F&T: Name something you love, and why?
Drawing. The fact that you reclude into yourself to make something, all senses absorbed in a physical activity that always rewards the soul… it’s incredible that it’s also for free and so easy to do. Everyone can get paper and a pencil and it immediately changes your mood.
F&T: One staple thing in your workspace?
Probably my Pilot Parallel Pens. I discovered them about a year ago and my line is very much defined by them now. They are in fact calligraphy pens, meant to enable you to create thick and thin lines alike. But if you play at turning and moving them while making lines, they become untameable beasts. I am a fan of tools that will surprise me and that are difficult to control. My whole drawing work is based on that accident-welcoming attitude. Even when I draw digitally (on Manga Studio Pro with my Cintiq tablet,) I use brushes that mimic the lack of control or that surprise me with some kind of lack of balance and unexpected behaviour. I also use watercolours for the same reasons.
F&T: What themes do you pursue?
I seem to be fixated with urban themes. It's not a conscious choice, but maybe living in Tokyo, the most populated city in the world, has something to do with it...
I enjoy drawing people all the time, they are much harder than buildings or objects, so I keep using the unknowing models who are half sleep or chatting in the trains and cafes around Tokyo.
F&T: Any memorable responses you have had to your work?
Every single comment on Instagram moves me. The fact that people take the time and that they feel the need to comment “beautiful or “nice” - I take it as a big compliment.
As for really memorable, once I was at a comic fair holding one of my comic books I had made with friends, we called ourselves “Los Tres.” Someone came up from behind and said “Oh, Los Tres, that’s such a great comic book”… when I turned around, I was surprised that the person who knew our tiny and insignificant magazine…was one of my big heroes, Dutch Illustrator and artist, Joost Swarte. He has been a personality for decades and works regularly on New Yorker covers… you can imagine, I was more than flattered.
F&T: A real-life situation that has inspired you?
I think most things that inspire me come from real life. That’s why I kick myself in the butt often to go out and about, instead of staying comfortable at home. People I see, a sentence I hear, something that happened yesterday… They are all valid and usable. As Paul Smith said: you can find inspiration in everything*
*and if you can't, look again.
F&T: Favourite motivational phrase?
“Venid pronto mañana, que haremos cosas bonitas” by Antonio Gaudí.
It translates roughly “come early tomorrow, we will make beautiful things,” it’ seems to be what he told the workers at the end of a working day.
Also Picasso’s “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working” and "Everything you can imagine is real” these are my favourites.
F&T: Last thing you doodled?
A Mr Mendo character out of whom I am thinking of making a shirt embroidery. Mr Mendo is this alter ego of me, a bearded guy who represents me in say, 30 years time. I will be naked, with a huge long beard, begging in the streets, but happy and drawing on the pavement all the time ;)
F&T: Where do you see illustration going, in the future?
Everywhere. I think we are getting tired of photography, now that everyone takes kind-of good pictures with their devices. Photography has lost a lot of the mystery and charm it had before. Video and illustration work much better in communicating stories. Have a look when you are on the train, at how people go through their Instagram feeds. At the Speed of Light. Photography is so ubiquitous and is being consumed so fast that it's devaluating quickly.
Instead of mourning it (there’s no reason for complaint) I see that illustration makes people actually think, and look twice. The language is by definition richer and more resourceful, and in the future we will need more content to fill all those screens around us. Also, I think illustrators will come out of their boxes and mix their knowledge with other fields, so you will see illustrators that are UX designers and illustrators that are architects. These mixes will enrich content and make things nicer to look at.
F&T: Any tips for newbies on how to develop their own style?
Copy from your heroes, then work, work, work. And also draw all things that you like in life (a certain game, apple pies, your girl/boy, your fav TV show…) just draw all the time.
F&T: Whose work do you admire, past or present?
Ooof… Too many to mention. Several comic book artists like David Mazzucchelli, Javier Olivares or Joann Sfar. Then, of course classic artists like Picasso, Matisse and Schiele. Modern Art bores me generally, but I am mad about Luis Urculo because he uses drawing as a basis for everything.
Past illustrators… my absolute #1 is Robert Weaver and of course, Katsushika Hokusai.
All images belong to Luis Mendo