James L. Covarrubias

I paint all kinds of paintings for all kinds of reasons. One of my favorite types is to develop an allegory. The under painting is important. Lots of globs and unusual color meshings develop into rich ideas. I add lines to define a detail or a large expanse of space. The story results from the unique conversation presented by color and characters; juxtaposed or related, they become part of an atmosphere. They inhabit it. There is a point when it seems finished but over the course of a month I'll keep five or six of these handy and I've found they achieve a maturing in my eye. Maybe I will add just a touch here and there but sometimes I'll see something new in the direction started by its elements and change it measurably. That isn't the case for commissioned portraits or other contracted work, so it's a great personal pleasure to freely develop a dialogue with the painting. Both of these paintings, Pacific and Yaqui Deer Dancer fall into the freely developed category; you can see the difference in the detailing with lots of visual treats.

Yaqui Deer Dancer

I painted myself as several different types of Indians circling around a shield. On the shield is the symbol of Quetzalcoatl, the ancient prophet. Here, as on Mexican coins, his name is depicted as the Aztec Golden Eagle devouring a Serpent. This was the vision the Aztecs were seeking to fulfill from a prophecy they had received in their native homeland of Utah and northern Nevada.

They journeyed south for some one hundred years. For generations they traveled through Nevada, Arizona, and Sonora, then into the Valley of Mexico where they actually saw the vision. There on a Nopal Cactus, an enormous Golden Eagle was devouring a giant serpent. They fell on their knees, for they had arrived to fulfill their destiny to conquer Mexico.

Two hundred more years passed. The Aztec king was Moctezuma. He was defeated by a foreigner they believed to be the Feathered Serpent. Once Moctezuma realized the Spanish conquistador was not a god, he related a new prophecy to Cortez: "in a breath of Mother Earth (a Ce Catle, 520 years in Aztec reckoning) you will become me." Then the world will seek a new destiny of freedom.

East Birth Children Love
South Fertile Life Teenagers Respect
West Maturity and Death Adults and Elders Discipline
North Spirit Ancestors Wisdom
Seek my name in darkest places
Where others fear to tread
You will prosper, do not dread
I see myself reflected in your faces
Seek my monster child with wings of gold
Perched on spines with serpent in hold

There in treacherous swamp you will dwell
And await the day my dream to
Of future days when all are free
Each man, each spirit
Rejoice in destiny
Prophecy of Peace
Jim Covarrubias, 1997



I painted Pacific here in Phoenix with the help of my two children, Seanna then twelve, and Brando nine. It was after a vacation in 1993. We had been visiting their brother, my stepson, Jeremy Bullis, in Southern California. Jeremy was into surfing and was a typical So-Cal "Dude".

At first I put a lot of ocean colors and sand on the canvas. Then I let the kids mix it together with big brushes tied to sticks. For phase two, I defined the forms that the paint surface implied to the kids and me. We picked out different subjects, much like playing the cloud form game that every grandpa plays with his grandchildren. Some of the figures merged with others, magical people came forward to sing the song of the ocean, of the Siren, the fishermen, Neptune, surfers, the beautiful blues of the beach, the Soul of Mother Earth.

The central figure is Jeremy, triumphantly striding with a fish in each hand, one with the ocean. It's always inspiring to be helped by other people's imaginations, especially children whose imaginations are powerful and wonderful.