Pro began painting seriously in the late 1990s, though it might seem that art was always his destiny: His father Julio is an award-winning wildlife artist and older brother Greg is a professional illustrator. Working almost exclusively in oils, Pro specializes in portraits, landscapes and still lifes. He likes to paint subjects directly, using as much natural light as possible, rather than copying from photos. “You get a better result,” he says. “Even some of the best cameras cannot accurately represent certain colors in the shadow.”
But more than just producing a good likeness, Pro believes his role is to capture a person’s spirit. That’s why he likes to spend time with his subjects who generally sit for about six hours, usually in two three-hour sessions. “It’s very difficult to translate the personality if you don’t know the person,” he says.
His portrait of Rose Ann Vuich, the first female member of the California State Senate, hangs in the state capitol, while the still life Friar’s Desk was bought by the museum at the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. His paintings find buyers all over the world—a single collector in Washington state owns more than 20.
Pro is no stranger to awards but the one he treasures most came at the Oil Painters of America 2005 annual exhibition in Chicago, when his painting "Mother’s Love" won best of show. Later that same year, the same portrait of Pro’s wife with their first baby graced the cover of Southwest Art magazine. “I won’t sell that painting, it’s in our collection,” Pro says. “It marked a turning point for me as an artist.”
Despite all his success, Pro is not immune to the impact of the economic recession: In times like these, when money is tight, people are less inclined to splash out on a piece of art, no matter how much they like it. His response has been to diversify—at least slightly. Figuring that people in a down economy want more education and are looking to improve their skills, he’s recently released a two-disc instructional DVD on portrait painting. Pro has been pleased with the early response to the set, which contains more than four hours of material. Within the first few weeks he was shipping copies to buyers as far away as Norway, Germany, Australia, and Sweden.
In addition, Pro’s busy schedule includes teaching classes and workshops. In February he was at the Scottsdale Artists’ School, and later this year he’ll be judging a show and conducting a workshop at the Richeson School of Art & Gallery in Kimberly, Wisconsin. Closer to home, he teaches weekly classes on portrait and figure painting at the California Art Institute in Thousand Oaks, and online at his new website, Zarolla.com.
-Excerpt taken from 805 Living Magazine Article, June 2010