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Faces Emblazoned in Works of Art

Painter Juan del C. Maldonado Rodríguez also loves painting marine life, classic vehicles, and typical scenes of the streets of Quebradillas

April 19, 2024 - 11:00 PM

Juan Maldonado next to one of his paintings of the late basketball player Kobe Bryant. (XAVIER GARCIA)

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Quebradillas.- The walls of Juan del C. Maldonado Rodríguez’s home resemble a museum. They are full of his artistic creations, signed ‘Melo,’ which is a shortened version of his middle name, Carmelo.

Specializing in portraits (paintings of people and faces), this 56-year-old artist’s work have achieved a certain degree of fame among the people of his town, who seek him out to paint their image or that of a loved one. Some of his works have gone on to sell for more than $5,000, as happened recently with two pieces that were requested by a prominent businessperson in town. “But that doesn’t happen all the time,” said Melo, who, in addition to faces, loves to recreate marine life and classic vehicles, as evidenced by the paintings hanging on the walls of his home.

Paintings of politicians, sportsmen, scenes of the streets of Quebradillas, places of interest such as the old railroad tracks and religious imagery also decorate his walls, full of vivid colors that contrast with his use of light and shadows to highlight the subjects of his paintings.

he artist Juan Maldonado enjoys painting marine life the most.
he artist Juan Maldonado enjoys painting marine life the most. (XAVIER GARCIA)

Melo has been interested in art since early on in his life. “We lived in a wooden house, and I would stand and see my brother and paint his shadow on the walls,” he recalled.

However, it was not until he was 16 that he began to become aware of his talent. “When I was a kid, I realized that whenever I was asked to do something at school, it came easy for me. That’s when I realized I had this talent. For example, if I was asked to paint a landscape or a beach, it was very easy for me,” he said.

Later on, Melo took painting lessons with Rubén Rodríguez, an artist from the neighboring town of Isabela, and he hasn’t stopped painting for the past 26 years. However, it was economic hardship that motivated him to immerse himself fully into painting. “One day I got my paycheck and I said, ‘Hold on, I have nothing left for myself.’ So I started painting. I would go to art fairs, and the least I could make was $600 on a weekend, but I’m not doing fairs anymore. Now I work by request,” he said.

Painting cars is another of his great passions. 
Painting cars is another of his great passions.  (XAVIER GARCIA)

Having retired two years ago, the artist aspired to live off his paintings. However, he is aware that not everybody has the means to afford one of his paintings, so he has resorted to ‘giclée’ to make his art more accessible to people. ‘Giclée’ is a digital reproduction of his work that is printed in different formats and sizes, so that people can acquire them at a more comfortable price.

Although he did not go into detail, Melo revealed that he is in negotiations with a well-known figure in the art scene to finalize the sale of one of his paintings, which features an important Puerto Rican sports figure.

His works stand out for their excellent color handling.
His works stand out for their excellent color handling. (XAVIER GARCIA)

Melo confessed that, at some point, he stopped painting because he lacked a muse. “You need to have a muse. It’s not just about painting for the sake of painting.” But he was able to rediscover his inspiration in the sea. “If I could choose, what I like the most is marine life. I love fish. I used to have a fish tank in my living room, and it was the reason why my house burned down. The tank short circuited. I lost a lot of paintings in that fire,” he said.

Melo also practices pyro engraving, which is the creation of images and drawings on wood using fire. In addition, in his search for new canvases to capture his art, the painter also started taking tattoo classes.

For additional information, call 787-597-4696.

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