Iván Solbes is an illustrator and designer from Madrid. But apart from that, he is also a great guy and an amazing artist. The first time I heard about him was while reading an article in El País for one of my Spanish classes, which you can find here. I was impressed by his work but also his attitude towards life. We got in touch, talked a little bit and the rest is history, as they say. The outcome is an interview that ranges from semi-philosophical to fun, and gives a bit more insight into what it means to be an artist. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
(The answers were translated form Spanish into English by yours truly, so please excuse how awkward some of the sentences may sound.)
1. How did you discover your passion for art? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do?
Ever since I was little, I always loved to draw. At my parent’s house, they gave me crayons and paper, and I spent a great deal of my leisure time drawing. For me, it was more than just a form of play. In kindergarden, we drew something every day. Same in elementary school and later on in high school. Drawing is something that has been accompanying me all my life – at one point in my life it was my toy, another time diversion, a form of catching the attention of the girls and now a profession and source of insight – a means to observe and understand the world around me.
2. What drives you day in and day out to pursue your dreams?
I haven’t really thought about this before… maybe curiosity to see what will happen to me, what fruits my work will yield, and to see if the future will be anything like I imagined it to be… I think, it mostly is the curiosity of “Let’s see what happens!” and also, arriving in 2015 to see if they really invented the flying skateboard from “Back to the Future II”.
3. How do your art projects typically come about? What does your creative process look like?
Work is the key to everything. I start with small sketches in a notebook, looking for ideas and ways to represent them. When I come across something that captures my interest, I draw a bigger and more elaborate version of it. And if I like it, I start drawing the final version with more diligence and detail, watching form and style even more. During this process, the idea transforms itself, details come and go… and sometimes I even have to start from scratch, if I arrive at a point where an idea doesn’t work or it doesn’t turn out the way I thought. It’s a process where you start with very little – a few ideas and a few pencil strokes. And then those will be joined by more ideas, more drawings; every time more concrete and elaborate.
4. What channels of distribution do you use for your art (online, galleries, etc.)?
On the one hand, I have the work that earns me a living ( or, at least, it used to before the economic crisis put an end to it). I work as a freelance illustrator for the advertising industry. My work was also published in the press and several magazines. I created a book for children and posters for theaters, concerts, festivals…
On the other hand, I have more personal works as well: A diary of drawings that I publish on facebook, serigraphs of my best drawings, commissions that I take, etc. I sell those online. There is also an online gallery that sells a serigraph that I made exclusively for them. So far, I haven’t done any individual expositions of my work in a gallery, but let’s see if I’ll get a chance to do that soon.
5. What is the most important lesson that life has taught you so far and that you would like to share with us?
How difficult! I would love to answer that question, but all that comes to my mind are phrases from self-help books: “with patience you can reach any goal”, “persevere and you’ll succeed”, “the best things in life are free”, etc. etc. They are of no use to me and if I try to come up with more, they become worse and worse. It’s better to think about life as a constant that brings you all kinds of things, all interconnected with eachother somehow. In a nutshell, if you try to isolate and describe a single one of those, you will inevitably end up with a phrase from a self-help book that you can find – along with a super cheesy picture – on tons of facebook walls.
6. What is your favorite song or book (if you have one)?
A few years ago, I read Moby Dick and loved it! Until today, I haven’t read any other book that I liked better. Before Moby Dick, my favorite book was The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh. And before that… well, I can’t remember.
A Song… “É proibido fumar” by Roberto Carlos.
7. What question would you like to be asked that no one ever asked you? Here’s your chance to answer it!
Once again, a really difficult question. I love it, when I am surprised by good questions, questions that disconcert me or that make me think about things I never even imagined. And, of course, those need to come from outside… There’s also questions like “Do you enjoy drawing whatever you like and get paid for it?”. To those I reply with a “YES!” that can even be heard in Salzburg, but they’re very obvious questions. Ask me more questions, or if you like I’ll ask YOU some questions.
Note: Iván, you didn’t want it any other way! So, here goes:
8. Name three movie star crushes that you had either as a kid or an adult:
The pretty girl from The Goonies, when I was little.
Jim Carrey, because I would like to be like him.
9. If you were a friend of Iván Solbes instead of being Iván Solbes, what would you say is the most annoying thing about him?
You want to meet with him on a Sunday afternoon to have coffee together, and when you call him to ask where he is, he’ll be taking a siesta at his parent’s house and forgot about the date. It’s not out of ill will or anything; he simply forgot.
10. Name one thing you did as a kid that you’d be furious to find out your own kids do:
Setting fire to the kitchen table. And pushing a kid off the top of the slide at the playground.
11. Name an artist that you always have to defend yourself liking and an artist that you always have to defend yourself not liking:
I love Jim Carrey. I always have to defend him, because people say he only knows how to play the idiot and pull strange faces. But when he has to play a serious role, he does it. And he does it very well.
I don’t like… hmmm… the protagonist from the Matrix. It’s not that I don’t like him – poor guy! – but he does not give me anything. He doesn’t transmit a whole lot. Like a glass of water. If Jim Carrey is fresh-squeezed fruit juice, this guy is a glass of luke-warm water.
12. What skill don’t you have that you wish you had?
I would love to be able to cook paella, sing in a swing band… and travel to Beijing in the Trans-Siberian, eating paella and playing in every little village that the train stops in. Then, I would invite all the people there to buy a ticket to eat paella; the recipe would be printed on the backside of the ticket, so they can learn how to make paella in Siberia.
Gunter Gallery: http://www.guntergallery.com