Pencil Drawing, an Obsession with Detail

Alexis Velasco
Jun. 29, 2016

After giving up the art he was passionate about for 15 years, this 42-year old, Puerto Vallarta-based pencil drawer and oil painter found in this region the inspiration he needed to resume what he was born to do.

Meet Gabriel Serna, who left Mexico City six years ago and moved to Bucerías, in Riviera Nayarit, hoping to find new horizons and a peaceful place to live. Originally from San Luis Potosi, a state located in north-central Mexico, he spent much of his life in Mexico City, where he studied and grew up. In the city, he used to work full-time and independently as a web developer, but once he arrived in Banderas Bay, Gabriel found that he had more spare time in his new environs and decided to resume two activities he had put aside for 15 years and which had marked an important stage of his life: pencil drawing and oil painting.

During childhood and adolescence, Gabriel always had a deeply-rooted interest in visual arts, inspired by one of his brothers who also drew and painted from an early age. He believes that this environment encouraged him to start practicing this form of expression, but is also quick to acknowledge that it is a skill he was born with: “One doesn’t decide to specialize in a specific art medium: the art chooses you. It is something that attracts you naturally,” he comments. “That’s how I started, exploring an activity that I liked and wanted to develop.”

Gabriel began his artistic pursuits at a young age by drawing portraits in pencil. By the age of 12, he had already received many commissions for portraits by people impressed with his talent and the outstanding details in his works. He never took a single drawing class. He has been a self-taught artist, something he considers an advantage that allows him to explore art in a free way and developed his own technique. However, he confesses, it has been a challenging journey, as he’s had to resolve many crossroads and doubts related to his craft by himself .

Nevertheless, Gabriel has never easy challenges. Complexity is a word that may very well describe his work, artistic process and personality.

The difficulty in drawing a human face was what attracted me the most: being able to capture not only the facial similarity but also the expression and very specific traits of the person. I’m obsessed with details and techniques.

Oil painting came later, and Gabriel found in this technique an opportunity to showcase different subject matter in his works without compromising the long process invested in each piece and the precise work that has been his trademark. In his paintings, he visualizes his own landscapes by blending diverse elements and ideas. He feels free to let his creativity take the canvas and marvels at how sometimes the end result is very different to his initial idea, something that definitely not the case when drawing a portrait.   

Gabriel Serna Pintor 5

Gabriel’s studio is located on the third floor of a tall building that offers nice views of the city. Now he resides in Puerto Vallarta.

Unfortunately, when Gabriel was in his twenties, he faced a well known reality among young artists: people began to tell him work was not a profitable way of living. He began to lose confidence and didn’t find someone who encourage him to continue drawing as he also had to address his financial needs. “I started working in other activities and, little by little, those jobs kept me away from doing what I wanted to do,” he mentions.

Now that he is back in the game, he encourages young artist to trust their gifts and not to take discouraging comments for granted. He also considers vital to seek opportunities at art galleries and surround oneself with people willing to foster and inspire your talent.


Oil painting provides the artist with the possibility to take more time for details and apply more layers, as the paint remains fresh for up to five days.


There’s a story behind every portrait …

The process behind every one of his portraits has taken a long time to develop and required detailed work with pencils with different grades—the hardness of the pencil lead. There are hours of dedication under every facial feature: scars, wrinkles, pores, eyes and hair. He likes to capture enigmatic faces and when asked to developed a portrait, he tries to meet and get to know the person, subsequently scheduling a time and date for a photo shoot in order to have enough material to capture the essence of the person on paper.

Retrato Gabriel Serna_pintor copia

Work in progress of a portrait of English actor Ian Mckellen that has required approximately three months of dedicated work.

In addition to his work as an artist, Gabriel has been teaching a course on artistic drawing for children and adults at Los Mangos Library since last February. Every Monday and Wednesday, he shares his expertise with both beginners and enthusiasts.

Teaching has been a new discovery for me. It is a way of transcending beyond painting because what you share with your students will remain with them and if they share that knowledge as well, you can touch generations.

Learn more about the works of Gabriel Serna and his course at Los Mangos Library by following him through his social media profiles—Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram—or visit his website at www.gabrielserna.com.




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