Mr. Crespo is a beacon of inspiration to art students

Emmanuel Crespo pictured with three of his pieces from his most recent exhibition. Top left: An Evening Conversation, 2020. Ink and watercolor on paper 16×20″. Bottom left: A Portrait Conceived in Twilight, 2020. Ink and watercolor on paper 16×20″. Bottom right: A Night with Spirits, 2020. Ink and watercolor on paper 16×20″

By Nafina Raha

Emmanuel Crespo is a new addition to the Granada Hills Charter (GHC) staff this school year. An artist and a teacher at the same time, Crespo’s new position here at our campus is one with much potential. Teaching studio art, drawing, and ceramics, he has taken up the mantle as one of the influential art teachers at GHC, with the goal of sharing his artistic knowledge with all of his students. 

Like many artists, the reasons Crespo got into art were more intrinsic than learned. He had always felt drawn to the idea of creation and creativity, and art played a big part in his life ever since childhood. With the help and guidance of his own high school art teacher, he realized that art was something he wanted to pursue beyond the classroom into the future. 

Crespo has been teaching high school for 18 years, just recently joining the GHC staff in the 2020-21 school year. He has taught studio art, drawing, ceramics, and sculpture over the course of his teaching career, and finds great satisfaction in being both a teacher and an artist. 

“At some point in the middle of my high school career, I realized the impact that some of my teachers and coaches had on me. I kind of decided back then that I wanted to combine my passions for art and education. I hoped to do for others what they did for me,” Crespo said. 

He attended Otis College, pursuing fine arts, and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Sculpture and his Master of Fine Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Practice. Crespo’s intended path following graduation was to begin and sustain an art practice while beginning his teaching career, and slowly find his way into the gallery system. However, the careers of freelance artists aren’t as set in stone as most other career paths, and it took Crespo a lot of perseverance and dedication to find his place. 

“Fast forward 11 frustrating, although necessary, years of trying to find my voice as an artist, and I was eventually discovered by Bermudez Projects Gallery at an Artwalk in Downtown LA. I have been represented by Bermudez Projects since 2013, and have had four solo exhibitions and participated in five group exhibitions,” Crespo said. 

The thought and creation that goes into art can involve a difficult process, and Crespo believes that the artwork he produces is a kind of key in understanding and discovering things about himself. He sees the creative process as a mirror that reveals deeper parts of his identity and beliefs, and allows him to see the world through a new and different lens. 

“There are two things that inspire me about the creative process. The first is the little personal revelations I discover about myself as I produce work. Each one gives me a clearer understanding of myself. The second is the act of creation itself, when I seem to be in a flow, and I find myself in an effortless awareness,” he said. 

Crespo also finds inspiration in his daughter, who was born in 2015. A year after her birth, he decided to create a fully-illustrated children’s book titled “To the Moon and Back,” inspired by her fascination with the moon as a baby. 

Being both an artist and a teacher comes with a slew of both positive experiences and challenges. Crespo believes that both of these professions demand that he constantly learn and reflect on himself and his practice. Watching students grow beneath his tutelage allows him to reflect on his own work. 

“Teaching is exhausting but very rewarding,” he said. 

Just like any artist, and anyone who practices within a creative field, Crespo faces the difficulties of trusting his creativity and remaining persistent. He believes that the most difficult thing about being an artist is trusting his personal voice and putting aside his own self-critiques in order to thrive. 

“It is true that you are your worst critic, and I believe this is especially true for artists. As an artist, I am constantly struggling with negative self-talk, constantly questioning my creative impulses, and comparing what I make to what other people make. Almost immediately after I arrive at an idea, a voice surfaces and tells me that it’s terrible, and I shouldn’t pursue it. This is a constant struggle and some battles are easier than others,” Crespo said. 

When faced with this internal struggle, he reminds himself of the two most important things that must remain in an artist’s mind. First, that perfection is solely an illusion, and every single piece won’t be a masterpiece. Second, that the most important goal amidst this negativity is progress, and every piece is a step in the right direction, no matter what. This is the advice that he gives his students as well, encouraging them to delve into their own artistic reach and to persevere through their own mental blocks in the creative process. 

Crespo sees art as a way to understand things that simply cannot be put into words. Stories, visions, and images whose full encompassment stretches beyond the limits of the spoken or written word can be told through the use of visual art. Pushing past these limits allows things that cannot be spoken to turn a blank canvas into an entire little world, and touch an audience in a way words cannot.

“I feel that the images I create allow me to tell stories that can’t be clearly put to words, but somehow make sense,” he said. 

Crespo’s story has the potential to be a source of inspiration for budding artists in his classes who intend to go down an artistic career path in the future. His classes provide a welcoming, growth-oriented environment where all students can enjoy the simple act of creation and expand upon their artistic talents. 

You can find Crespo’s work at his website: http://www.emmanuelcrespoartworks.com/