In Conversation with Manuel Mera


We spoke to the up-and-coming painter about his work, his inspirations,
his recent musical project “G-Sus”, and his evolution
as a contemporary artist. 




Manuel Mera
(Image by Nadine Koupaei)

The Dominican Republic houses many talented artists. In all sorts of areas, Dominicans excell creatively. One of these extraordinary artists is Manuel Mera (@manuel_mera_studio), a young painter who’s striving to change what we expect from Dominican painters. Since the start of his painting career, Manuel’s style has been constantly evolving, absorbing inspiration from many different sources, such as music, sculpture, animation, among many others. 

Manuel first started painting seriously when he enrolled in the Altos de Chavon School of  Design, one of the best Art and Design schools in the Western Hemisphere. During his studies, he was exposed to many different types of artistic mediums, which in turn led him to explore many different ways of expressing his creativity. In the end, Manuel felt most identified with painting, and over the course of the last few years he has demonstrated a degree of originality and willingness to experiment that has made him one of the most promising young dominican talents in the art world. 

His paintings explore a delicate balance between chaos and order. They depict scenes that may initially seem chaotic, but once a closer look is taken we can see that a lot of care and detail is put into his pieces. He blends digital images with hand strokes and techniques in order to create a perfectly balanced composition that uses several different elements. His use of watercolor, acrylic, ink, and many other materials makes his work unpredictible, but always surprising. His constant evolution as an artist also allows him to explore whichever area his creativity leads him to.

We got a chance to talk with the young painter and ask him about his creative process, his work and his inspirations. This is what he said:

First off, tell us a little bit about yourself. When did your artistic endeavors start? Were you always interested in art or is it something that caught your attention as you grew older?

I didn’t have any visible artistic talents when I was a kid.  The only thing that I remember was spending most of my time watching old school Hanna-Barbera Cartoons. Somehow, this made me develop some sort of sensibility towards screens and cartoons. I’ve always thought of how aesthetically pleasing shows like Johnny Quest, Hong Kong Phooey and Space Ghost are…

“I didn’t have any visible artistic talents when I was a kid.  The only thing that I remember was spending most of my time watching old school Hanna-Barbera Cartoons.“

It wasn’t until my last year in high school that I got interested in art history. We studied the rupestrian cave paintings until post-war art. By then, I thought all artist were dead and that gave me the curiosity of figuring out of what was happening now. In my first year of college I took some short drawing lessons and realized I was quite good at it. After this, I kept getting more ambitious and serious about the matter and decided to pursue a career in art school.


“Water Cycle” (Digital)

Something that really interests me about your work is how you incorporate many different styles into your painting. Does the way you approach your different projects change depending on the style, or is the style you choose to use for each project depend on the initial idea you get for each painting?

Style is something that I try not think of, even though I am aware of being attracted to certain aesthetics. I would define my work as “chaotically organized” which in the end reflects my contradictory personality. As artists, what defines our “style” are those actions that come naturally and the acquired knowledge. In a very short period, my work has changed significantly due to my current disappointment and desire of evolution.

“I would define my work as “chaotically organized” which in the end reflects my contradictory personality. As artists, what defines our “style” are those actions that come naturally and the acquired knowledge.”

I usually approach a project with digital sketches which are vectors of my hand drawings. This first step is used to create the ‘base’ of the main image. After this I gather images from my cellphone and computer with the purpose of creating some sort of scene. These photos are usually taken by me, internet jpeg, screenshots, parts of other paintings, etc… With a back and forth process I create a final digital illustration which is then used to paint the main piece. Sometimes I paint the same digital image and consider the work finished, but mostly I don’t discard any idea and end up adding more layers.

This makes the process more complex and time consuming. I tend to have the mentality of always adding more stuff. The fact of ‘’the excess’’ is something that always has caught my attention. But to be more specific, its peculiarity in our Dominican Culture. The acquisition of these excessive so-called “goods” can always be perceived in cars, women, clothes, properties… All this without talking in consideration what will be consequences in the future. This is something that happens all over the globe, but I found it peculiar how it works in our country and its relationship with my work.


“Everyone’s got a gun” (Ink and Watercolor on Paper, 50x70 cm)

In my own work, I feel that setting has a huge effect on the ideas that I get. In my opinion, the change of scenery and culture always tends to affect the final result of any project I undertake. I know that you’ve been living in Barcelona for the last few months, do you see a difference in your creative process in Barcelona as compared to your process in the Dominican Republic?  

I’ve taken my time to familiarize with the environment in terms of work and process. I’m currently doing a master’s degree in illustration, so I have less time and space to work on my personal projects. This has made me reconsider my process. There is an importance in painting within the power of the image, but its essence lies in its value as a physical object. In illustration it is more abstract because the quality of the image itself is what matters in the end. So I have been investing my time on developing new projects digitally as well as improving my technique in programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketch Up and After Effect. Things that I recognized as Digital Sketches now are being converted into Digital Paintings or final works within this media. All this happens after realizing how much we are consuming art through digital media and perhaps how things could be in the future.

“There is an importance in painting within the power of the image, but its essence lies in its value as a physical object. In illustration it is more abstract because the quality of the image itself is what matters in the end.“


“Beach Rock o Roca de Playa” (Acrylic on Canvas, 99x102 cm) 

It is my understanding that you studied at Altos de Chavón Design School. I’ve always wondered how studying art affects the work of artists. In your opinion, how would you describe the way that studying at Chavón has influenced the way you approach your work? Is it in a more technical aspect or has it also changed the way you conceptualize your work?

In my case, it has influenced my technical aspect.  What I basically learned in art school was how to be critical of my own work, being more disciplined and how to draw. We spent half of the course drawing life models, something that in the beginning I was fully committed to and challenged by. Throughout the second semester I started making my personal experimentations on the weekends in Santo Domingo, so I was building a parallel body of work which made me develop the bad habit of not following the assignments on the school.  I started discovering new things and realized that this was an art school, where in the end grades didn’t matter. Even though I didn’t follow these assignments, I always had  their objective in mind and applied it to my personal works.

What I basically learned in art school was how to be critical of my own work, being more disciplined and how to draw.”

In the beginning I started painting in a very specific way, at this moment I thought this was my thing and that I should keep doing it this way my entire life. It wasn’t until my second year that I realized how easy it was to work in this quick expressionistic way, so I started forcing myself on developing a more sophisticated process. Even though I didn’t reach the level that I was expecting during this period, I had the opportunity to play with different mediums such as installation, sculpture and music.


“Cyber-caribbeangothic history” (Acrylic on Canvas, 163x175 cm)

I wanted to talk about your recent musical project “G-SUS”. I feel that many artists are hesitant to embark on a project outside their preferred media. For you, how did the idea of a musical project come? Is it something that you always planned on doing or did the idea surface out of the blue?

I’ve always been sensible to music and somehow perceive it on my paintings. It wasn’t until 2018 in Art school that I started recording some tracks being inspired by a Jesus Christ sculpture from my grandmother (Mano). This statue had the optical illusion of turning its eyes to you from whichever angle you looked at it. The piece was a gift for my great grandmother from the Salesian Archbishop Riccardo Pittini. He was the head of the church during the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujiilo. I decided to rearrange this object by dyeing its hair purple and changing its name to ‘’G-sus”. My idea was to create a song for the statue in order to build some sort of sanctuary as an installation. Afterwards I realized I could take this idea further and recorded a whole album. Being aware of the historical value of this object, I decided to change its meaning into something more satirical and autobiographical. I’ve started recording myself on drive-thru and in my studio playing guitar, making impressions of imaginary characters. The idea of ‘’ruining’’ an important family object, in a strange way, affects the atmosphere of the record making, it sounds careless and ignorant. Finally, a couple of months ago I recovered the lost files from my computer, I sat down, made some audio mastering with the help of Mauro Ferreiro (a Dominican musician, and part of Error Subcutáneo) and finally published it.

“I decided to change its meaning into something more satirical and autobiographical”

“The idea of ‘’ruining’’ an important family object, in a strange way, affects the atmosphere of the record making, it sounds careless and ignorant.”


“G-Sus” Album Cover

Is “G-SUS” somehow linked to your work as a painter, be it conceptually or in any other sense? If not, do you consider this particular project as a departure from what people have come to expect from you? In other words, is “G-SUS” something that somehow distances you from being “Manuel Mera the painter” or do you see it as just another way for you to express yourself creatively?

Absolutely, it is totally linked. I see this album as part of my body of work. In technical terms my paintings possess a higher level, even though I’m still interested in developing this project in the future. While I was creating this record, I always had in mind that I didn’t know shit about music production. With that said, I recorded it with my computer using garage band and an acoustic guitar. I wanted this fact to be visible in order to make it sound honest and organic. Compared to my paintings, I could say that this record reveals an even more ridiculous/romantic side of me. As an artist it is important to have limitations in order to define and conceptualize each individual project.

“I recorded it with my computer using garage band and an acoustic guitar. I wanted this fact to be visible in order to make it sound honest and organic.”


“G-Sus” Vinyl

In my opinion, your work as a painter is amazing, and your musical pursuits with “G-SUS” are impressive, especially as your first musical project. Are there any other artistic mediums that you’d be interested in exploring in the future?

I’m interested in so many things, such as Animation, Music, Installation, Sculpture, etc. However, I will still focus on painting, as it seems that this medium is the starting point for any further ideas.


Finally, is there any artist, from any medium, that you feel everyone should know about? If so, who would that be and why?

As creators it is always important to be sensible to other artist’s works even though we might not comprehend them or like them. I am very interested in 1940’s Dominican Merengue, as well as guys like Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Sandro de America. I made this record after listening to Ariel Pink’s first album ‘’The Doldrums’’. I was fascinated by its lo-fi quality and depth. This made curious and made me start asking myself how he recorded it.  In end I figured out that he was using an 8-track cassette and accumulating layers on top of each other. I realized the similarity between my painting process and his way of production. Even though I have a strict plan for every individual project I always take reference of other artists, and during this process, I tend to find something new and end up turning the idea upside down.


We’d like to give a special thanks to Manuel for taking the time to chat and answer our questions. For more on his work and his evolution as an artist, you can follow his Instagram at @mmanuelmera and visit his webpage to view his collection of works.