Artist follows father’s footsteps, sort of

He’s not much of an outdoorsman and has no talent for the blue-collar life. So out of respect for his father, mixed-media artist Matthew Hernandez feels it’s right to pay homage to the industry that paid for his upbringing.

Hernandez last week unveiled his latest work, the official poster for LAGCOE 2013, the biannual Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition that this year has 415 exhibitors and more than 14,000 expected visitors.

Hernandez also composed the 2011 poster.

Hernandez’ dad, Dale, started working as a roughneck in the industry at age 19, stayed with it and raised a family. Dale Hernandez is now a vice president of sales for an oilfield company, his son said.

“He always wanted us to do our own thing,” Hernandez said. “But it’s (oil and gas) what provided for us. It’s my tribute to him and the industry.”

Angela Cring, executive director of LAGCOE, said Hernandez was chosen to compose the poster on a board member’s recommendation.

“He has a certain amount of industry knowledge,” Cring said. “He was a good person who combined two things: The artist’s side and the industry side.”

Cring said Hernandez also is a young professional, a broad classification that LAGCOE is trying to recruit.

LAGCOE was searching for another artist after Kent Hutslar died in 2010 from complications from pneumonia. A longtime Lafayette photographer, Hutslar used his industrial photos to compose LAGCOE posters.

Hernandez said he never met Hutslar, but after seeing the artist’s work, he can feel the pressure.

“To try to work in that shadow is a big endeavor,” he said. “It keeps me on my toes.”

Hernandez said he uses oil and gas photos, a computer and his graphic design skills.

The 2013 LAGCOE poster combines photos of a fabrication yard; onshore and offshore drilling rigs; technicians at the controls of a high-tech hydraulic fracturing operation; the bright light of a welding arc; and a mold of LAGCOE Looey. Its wording stresses a global-local collaboration. In the center is a magnifying glass with the LAGCOE logo.

“I use the computer as a tool,” Hernandez said. “It’s not necessarily the end-all be-all. It depends on what the project calls for.”

Though he’s not exactly a starving artist — Hernandez works as a graphic designer at a Lafayette printing company, and his fiancée is employed — he said there’s always room for more money.

And Hernandez looks the part, with his goatee and no mustache (“I can’t grow a full beard,” he said), and a cap he calls his “hooligan hat.”

The jobs Hernandez enjoyed and the ones he was adept at were never high-paying: Barista, composing covers for music compact disks, radio.

As the official artist of LAGCOE, Hernandez does not receive payment from the organization.

But Hernandez will get a table at the Oct. 22-24 LAGCOE show at the Cajundome and Convention Center, where he can show his work to oilfield executives and others who could be clients one day.

“You’re always going to struggle,” Hernandez said. “If you’re going to work full-time as an artist you have to strugle.”

Editor’s note: The article was corrected on Aug. 19 to correct the name of the artist’s father.