Jota Leal was born in a small town in eastern Venezuela in the 1970s. He began drawing and painting at a very young age, and never formally studied art in school. He attempted to sit in class as a child of six, but ran away after being forced to paint plastic fruit and empty bottles. Even at that age, Jota (pron: Hota) knew what he wanted to do. He wanted to paint. Not just paint, he wanted to paint people. and especially wanted to paint their faces.
Leal was the second of three brothers, each possessing their own unique talent. Their parents worked in the oil fields, a common profession in that region of the country. One of Jota’s first memories is of drawing some lines for his amazed parents, as a baby. His subsequent birthday and Christmas gifts were all exclusively limited to pencils, crayons, and drawing materials.
Having been surrounded by engineers and those with ‘real’ jobs, Leal went on to study electrical engineering and graduated with honors. No one in his family knew how he accomplished this, as he was so completely obsessed with drawing and painting. It didn’t take long for his circuits to become lines, numbers to become colors, and brushes to be replace the sweep of physics theories. Jota won his country’s’ prestigious ‘Caricaturist of the Year’ award in 2003.
Now Jota paints all the time. He blames his obsession on his parents. “They made me believe it was something I was good at. - perhaps even something of a gift. I have not stopped painting since.” In 2001 Jota traveled to Spain and lived there, while immersing himself in the history and technique of art.
Leal then returned to his hometown in Venezuela, where he received the Caricaturist of the Year Award. His art follows the grand tradition of the great portrait painters of the past, as well as the more recent caricature masters. shows the delicate whimsy of a Max Beerbohn or Al Hirschfeld, but with a more fully rendered painting technique.
Jota's style results in a synergy of remarkable painting skill and a probing sense of the subject’s soul, often tweaked with an amazing sense of humor and insight. Leal works with pencil on paper, acrylic on board, and acrylic on canvas to achieve his remarkable images.
He paints the inner soul of his subjects, and manifests this as their outer persona. The paintings are magically captivating. Leal is in a sense, an interpreter of the subconscious, translating with his pencils and brushes.
Jota’s superb sense of humor and his curiosity and perceptiveness of the human condition are critical elements of his ability to create the works he does. His amazing portraits of Jimi Hendrix, Salvadore Dali, Jack Nicholson, and John Lennon are classics of their kind. Jota exhibits in fine art galleries around the United States and Asia.
In 2012, Jota’s work served as a prime attraction and key art for the World of Art Showcase exhibition at the Wynn resort in Las Vegas.
Jota was guest of honor at the 2014 International Society of Caricature Artists annual convention where he received the award and hosted a painting seminar.
Jota’s art book, ABOUT FACE, was released with international distribution this year. Jota had his first museum solo show at The Coral Springs Museum of Art in Florida March 12 through May, 2016.