Art and Cigars an exquisite combination
By: Ilsa Rodríguez, Photos by José Tito Meriño and the author
Known as the Tobacco Painter, Milton Bernal Castro is an artist, artisan, journalist, communicator and excellent conversationalist, who gained recognition thanks to a peculiar technique: he fastens leaves of the best cigar in the world to his oil paintings.
His technique is very distinct as well. He first sketches the desired image with charcoal on recycled paper, determining where he will place the tobacco leaves. The leaves he uses are initially chosen for the world’s most famous cigars, but are rejected at the last moment for minor imperfections.
Thus his art is non-abusive as he uses recycled paper and the leaves are not of use to the industry. In conversation with Cubaplus, Bernal Castro explained that, after completing his preparations, he flattens tobacco leaves encrusted on dampened paper onto a canvas with a press. With the leaves now in the right spot, he dries them in the sun and, when completely sun dried, he separates the paper from the canvas and begins the painting process.
Besides being a self-taught artist, Bernal Castro is also an industrial designer, a journalism graduate from the University of Havana specialized in social communication, and a graduate of the Higher School of Marketing Studies. He is a member of the Visual Arts Development Centre, the National Association of Publicists and Advertisers and the Association of Artisans and Artists, all of them Cuban institutions. He is also a member of Barcelona’s International Federation of Artists and of the French Artlive Internacional, among others.
His beautiful paintings have appeared in some hundred exhibits in the world and center on the feminine nude and personalities. One of the special places reserved for this artist each year is the International Habanos (Cigar) Festival celebrated in Havana and which closes with an art auction.
Paintings by Bernal Castro have been selected for the auction of the Habanos Festival on four occasions (2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009). Those paintings were donated and the auction money was destined for Cuban public health.
For the upcoming edition of the festival, the artist has prepared a painting giving homage to Cuban singer-composer Joseíto Fernández. He was immortalized through his famous song Guantanamera, which was later popularized by US singer Pete Seeger with the poetry of Cuban National Hero Jose Martí.