Wk 4 – Artist Conversation – Elmer Guevara & Robert Nehemiah

Exhibition Information

Artist: Elmer Guevara and Robert Nehemiah
Exhibition: iMMATERiAL
Media: paint, cardboard, everyday-use materials
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Gatov Gallery West
Website: None for both artists
Instagram: Elmer: @3lmski1; Robert: wookieewarrior

About the Artists

Elmer Guevara

Mr. Guevara is currently attending CSULB School of Art and is majoring in art for his BFA. He transferred from ELAC (East Los Angeles College) and still to this day, he commutes every day to school. Mr. Guevara grew up in Downtown Los Angeles as well which is where his wonderful inspiration came from. He got inspired from growing up with graffiti so he ended up kind of combining painting and graffiti. So with graffiti it’s more of an informal way of expressing art in my opinion so with adding painting with it, it gives it more of a formal view. Mr. Guevara likes to interview people first before starting his painting to gain some information and connect with them. He likes to have a feel of who he is working with and some of their interests to better help him paint. Elmer said that these people are just homeless people that are nameless since he did get some of the people’s names. How Elmer approaches his paintings is that he first takes photos of the person and their surroundings, then he puts them together as a collage, which is his template, from smaller pieces and then paints the overall painting from viewing the collage. He also likes to paint bigger paintings. Elmer mentioned that the first 4 of his paintings are from South LA and the last one is from Downtown LA.

Robert Nehemiah

Mr. Nehemiah is currently living in Pico Rivera and is graduating this semester with a BFA. He too, transferred from a community college in Whittier and he actually wanted to become a firefighter (wow!). He was studying to become one and was ready for the firefighter academy, then realized it wasn’t for him and left the program to study art. Robert experiences materialism around his environment and takes notes of what’s going on. He finds his inspiration from his family, mentors, or even himself for his self-portrait. He also finds inspiration between the material he uses with the person he chooses to paint. He never has anything “pre-set” and does everything when it comes to mind so it’s more natural. He also finds inspiration outside of class and tries to find ideas from the outside world. His paintings aren’t paintings without their significant titles. How he started working with Elmer was that they both painted separate bodies but they found common ground together. His paintings have been going on for about 8 months! Robert learned a few things with painting on cardboard and shared it with us – cardboard isn’t primed which makes the cardboard absorb more of the paint. From there, he advised that we shouldn’t use any materials that aren’t unprimed to paint on. With the cardboard absorbing so much paint, he had to keep adding many layers and as a college student, he doesn’t have that much money to keep purchasing more paint.

Formal Analysis

Elmer Guevara

Elmer used a lot of of color in his paintings when necessary to really bring out every little detail. A lot of his paintings almost have this fuzzy and unclear view to them as if the people or objects are moving in the paintings and that was his exact purpose. Elmer said that some of the people he interviewed and tried to draw were moving so that’s how he depicted them in his paintings. One of the paintings, there is a dog and it looks like it has two heads but I believe it’s because the dog probably looked one way then another way and it’s amazing how Elmer was able to paint that out. His paintings also look very asymmetrical as if not a lot of things that he painted were really measured out and he put his own twist in the painting. Some of the paintings had items that were sideways or upside down that normally wouldn’t be that way. There are a  lot of shapes, smooth and jagged and it’s like so much going on and you have to stop and really think of everything that’s happening.

Robert Nehemiah

For Robert’s paintings they look very symmetrical and I believe it’s because with drawing more portraits, it should be more symmetrical as if the person posed for you. Everything seemed to flow together and nothing seemed too out of the ordinary. If anything wasn’t symmetrical, it wasn’t the painting itself, but the material used. Either some would think the painting was crooked like the one he drew of his grandmother or others would think the material used – cardboard – could be crooked then he drew on it. The shadowing and the detail were were intricate as well. The colors he used were more on the neutral to dark side as if it has more meaning to it and for some reason I see that for darker colors, it just makes it more personal or serious.

Content Analysis

Elmer Guevara

The most interesting and intriguing part of his paintings is how he used certain materials to make his painting 3-D, as if the person or object is coming out of the painting! For example, one of his paintings, “Nikolai” (I believe, not completely sure, sorry!), there is a guy with his dog sitting on the street with their home behind them, and the guy’s ripped up jeans are coming out of the painting. When I looked closer to the side of the painting, the material sticking outwards was such a surprise and it definitely add some character and depth! I think Elmer really wanted people to see how alive and real these people are and to look past that they’re homeless. I certainly see that for myself. I like the extra materials he used to make the paintings pop and I’m glad I noticed them.

Robert Nehemiah

As mentioned before in the Formal Analysis, I feel like all of Robert’s portraits give off this very serious vibe and it makes me think more deeply into the painting – what are they feeling? I enjoy his paintings on cardboard since they sometimes seem like there’s still fresh paint and I was tempted to touch it! I’m not sure why but I wanted to see if it was really fresh paint and it was luring me in. The shadowing and the use of color was almost perfect to bring out every shadow on whoever he was painting. I also like how he used cardboard since it’s available everywhere so easily and it’s almost like “eco-friendly” since he is reusing them. I can see why he would have to use a lot of paint though since he did say he painted on them as a raw surface and it wasn’t touched up or primed beforehand.

Synthesis / My Experience

I really loved both Elmer’s and Robert’s artworks so much and I love how I can really feel and see the time and effort put in each of their works. I also appreciate Elmer being very sensitive and passionate about getting to know the people he paints. It really creates a friendship between painter and “paintee(?).” I also love Robert’s choice of material for the cardboard, for it gave more of a eco-friendly feel; and Elmer’s extra material for creating a 3D effect. Everything of both of theirs was really pleasing to see and depict a story out each one of them.


Elmer Guevara – “Nikolai” 
Elmer Guevara – “Nikolai” detail
Robert Nehemiah – “Portrait of a Mother”
Robert Nehemiah – “Portrait of a Grandmother”
Elmer Guevara with his first painting – “Greg”
Robert N. (left) and Elmer G. answering students’ questions






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