sport has been banned in many cities, including some in Colombia. But Botero believes that it’s a tradition, and it should remain so. “Bullfights are a very cultural thing,” he says. “I know many people think it’s cruel, but so many things are cruel. Hunting, the electric chair, wars. These are all cruel things as well.”

Botero’s work has always had a signature and distinctive style that instantly sets it apart from other painters. A “Botero” piece will usually feature a large and exaggerated figure.

Botero laments that most artists today lack a signature style and instead work with a variety of different ones. “I believe that it’s better to have a conviction, believe strongly in something and then these convictions create a style that reflects your mentality,” he says. “That is why I created that special thing that makes you able to recognize my work.”

He argues that most of the masters of the past, including Michaelangelo and Botticelli, stuck with one signature style from beginning to end. “It was always the same personality and the same concept. But that is not the way that they are now,” he says.

As for the future, Botero is looking forward to various exhibitions and retrospectives in the next year, including one in Singapore. He currently splits his time working from studio to studio in Italy, Colombia, Monaco, New York and Greece.

His advice to younger artists is to work without stopping and to always keep learning. “You need to give yourself completely to the art,” he says. “It’s a complex profession in which you can’t say that you know everything.”

From Bullfight: Paintings and Works on Paper by Fernando Botero copyright © 2014, published by Glitterati Incorporated.

Juan Ramirez is a College Associate for Fox News Latino.

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