Santos Barbosa III’s illustrations are like mazes, or kaleidoscopes, or optical illusions. Swirling and bending with squiggly turns and meandering lines, they take the eye from one point to the next with pleasant swoops and dives. Spending time with the Flagstaff-based artist’s work is to take a journey, but just as one begins to identify some sort of pattern, a curve launches us in another direction and we’re back to admiring something else—a form that had previously gone unnoticed or a heretofore hidden color (oranges and blues are a favorite of Santos’), maybe a word scrawled in bubbly lettering.
The Northern Arizona University filmmaking and graphic design student, currently on a break from school as he re-centers himself around his art, considers his pieces psychedelic, sure, but he prefers to refer to them as abstract. And within that abstraction lies a sort of controlled chaos. The illustrations don’t adhere to empirical shape or recognizable pattern per se, yet there’s a great deal of symmetry in what Barbosa does.
“If you handed me a piece of paper right now, I’d let the pen touch the paper and just go,” he says. “I can’t really explain past that, just ‘cause I feel like the experience is so present that everything drowns out around me. As the thought comes it just goes on the paper.”
Closer examination reveals formula behind the psychedelia. Often Barbosa’s pieces turn out looking like a Rorschach test or with a definitive center like that of a Mandala. This happens through transferring the drawing to its vector form in the computer or by way of just his hand. Regardless, Barbosa finds form in a lack of structure. The key is to spend time with the work and let shape reveal itself, perhaps with the help of a step back, by closing one eye or turning the piece upside down.
“I don’t typically work with circles or squares and triangles, everything is wavy and gooey,” Barbosa says. “What does happen is when I’m drawing these shapes somehow become symmetrical. Then what I typically like to do is turn [the drawing] 180 degrees and keep drawing. Then maybe I’ll see the shape of a nose at one angle, so I intentionally create a face, kind of with the intent to mindfuck you. It happens intentionally and unintentionally. Sometimes when I finish a whole piece I’ll go back in and add little eyes or draw lines with teeth, or maybe there’s a face in there.”
It’s like a game trying to find these little Easter eggs.
Barbosa uses his artist name, Sandy Pirate, to mark each of his works. The moniker has developed into more of an alter ego in the years since his neighbor started using it in high school. Sandy Pirate is fitting for a young artist whose hands, covered in lapis lazuli and turquoise rings and bracelets, wave erratically as he talks about his artistic process. Barbosa motions fervently as he explains how art involves hard work, dedication, coming home after work, getting in his pajamas, setting the color-changing lights in his room/studio to match his mood and settling into the groove, how a Micron pen makes it so that a drawing takes 20 minutes where a thicker marker has it down to a clean 10.
On occasion a drawing session is helped along by substance too, with strains of marijuana that Barbosa has found to aid his creativity. But it’s not imperative, only a useful tool.
“I do like to have cannabis in my regiment at times ‘cause it does provide a nice little boost and it gets me to think about the piece a little differently. That did help in the beginning, allowing me to explore different avenues of my mind. Nowadays it does act as a nice booster but it isn’t something I use all the time, just a tool,” he says.
Barbosa’s art has changed a great deal since the days he’d spend with his grandfather, a Southwestern and landscape painter, in his studio in Tucson. Barbosa would keep him company, drawing caricatures and cartoons, but he stopped as a young teenager, his “hiatus” he calls it. He returned to art after enrolling in college.
Interestingly enough, Barbosa has returned to those caricature roots recently as he incorporates cartoons or little phrases in his recent drawings. It’s a constantly changing beast, being an artist, and as he immerses himself more in it, he’s learning to “put himself out there,” he says, as well as become acquainted with and adhere to the rigor of the work. He used to consider art just a form of fun but is now reassessing his relationship to craft.
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“I feel it’s my child, like I got to give it attention if I want it to grow. And I got to treat it right if I want it to grow right, I’m trying to take that parental role,” he says.
Barbosa has been able to do so at events at the Green Room, and this weekend he’ll get the chance to show his art again at Wanderlust Brewery’s seventh anniversary party. There, Barbosa will have both illustrations displayed on the walls as well as some of his video installations, pieces that bend and pulse and swell onscreen.
Wanderlust hosts an anniversary celebration every year, and with it a corresponding brew is launched, named after the year it was released. Last year’s was simply called “Six” and this year’s will be christened “Seven.” Seven is a German-style beer known as a Doppelbock, coming in at six and a half percent alcohol by volume.
“[It’s] a strong lager, dark, nice and crisp,” says Nathan Friedman, head brewer and owner of Wanderlust. “And we put a little bit of a twist on it.”
The Doppelbock has been wood-aged with maple, but since the wood tends to be a little softer, the process wasn’t done by way of barrels, but by lowering large planks of maple into the tank, where they stayed for several months, giving the beer a woody butterscotch flavor.
Friedman, who moved to Flagstaff 15 years ago for a job at W. L. Gore & Associates, began home brewing with a friend about six years prior to opening Wanderlust. He still works at Gore as an engineer, but splits the brewing duties with lead brewer Moxie. There are roughly 20 years of brewing experience between the two of them, he says, something that allows experimentation with flavor while still making the beer drinkable.
“I think we stick to our core values, which is unique, approachable and well-made beer,” Friedman says. “We love making things that people haven’t had before, but we don’t go way out into left field and use crazy ingredients that don’t really add anything to the beer beyond shock and awe value. Something unique but you’re gonna want to have a second one and I think that’s been a good formula.”
Wanderlust occupies a special niche in Flagstaff, where the brewing market has become crowded in the last decade as new tap houses spring up like weeds in the cracks of the sidewalk—albeit welcome weeds. Unlike other breweries in town, Wanderlust bottles rather than cans its brews, packaging them in dark amber glass with colorfully designed labels. And, while the concentration of breweries tends to crowd in downtown Flagstaff, Wanderlust sits contently on the east side of town, just of Route 66 and a stone’s throw from Fourth Street.
“We felt there was a little a bit of a gap for those of us who live on the east side. We love that neighborhood, it’s a lot more laid back,” Friedman says.
The Wanderlust 7th Anniversary Party will take place Saturday, Oct. 12 from 2- 8 p.m. at 1519 N. Main Street. The event will feature the Wanderlust new brew as well as the return of old beers and local favorites including the De La Terre Sour; Music will include performances by Sun Elk Band, members of Quinn and the Confluence, Sean Buechel and more. Art by Santos Barbosa III (AKA Sandy Pirate) includes hung work as well as video installations. Dogs and children are welcome. The event is free and open to the public. For more, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/449803899214017/. To see Barbosa’s work, visit his Instagram @sandypirate