Rafael Varela was born in 1955 in the department of Santa Ana, El Salvador. From an early age, he learned to draw and paint while observing his father, who made portraits. From 1974 to 1976, he completed his artistic training at the National Center for the Arts (CENAR). The representation of the human figure has been very important in the work of Varela, who has leaned towards the Creole types, who are depicted very naturally, in scenes where the incidence of light on surfaces and surfaces play an important role. He is drawn to compositions that generate a certain touch of mystery. Among his frequent representations are childhood, boats, labyrinths, pieces of furniture and fruits that are realistically cut, making use of flat and semi-abstract backgrounds. His work includes acrylic paint on canvas and drawings in graphite or charcoal on paper.
Recognized as one of the master realists of Latin America, Varela has celebrated solo exhibitions in Costa Rica, El Salvador and the United States. Additionally, he has participated in collective group shows in Central America, the Dominican Republic, the United States and Spain. His work forms part of several important public collections such as the The Vatican (Rome), The White House Collection in Washington D.C , Presidential House of El Salvador ,as well as private collections in Central America, the United States, Europe and Japan.