By Kelsie Hoitomt
BOYCEVILLE – Santiago Lopez has been living in Boyceville for a year now after moving to the state from San Diego, California.
In a short amount of time, Santiago has made quite the name for himself around town after he befriended Gary and Joy Evenson and created a handful of portraits and a mural on their garage for them.
Santiago is a phenomenal painter and word is beginning to spend, which he doesn’t seem to mind the slightest as it keeps him busy roughly two weeks at a time per project.
He is a modest man, born in Cayey, Puerto Rico in 1941. He was raised in Santa Isabel along with his family in his grandparents’ home.
His grandparents lived in a small wooden home and it was there that Santiago’s creativity sparked. He began drawing by using a pencil to etch designs into the walls along his bed since paper was not available.
In high school, Santiago sketched pictures of the books the teachers were reading to help make it more interesting for the students.
Santiago remembers being asked to sketch a picture of Juan Morel Campos, a musician and composer.
Santiago did so for an event at the intermediate school and to his surprise, the sketch was placed in a glass frame and he received $3.00 from the principal who truly appreciated the work.
This was the first drawing Santiago ever sold, per say.
After high school Santiago joined the U.S. Military service for five years. It was during this time while he was stationed in Panama that he met a special young woman.
Santiago happened to be carrying his easel around and set out to the country side to paint. He found a group of ladies and when they noticed him, they were curious. Well one young woman happened to be Elma. They met and the rest is history as they now call each other husband and wife.
While serving, he painted a mural in the company mess hall and after that, the hall was awarded first place for the best decorated mess hall inside that company.
After his military tour, Santiago and Elma moved to New York City. With his military background, Santiago was able to enroll in college and through that he began to study art and design at the New York Institute of Technology in 1960.
He practiced fine art under the direction of French Artist Greg Chapian and Master Artist, Rogelio Uilarchao from Spain.
Santiago painted in his free time and became a full time postal worker at the NYC Post Office, which he spent ten years doing.
On a whim one day he decided to apply for two Illustrator jobs at a California post office. He was hired and that meant he was finally able to do what he truly loved, which also required moving across the country.
Santiago received two awards from the U.S. Postal Service for his illustration work.
Santiago continued to work for the postal service until around 1995 when he officially retired.
After retirement he went back to Puerto Rico and did extensive research about the Taino Indians of the Island and their culture and legends.
This led to a series of detailed paintings that showed how the Indians lived, hunted and survived.
The oil paintings he completed were exhibited at the History Museum of Ponce, Puerto Rico and at various other museums around the island.
One special portrait Santiago created was of current President Barack Obama. That painting was actually sent to the President and a thank you letter was in turn received by Santiago.
Today, Santiago’s son Ted and granddaughter still live in California and that is where he visits unless he travels back home to Puerto Rico. He and Elma live in Boyceville and so does their daughter.