After moving from Peru as a child, artist Sebastian Gomez de la Torre felt immense pressure to assimilate quickly into American culture. Masking and suppressing his Hispanic roots for much of his childhood left the artist yearning to reconnect with that identity as an adult. The self-professed “big Texas gay” has been on a journey of self-acceptance that ultimately landed him in Montrose, where he is showing his Hispanic pride with his latest project, an illustrated children’s book titled Pancho & the Inca Poncho.
The laid-back creative is an open book when discussing his personal and professional life. When asked how he identifies, he responds, “I am 30 years old, and a 6 on the Kinsey Scale,” followed by laughter. Gomez de la Torre was admittedly not always out and proud. In fact, it wasn’t until leaving Houston for college that he felt comfortable coming out.
“I moved from Peru to Miami when I was 11 years old, and then from Miami to Conroe,” explains the nomad. While living in the Houston suburb, a serendipitous encounter initiated his career as an artist. “We had a recruiter come to College Park High School, and that’s how I learned about the College for Creative Studies in Detroit,” he recalls. He applied, got accepted, and made the leap to Michigan. The move proved formative for the artist, both personally and professionally. “On a personal level it was great because I was able to get out, and I learned a lot,” the easygoing 30-year-old emphasizes. “I would say that for me, art school was 10 percent knowledge and 90 percent practice. I think no matter where you go to school, it’s really about how much you put into it.”
While in college, Gomez de la Torre took a major step in shedding years of cultural suppression and pressures by coming out to his friends and family. “My family is very Catholic, so coming out was definitely difficult,” he admits. “Coming out to my friends in college was a lot easier. Hispanic culture is very macho, and I don’t think homosexuality is as mainstream in Hispanic culture as it is in America.”
In 2010, the out artist’s professional career got a major boost. “There’s a website called Threadless that sells T-shirts, and you can submit designs to be produced by that company,” he says with childlike excitement recalling his big break. “The community votes, and if your design goes through you get a commission of $2,000 and an additional $500 in store credit. Being a college student, that amount might as well have been $1 million.”
That T-shirt project landed the artist several new clients, and it still does to this day. “People will see that design and it’s still linked to me, so they will reach out.” After graduating college, Gomez de la Torre moved to Montrose, knowing it was gay-friendly and rich with opportunity.
The artist emphasizes the importance of balancing his professional and personal art practices. “To me, personal work is something that is uncommissioned and I have full control over. It’s not for anyone else.” When asked what his inspiration is for his personal work, he says plainly, “Hot dudes.” He admits there is a little manifestation at play as he creates. “I think I’ve always had an admiration for that Hercules type [that you see in] Greek sculptures, or the big, beefy dudes from classical paintings and art. I remember this article about a woman who painted her dream man, and she eventually married someone that looked like him. There’s a little bit of fantasy there.”
Today, the proud Hispanic artist is living his authentic life in the gayest neighborhood in Houston. And his latest children’s book project was inspired by his own journey to self-acceptance and self-realization. “I was awarded a grant from the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance,” he explains with a tone of gratefulness. “I submitted my children’s book, which is about having cultural pride. As an immigrant growing up in America, I hid that part of myself to assimilate. The idea behind this book is that it’s okay to be from where you are, and not feel the need to get rid of [your heritage].”
With a plethora of clients under his belt, the sky’s the limit for Gomez de la Torre. Staying true to his practice, the talented Peruvian outlines his artistic goals while offering advice to the next generation of artists. “I do hope to one day publish a full-length graphic novel. I’m very fortunate that I’ve reached a point in my self-employment where I can work at my own pace. As an artist, having the ability to do personal work while still being able to support myself is really important.”
For more information on Sebastian Gomez de la Torre, visit illseabass.com.
This article appears in the September 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.