There are hundreds, if not thousands, of talented people who have paid tribute to Selena Quintanilla with their artwork. They create pieces to honor the iconic Tejano queen and receive praises from the loyal Quintanilla fanbase — and lucky for us, we got to connect with an artist whose work got the seal of approval from the legendary Quintanilla familia. And yes, he got to meet them too.
Robert A. Delgadillo is a Mexican-Chilean pop artist/illustrator who has been making art his entire life.
Delgadillo had a natural gravitation towards the arts, and although he had the unwavering support from his mother to pursue a creative field, his father was against having an artist for a son.
"It was a combination of the machismo thing and art being foreign to him.
Seeing my natural ability to draw as a kid really upset him and people’s
positive response to my art only made things worse — I spent my childhood and
teen years drawing in secret. I would sketch really late at night when he was
asleep and then throw the drawings away before morning to avoid getting in
trouble," he told Vivala.
To add salt to the wound, a professor told him he was "never going to make it in the art world." Although he was discouraged, that didn't stop him from pursuing art as a career in his twenties, and officially began working commercially as an artist in 2005.
One quick scan through his artwork and you'll realize that most of his pieces have one thing in common: women.
The 45-year-old illustrator draws inspiration from his female role models as a kid — his mother, grandmothers, and tias. "They were hardworking, strong, and beautiful. I admired that about them and if you take a close look at my work, all the female celebs I draw embody those qualities as well," he said.
There is one stipulation in his creative process: He only draws people who he feels a connection to.
As he was born in the same year as Selena, he feels a special bond with her — beyond her music — which is why he's drawn her multiple times.
"Selena is very present in my heart."
It's not like he decided to draw La Reina overnight, either. Any piece can take him a couple of hours to a couple of months — and it always starts with a pencil and paper. He sketches his masterpiece, scans it to his computer, and uses a digital software program to make it look polished. Later he "embellishes" the prints with paint, ink, glitter, and other mediums.
He told Vivala that he had been sketching images of her for years, but didn't feel like he was doing her justice.
When the piece finally felt right, he shared it on his Instagram and the response was overwhelmingly positive. He explained, "The other drawings of her started to flow, it felt very organic. I got to spend some time in San Antonio and my connection to her felt so strong, it literally would give me goose bumps as I would be sketching and listening to her music late at night."
It's as if the Selena stars aligned for him, because what happened next in his life is an experience he'll never forget — Delgadillo met Selena's sister, Suzette, in person.
While he was in Texas, he became friends with Suzette's makeup artist, Jennifer Hernandez.
Hernandez decided to give him a tour at the Selena Museum since it was his first time visiting and she had the biggest surprise waiting for him.
"Suzette and Mrs. Quintanilla (Marcella, Selena’s mother) came up behind me to surprise me. I turned around and had this deer-in-the-headlights look when I saw them. They both laughed at my startled response," he recalled.
That same day he also met Selena's father, Abraham, who gave him a private tour of the museum and production studio.
The warmth he received from the Quintanilla family is the same love Selena fans have given him.
"Selena’s fans are amazing and so respectful. I have to say that Like attracts Like. At the end of the day we are all united by this love and appreciation for Selena. You could feel this good energy at Fiesta de la Flor, people singing her songs and contagious good vibes in the air."
Naturally, he says that his Selena pieces are some of his favorite works of art and he's going to continue drawing her in his up-and-coming series that pays homage to iconic figures in his culture.
He said that he's going to be working on a "Latin Icon Collection" that will feature more Selena, and will also include Celia
Cruz, Thalia, Shakira, and Maluma.
"I feel that now more than ever it’s important to take pride in my
heritage. My parents from an early age made sure that we preserved our culture
and traditions in our family," he said. "My grandma, my mom’s mother, was from Chile. She didn’t speak English
and I spent a great deal of my childhood with her while my parents worked
during the day, so I grew up watching telenovelas, news and all-Spanish programming.
My cultural background is very present in my art."
It's clear that being a Latino artist has influenced his breadth of work and fueled his imagination.
And his creations are absolutely breathtaking.
With an impressive client list that includes Warner Bros. and The Art Institutes, it's safe to say listening to his heart has paid off.