Professor Enrique Leal is a new addition to the art department, contributing his unique type of printmaking inspired by beetle carvings in wood sticks. Photo by Camille Carrillo

When asked how he differentiates between being an artist and a professor, Enrique Leal explained that he blends the two. Leal, a new professor in UC Santa Cruz’s art department, is now teaching Introduction to Print Media and a lithography class. Leal is interested in using art to incite reflections.

“The work of an artist is to reveal things that go unnoticed or unspoken,” Leal said. “My work involves exploring unobserved types of events, or unobserved aspects of art practice.”

Leal is currently working on a series of images that depict everyday objects and phenomena that act within everyday moments. His work attempts to reproduce a momentary effect on the viewer.

Amplitude Modulation (Cumulus), an ongoing piece depicting a singular cloud, illustrates white ink on a dark surface, producing a fleeting effect. Not only is this cloud image blown up on a large canvas, making it possible for someone to become immersed in the cloud, it is also printed with a style similar to pointillism. Tiny dots depicting the cloud almost disperse as the viewer inches closer to the image. It is art imitating life.

Born in Brazil, Leal received training in the U.S. as a printmaker. Afterward, he got an apprenticeship in Europe working in printing studios for artists in galleries. He earned his Ph.D. and taught at the University of Castilla La Mancha, Spain College of Fine Arts in Cuenca. He moved to UCSC 25 years later.

Similar to Leal, art department chair Jennifer Parker said art is not a hat to wear, but something that is a much bigger part of your being — it’s more than simply making art.

“It’s an everyday practice and it’s about feeding your ideas and your soul,” Parker said.  “It’s a commitment to making things that might not be seen as necessary — it’s not just something you do to make something look pretty.”

Parker was one of the members of the board who reviewed Leal as a candidate for becoming a professor at UCSC. She recalls his visit and presentation to the panel, and how in that time she got to know what kind of artist and professor he is.

“He’s got a vast amount of experience in print media and as a scholar. Having traveled and lived in different parts of the world, he brings an international perspective to our students and to the field of print media,” Parker said. “It’s unique and it brings the diversity of an expanding global perspective that we try to offer in school.”

When asked why he left Spain to move to Santa Cruz, Leal said having the opportunity to teach at UCSC is what he is most grateful for.

“The history of the University of California is that of a progressive institution,” Leal said. “This is one of the most beautiful campuses in the U.S. and it is a top ranking university for research funding.”

Miguel Hernandez, a third-year art major who loves working with new concepts and materials, is taking Leal’s lithography class, which teaches students how to create etches of print images using oil and water. He called Leal a good teacher, which in Hernandez’s opinion, makes a good artist.

“He’s always there for his students,” Hernandez said. “During his office hours you can find him working on his own art, but he’ll be ready to help you with your art. He cares about his students and he always tries to find out his students’ names.”

Leal hopes to inspire his students with the wonder of examining everyday phenomena, just as he observes it as an artist.

“I hope to instill the lights of wonder — being curious, asking questions, experimenting, not taking something for face value and being inquisitive in a creative way,” Leal said.