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Orlando Sentinel

Self-Taught Artist Has Found Painting Comes Naturally

By Beth Browning

July 14, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved.




KISSIMMEE -- Pedro Nieves' dream is to paint full time. He loves all types of art and works in a variety of media, but until recently never had a lesson. He has learned by experimenting. His talent comes naturally.

Nieves, 38, was born in Puerto Rico. As a child, he loved to draw and started doing calligraphy. At 23, Nieves sold his work at shows. Six years ago, Nieves and his wife, Gladys Denise, moved to Kissimmee to be closer to his sister and to rear their children here. Their son, Pedro, known as Wacer, is now 7, and daughter, Okayra, is 4. Both love to draw.

"My mission is a need to create with my hands," Nieves said. "I want to be able to give pleasure to people through art."

For the past year and a half, Nieves has worked at night for an office-maintenance company and worked on his creations during the day.

"His primary job is working at home, creating and being with the children during the day," said his wife, who works at Wal-Mart.

Nieves uses acrylic paint for his canvas paintings, which include beaches, animals, birds and scenes reminiscent of Puerto Rico. He has also painted designs on ceramic plates.

Nieves expanded his painting surfaces when he bought a saw and started making his own patterns. Now his designs adorn napkin holders, maps of countries and states, and domino tables.

The maps are 6 to 12 inches wide, cut in the shape of Puerto Rico, the United States or individual states. Nieves paints them with scenes related to the country or state, flags, a family name or to a customer's request.

Nieves has created a recipe for a porcelainlike substance that he molds by hand into palm trees, historical items, flags and other subjects.

A friend makes the domino tables. They are about 3 feet high, with room around them for four chairs. Nieves paints designs on the tables, including an eagle requested by his pastor.

At a show about a year and a half ago, Nieves was offered an avenue to sell his creations. A man from Michigan buys his maps and other Puerto Rico-related works and sells them in that state.

At another show, Nieves met Judi Willetts, owner of Rain Forest Studio. He attended her class on pastels.

"He's a natural and can paint whatever he desires," Willetts said.

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Nieves felt a sadness that led him to do a canvas painting of the American flag shadowed behind the World Trade Center towers with an American eagle in the foreground, protecting the buildings.

Customers often give Nieves ideas for the designs he paints or the shapes he creates. In the future, he wants to set up a business and exhibit in shows.

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