There is no life apart from Earth
June 11, 2011
Gabriel Moreno is an illustrator, engraver, and painter based in Madrid. After graduating from the University of Sevilla in fine arts in 1998, he worked in various graphic design studios and advertising agencies in Andalusia. Gabriel moved to Madrid in 2004 taking up a career in illustration. In June 2007 he was recognized as one of the top 20 talented illustrators by Computer Arts magazine.
Gabriel has worked with a wide range of advertising agencies, both in and outside of Spain. He is creating illustrations for big brands, including Nike, Coca-Cola, Marlboro, and prestigious periodicals such as the L.A. Times Magazine, Wall Street Journal, and Rolling Stone. In September 2010 Gabriel teamed up with Bang! Bang! Studio, who now represent him in Russia.
How would you describe yourself in five words?
Lazy and apathetic, but a passionate, hard worker when drawing.
Is there something that can upset you?
Ignorance and people's inability to stay quiet. There is a saying in Spanish along the lines of “Ignorance is very daring”.
Do you have a dream?
I don’t. It came true 4 years ago when I became an illustrator. Now I can just carry on enjoying creating things, whatever they may be, until the day I die. And I hope that day is about 200 years away.
Has art been a big part of your life since you were a kid?
As a kid I always loved drawing, but I had never thought I could make a living doing that. I remember once, when in high school, we got in trouble for drawing on the desks. They called our parents to come and see the damage. It was funny, because my mother and other parents would actually stop to look at the drawings, asking if they were mine, as they really liked them. I believe positive childhood experiences can lead to motivation later in life. It isn’t true that as you grow older, your dreams appear childish and are doomed. I’m a fortunate man to have made a career out of something that has been making me happy ever since I was little.
What is your average working day like?
Regardless of whether it is a digital or hardcopy illustration I’m doing, my working day is pretty fairly routine. I arrive at the studio, put on my headphones, turn on some music or the radio, and draw and paint non-stop. I eat in front of my computer to save time, so I can get home in time to see my children before they go to sleep. It's a very important thing in my professional life that I see my children.
Describe your process of creating a new piece.
I think of something and begin looking for references: a pose I like, some detail, a mouth, a face. And when I get a new commission I can use on photographs or, most often, my own shots due to copyright issues. I’ve always included my girlfriend, my friends, my cat. Whatever it is, I always create a composition using my computer first, and then draw it.
You do freehand drawings on paper. How much time does it take you to complete an illustration?
Three or four days, once the sketch is approved, but this varies, of course. Everyone thinks drawing by hand is very time-consuming, but quite the contrary—it would take me much longer to create an eye in Photoshop than using a pencil.
How would you describe your illustration style?
It’s based on traditional methods, yet with a modern-day focus. I always try to achieve meticulous precision and a strongly expressive look, in terms of both composition and linework.
Are your characters real or fictional?
They are all very real. I work in a realistic manner, so I can’t do without at least some reference. Nonetheless, I always perform some “plastic surgery” in the beginning to make the image better and impossible to recognize.
What inspires your creativity?
I enjoy looking at women and drawing or painting them, however superficial or profound this might seem. There are some things that have become inherent, like an image I’ve recently seen in the news, or a woman’s neck, or her mouth... I cannot reflect on this first part of my work, only on the final one. It’s that simple. Sensuality and beauty for me have synaesthetic, inherent qualities. It’s almost damaging, a kind of way to possess, make things mine in a different form.
What is the difference between an artist and an illustrator?
An illustrator is craftsman, who commissions works to eventually help sales of soft drinks or cars. An artist is someone with a higher mission of delivering a message to the world, whose work has an artistic concept behind it, and is never meant to advertise some facial treatment.
Where does the boundary lie between commercial illustration and art?
It's not easy to draw one. Perhaps 500 years later, when illustration is no longer a tool for generating sales, and only creativity and expression remain, there won't be a boundary at all.
What artists inspire you?
Egon Schiele, Edward Munch, Hope Gangloff, Alex Trochut. There are thousands of them. I used to know very little about illustration when I started my career, but now I can’t imagine being ignorant, not being able to name just a few.
Are there any trends in illustration?
I think it's impossible to say today, when everything and everyone is interconnected thanks to globalization and communication technologies. The number of trends and styles is increasing exponentially, so it’s very difficult to sum up.
In what country are things going best with commercial illustration?
The US, and it has always been. It’s the centre of consumerism and capitalism, that is to say the centre of advertising, and advertising is what sustains the illustration industry. Advertising is what allows 90% of illustrators to live off our marvelous job.
How is the illustration industry doing in Spain?
It’s a good market. However, the economic crisis has hit very hard and the country is still held back by lack of funds. In the past, illustration-based outdoor advertising campaigns were very common. I hope the good times will return.
What was your first commercial work?
It was a project for the Spanish radio station RadiOlé, commissioned through a large advertising agency called Shackleton, in 2007. It coincided with my first summer in New York, when I'd only been showing my portfolio around for a month. I was already 34, a rather late age to start a career in the industry, but getting my first commission while in Manhattan really felt like touching the sky.
Who would you say is your favorite client?
I don't have one. Clients vary as much as their marketing departments. However, with big brands like Nike and Coca-Cola, the project are often, although not always, very creative and more exciting.
Could you please tell us a little bit about your Vögele Shoes project?
It was a project with a very original idea, a combination of illustration and photography. It started out well, the shots were made in Switzerland, and there seemed no reason why the project shouldn’t have turned out fine, but in this case it wasn’t a complete success. If was done properly, but it could have been much better. We had a second go at it and that time took charge of the entire production, photography and illustration — you can check out the results online. It is often a good idea to consult the illustrator about the best way to produce the project — this can solve many problems.
What kind of projects do you enjoy most?
I like projects that allow a lot of creative freedom, but also receive wide media coverage. My works are not meant for me alone, but for everyone to see.
What is your dream project? Would you like to illustrate a book/article/story/idea, etc.?
There are so many things that I'd like to see completed in my lifetime that I wouldn't know where to start. I love films — I haven’t had the chance yet, but I would certainly love to create an image of a great movie. But what would be really exciting is something I described in my answer to the previous question, like a large-scale illustration to cover the entire Times Square Building.
Just a coincidence. I met my future wife, who is from Madrid, at the beach. I was incredibly lucky to find myself living with a wonderful person in the very center of Spain’s advertising industry. At first, it took a lot of effort to adapt. Originally from Baena, a small Andalusian town, I eventually felt at home in Madrid and saw it as a good place to live. It's huge, but has nice people.
Is your limited edition popular in Europe?
If you're referring to my works, they're selling very well in Europe, and I receive requests from America too. Limited editions have emotional value—people appreciate an opportunity to possess something that only a few others in the world have. This effect is multiplied with the original, an authentic piece of art history, with some magic if you wish.
How often do people buy your original works?
So far this year I haven't been able to focus on my artistic work — advertising campaigns leave little time for this. But I've decided that it's worth the extra effort, and these new commissioned pieces I'm currently working on, and the ones I've done at the beginning of the year are going well, and I've already sold as many as during the last year.
Do you consider your latest exhibition in France a success?
It was scheduled to start just a few days before my daughter Carmela was born. I couldn’t attend the opening, but Caroline, the owner of the gallery, shared her nice sentiments with me, saying it was a success and that the people had really appreciated my works. Many pieces were sold too, so I have good reasons to believe her.
What kind of audience would you like to see at your exhibition?
I’d be glad to see all kinds of people, those with creative background and approach, as well as someone who doesn't have a deep understanding but feels moved by what I do. And anyone who wouldn’t know how to give me a good critique is also most welcome.
What’s your image of Russia?
A very cold country with warm-hearted people that has seen great changes over recent years. It must have a great pool of creativity and ideas ready to explode. I think of Russia as a land of many contrasts.
What celebrities or public figures would like to meet over a cup of coffee?
I could name many. Al Pacino, Obama, Sarah Palin...
Do you believe there’s life on Mars?
Yes, Sarah Palin. It's unlikely that Mars is inhabited, but it would be unreasonable to think none of the planets are.
What piece of advice would you give to a beginning illustrator?
Don’t believe those who say that it’s hard to make a living doing illustration. It may well be their case, but it doesn’t have to be yours. Always think big and make sure to be self-critical, otherwise there’s nothing in it for you.
Would you quit if you were offered a hundred million dollars?
No, I'd rather earn that much by creating something. It would be much more fun.
Gabriel Moreno's portfolio