Art an unrelenting passion for Wilmette’s Pablo Warren
Walking a circle around Pablo Warren’s apartment is appropriate. By doing so, you are mimicking the path of his art journey.
Much of Warren’s artwork, which adorns the home’s walls, was inspired by his travels around the world. And much of that travel was funded by sales from his artwork.
“I was pretty successful I’d say,” Warren said. “Whatever money we got from painting, we’d travel throughout the world. It was a source of ideas for me.”
At 94 years old, Warren has stopped traveling worldwide, but his art career is still quite active. A resident of Mather Place, an independent living community for seniors in Wilmette, Warren takes advantage of the facility’s Open Art Studio, while exhibiting his work at art galleries in Evanston and Lake Forest.
He also still volunteers at the Evanston gallery. It’s the least he can do for a craft he said saved his life in the wake of his wife Evelyn’s death.
“When she passed away, I was all alone,” he said. “If it weren’t for the art, I don’t know what I would have done. I was in the studio for hours and hours and hours.”
Warren’s passion for the craft is a far cry from where it all began.
Warren was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and his first artistic memory is when he drew his father and his father’s friends playing cards.
“I just drew them, and they were excited,” he said.
In his early 20s, Warren immigrated to the United States and was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1950. With an infantry unit in Korea, Warren was on the front lines, and his art took its next evolution.
“You get bored sometimes when there is no action,” he said. “I would pick up pieces of wood and started doing little faces, whatever I could.”
In 1952, Warren was back stateside and began taking collegiate courses, eventually graduating from Roosevelt University with a degree in marketing and advertising.
A career in advertising allowed Warren to stay close to art; though, not as close as he liked.
When the Warrens had the first of two children, he said he got out of the advertising game in the hopes of earning a higher paycheck — and once again creating art.
Warren’s art became a serious hobby, and it evolved. Warren, who is self-taught, began making three-dimensional, mixed-media pieces, using clay sculptures to draw out subjects of a painting.
In the 1980s, Warren was pushed to join the Skokie Art League. Within no time, he was hosting an exhibit. A man approached Warren at the exhibit about a painting featuring Moses holding the 10 Commandments.
“He was with a little girl and the father said (to her), ‘Is that picture you want?’ And asked me, ‘How much is it?’” Warren retold. “Well, I didn’t know what to charge. I gave a price, very reasonable. He took out money and paid me, and then I cried. I felt a piece of me was gone.”
Warren’s work gained steam. His exhibits and sales grew, and he and Evelyn took more trips.
The trips led to more unique and compelling artwork, and the cycle continued for years.
Warren moved into Mather in June. He is one of about a dozen residents who regularly visit Mather’s Open Art Studio, which hosts group sessions, open hours and one-on-one work all under the tutelage of Emily MacArthur.
His apartment features some of his favorite pieces. They are not for sale. Enticing aromas from the kitchen also are found in the home. Warren, an accomplished cook, is quick to offer a warm empanada or slice of cake.
Earlier this year, Warren was diagnosed with cancer. He said he got lucky doctors caught it, and credits fellow Mather resident and close friend Estelle Schlessinger for calling paramedics on a day he did not feel well.
The treatments have kept Warren away from working out with his son and limited his volunteer hours. It is a challenge, but he’s taking it on, with help from his lifesavers: Estelle, his six grandchildren and, of course, his art.
“Once I start working on something, nothing bothers me,” he said. “I’m focused on what I’m doing and have no problems in the world. It’s wonderful.”
The Record is a nonprofit, nonpartisan community newsroom that relies on reader support to fuel its independent local journalism.
Subscribe to The Record to fund responsible news coverage for your community.
Already a subscriber? You can make a tax-deductible donation at any time.
Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319