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  • Writer's pictureAlex Willis


In 2013, I was fortunate to spend a semester abroad. I spent four amazing months in Seville, Spain. I was in a beautiful country, meeting amazing people, and all the while adventuring through Europe with my best friend – life couldn’t have been better!

During our time in Seville, we tried to immerse ourselves in the culture as best we could, and one of those activities was a bullfight. My dad, being a big Hemingway fan, spoke highly of this event as he reminisced of when he went, noting the pageantry and beauty of the dance-like movements. It's no surprise this event made its way into my art the following year. There was an impactful moment I caught with my camera, and I was inspired to capture it with my brush.

"Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter's honour." - Ernest Hemingway

Last week, five years after putting the above inspiration to canvas, I sold my painting.

This was the first painting I ever sold, and of course, it was my favorite painting I’ve ever done. When the question of selling first came up, I was shocked. What! My painting?! Someone actually wants to BUY MY painting?! The idea excited me, it was always something I dreamed of doing, but never actually thought would happen. What would I sell it for? What would a fair price be? But most importantly: Could I part with it?

Sure, it means a lot to me, but since it was painted and displayed briefly at a gallery by my college, it has been hanging in our basement unappreciated. I realized that it was okay to let things go, even important ones like this, to create space for the bigger and better things to come. What would bring more joy than keeping the painting for myself, would be seeing something I created bring joy in someone else’s life.

Igual // Equal

Finding a price wasn’t easy. I googled “how to price a painting” but art is so subjective — you can hate a piece that sold for millions but fall head over heels over a $20 painting you bought off the street. Because of what my painting meant to me, I ended up deciding there was a price point I wouldn’t accept less than, then bumped it up expecting a counter. Maybe my number was valid, or maybe it was high, but this painting meant a lot to me and that sentiment played a role in my asking price.

My amount was accepted right away, no counter. The buyer had visited Spain to hunt the year before and got to experience the bullfight from a neat perspective – he got to meet a matador firsthand and watch him practice, from inside the ring. When he saw the painting, he was instantly brought back. “You captured the moment perfectly. I can’t wait to hang this in my office and ask people, ‘Are you the matador or the bull?’”

Revisiting my reference photos, I researched the exact bullfight I saw on May 12, 2013, at The Real Maestranza in Seville. The bulls were from Conde de la Maza. The man who's image inspired me was Matador Tomás Campos de Diego, from Llerena (Badajoz). He's my age, but had his debut in 2009 --- I can't imagine staring a bull head on at 16! It was really neat that I was able to find this info, and I put together a write-up to go with my painting.

From the beginning, I told myself that any money I made was going towards my next adventure. As I held the money in my hands, I was excited not only because of the momentous occasion, but also for the adventure that was coming.

Alex making a thinking face inside a truck with a large canvas in the background.
What to paint next?! (Also, who sells a painting to someone and is gifted a new canvas?!)

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