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In BOP faces we talk to local legends: the people of Punta Cana that make this place so special. In this edition, artist Tiano Solana talks about his art, muse, and living in a place like Punta Cana, that often feels too artificial for him.

Classical music plays in the background in the upstairs room of the house in Bavaro. It is Argentinian artist Tiano Solana’s (44) atelier. The paintings reveal that he uses the space as a workplace, but other than that, there is no splatter of paint insight.

“I work so clean, at art school they used to tell me: ‘you’re not an artist’,” Tiano explains.

Man bun, green t-shirt, shorts and his purple teacup in his hand, Tiano chats away about this special mate tea that is drank by many people in Argentina. You could call it their local drink. It is a tea made from dried yerba mate leaves and is incredibly strong. Almost a mix between coffee and tea, if you will.

Tiano’s house is full of paintings. One painting has a woman looking up, as though she is looking up at the sky. In another the same woman is in a cradle position, looking away. Her legs are in the forefront of the painting. Then there’s a painting that shows her holding a child. This woman is present in almost all of Tiano’s artwork. It is his wife and muse Reyes.

When artist Tiano met Reyes

“When I met her at a bar 13 years ago, I liked her right away. She was so beautiful. She had this big afro. The second time I saw her, I asked if I could paint her. She told me that it was okay, but she didn’t want to pose nude. So, I said that all I needed to do was take pictures of her, so I could paint her from the image.

I called her 4 or 5 times. No response. I already thought she was not interested in me romantically, but still, I did want to paint her. After my friend told me to try it again, she answered. We met, and I took her pictures and we started dating. From then on, I hardly painted anything or anyone else than her. I love surfing, so I tried doing surfers. I was a nice try, but I like painting her more, it makes me feel good.”

After 4 years, their now 9-year-old son Lucas was born. What if Tiano and Reyes had never met? Life could have taken a completely different turn.

“I have always been lucky”

Born in Buenos Aires, artist Tiano stood out in his family. His dad was worried about his future, so Tiano searched for a school that would allow him to combine arts with a more commercial subject. He found it, and studied creative advertising and art at the same time.

“In the morning, I worked at a design studio. In the afternoon I went to art school and in the evening, I studied advertising. I loved it!”

Working in advertising was not fulfilling enough for young artist Tiano, so he decided to move to neighboring country Uruguay in Punta de L’este to focus on painting. Living a secluded life in a wooden house in a forest, he painted for 5 years. His income came from a magazine he had with two other friends in Uruguay, and from selling his artwork.

“I did not need much. I loved the silence and wild nature in the forest. The first year I only spoke to the people in the supermarket. I like the simple live. The story of Saint Francisco inspires me. People who follow that kind of life, are stripped away from all luxuries. For example, in Uruguay, I used to do graphic work for the magazine. I often let companies pay me in goods instead of money. When I had the chance to go and do social work at Mother Theresa’s house in Calcutta, I went to India with only 220 dollars in my pocket. I have always been lucky like that. I’m able to adapt and live humbly.

Missing the simple life

Tiano explains: “I did not like Punta Cana. I missed the bohemian lifestyle. It was all about money and it was so artificial. But when I met Reyes I decided to stay. When we decided to move to Cocotal, I felt like an egoist. I like the simple life, but your priorities change when you get a child. The nature here is beautiful, but it still feels artificial at times. Who knows what the future will bring. We might go back to that humble life.”

He looks around his clean atelier. “Painting is my world. Here in Punta Cana I did some graphic work for companies, but it feels like I am losing time. That sort of work is pure money. It does not serve me. When I paint, I feel differently. I enjoy taking the long road, by taking time to work on a painting, experimenting. Sometimes I start drawing with a pencil and other times I construct a collage of pictures digitally and use that as a starting point to paint.”

Isn’t there any place in Punta Cana he would recommend?

“My favorite spot in Punta Cana is in Cabeza de Toro. When I am there, I ask local fishermen to take me out on to sea, and there I surf at the reef.”

Want to see Tiano’s work? His paintings are showcased in Zoetry Agua Punta Cana and can be purchased on his website.