Cartagena has risen to the top, and his pin-up illustrations are seen all over the world. His works have appeared in Playboy, Penthouse, and Femme Fatales to name but a few. His pin-up decals are hugely popular.
Carlos Cartagena was born and raised in Guatemala City. As a young man he soon realized that, in his home town, opportunities for artists of his talent were limited. So, in 1981, at the age of 21 he emigrated to the United States in pursuit of his boyhood dream of becoming an artist.
Life in the USA wasn't so easy for him either. Speaking only limited English and not being a citizen in his new country made it difficult for him. Settling in California, he worked as House keeper, a cook in a fast food restaurants, a delivery boy, just to support himself. He never lost sight of his dream of becoming an artist. Largely self taught, every moment of his spare time was spent learning and perfecting his craft. He taught himself use of the airbrush as well as traditional brush techniques. He studied the masters, their effective use of colour, tone, light and shadow. Gradually, he put what he learned to practice: all the while learning English and studying to become a US citizen. It was a ten year struggle.
He managed to place his pictures in various galleries that recognized his talent and were willing to take a chance on him. An occasional entrepreneur would buy one of his paintings. Before too long, he was receiving commissions. In November 1996 he was featured in Airbrush Action Magazine.
In 1997, the founder of Slap-On Decals, a passionate surfer and designer, Mark Buck, came up with the idea for decals that could be applied to surfboards, car windows, shower doors, skis, skateboards, snowboards...anything with a smooth surface that would look better with a gorgeous image of a sexy woman applied to it. Cartagena was commissioned for a series of pinups for the first release of decals.
His work is instantly recognizable. He is considered by many among the best contemporary pin-up Artists, ranking with renowned masters such as, Olivia de Berardinis, Hajime Sorayama, and Boris Vallejo.
Cartagena is now a U.S. Citizen. He is proud that his pin-up illustrations continue an American tradition began by artists, such as Alberto Vargas, Gil Elvgren and George Petty, who have become a part of American popular culture. Cartagena also feels very fortunate and grateful to be working with friends, like, Alfredo Cartagena, Joe Popovits, Idan York and Robert Bane in the US, and Reinhard Geckler representing him in Germany and all Europe.
Cartagena is regularly commissioned to paint models, but is frequently asked to create female images that are of no one in particular. When asked about his extraordinary talent, the smiles and remembers Thomas Edison`s famous quip that genius is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Putting his own twist on Edison, Cartagena says that talent is 10% burning desire and 90% long hours of hard work. When giving advice to young aspiring artists he reminds them of being committed to that 91%.
All images in this gallery are copyright © Carlos Cartagena. All rights reserved.
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