Picture This

By Hannah Wallace August 31, 2008

As an undergraduate at the University of Florida, Javi Suarez Jr. wrestled with a universal dilemma: “Do I want to follow in my dad’s footsteps or follow my passion?” His father, Javier Suarez, a principal in the ADP Group, is the architect who designed the handsome modern addition to Sarasota High School, and Suarez himself was pursuing a major in architecture at UF. But, after taking a couple of art courses and spending a semester abroad studying in Italy, what he really wanted to do was paint.

Pragmatism won out; after earning his graduate degree in architecture from UCLA, Suarez returned to Sarasota to join his father’s practice. But along the way, painting became more than a hobby. As a grad student who “painted like crazy,” Suarez was selected for inclusion in the City of Los Angeles Millennium artists’ exhibition in 2000. His work has been exhibited in other Southern California galleries and in his native San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was also part of an Art by Architects exhibit in 2005 at Art Center Sarasota, where he served three years on its board of directors.

A self-taught painter, Suarez creates what he calls “abstract paintings with a tinge of realism, evolving around biographical stuff, images of my travels, my family, my friends.” The first time he sold a piece, he remembers, “I didn’t know whether to sell it or not. I got really attached; it was hard to let it go. [But] you sell one or two and it gets a little easier.”

Suarez has slowed down a bit from his prolific pace of creating as many as 20 paintings a year. Instead, he’s focused on getting his architecture license and raising a family with his wife, Liz. (They have a four-year-old son and a newborn daughter.) He recently completed a large triptych for his parents of their three grandsons, and he’s been working off and on for several months on a portrait of his wife.

Like father, like son, Suarez says that little Javier Eduardo, wearing a painter’s smock that was a gift from his grandmother, loves to draw beside him as he paints.

In the end, “It worked out for me,” he says. “I still pay the bills and I’m still able to do my painting. If I didn’t do it, I’d go bananas.”

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