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Born in Barcelona, Spain, Oscar Gimenez was almost genetically forced to be an illustrator. Both his father and uncle were graphic designers/illustrators and worked at home, so he grew up in an unhealthy atmosphere of ink and paint odours, photolithographs and tight deadlines. Although he had always loved drawing, he initially refused to follow in their footsteps and went on a search for a life of stability and fresh air. However, after trying many other unfulfilling jobs and becoming a frustrated artist, he finally decided to follow the call of the blood. No regrets since then. His work is now represented in Spain, France, the UK and the USA and he´s managed to live a pretty healthy life.
When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
My father was a graphic designer and former illustrator and he worked at home. I loved staying with him overnight when he had to finish a commission always due early for the next day. Plus, I had always loved drawing. However, I saw him struggle so hard to get some sort of stability that I decided to follow a totally different and apparently more secure path. So I studied languages, started teaching and did quite a lot of travelling. But the more I taught the emptier I felt and, here comes the pivotal moment, whilst living in London I started frantically drawing again and put a portfolio together. Then I came back to Spain and soon started working for a few magazines. Since then I have managed to live off it and I often try to remind myself how lucky I am.
Who or what inspires you?
Anything I see can be a big influence to me. I look around me all the time taking mind pictures. I flick through books, surf the internet, go to exhibitions and absorb all the available information surrounding me. I do have some all time favourite artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo or Raphael, who were just real masters in more than one discipline. Generally I love artists who can really draw. I think James Jean is one our contemporary geniuses. I find his work very impressive and I´ve noticed he´s influencing a lot of artists right now.
Music has to be also a big inspiration, basically because I can´t draw a single line without it!
Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
Completely self-taught. As I mentioned on the first question, I studied languages so when I decided to become an illustrator I felt too lazy to go back to school! Sometimes I feel it´s been harder to learn things that way but I also believe that our background and our life experience is as important as our education.
How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
It´s more a need than a deliberate thing. Being a self-taught illustrator has also made me a very anxious one! I always feel I could know much more than I do, so that keeps me on my toes.
What are some of your current projects?
Right now I´m working on some big illustrated murals for a bowling alley. I´ve never worked in such big sizes so it´s pretty exciting!
I´m also doing the covers for a series of books on tourism and some t-shirt designs for a new on-line shop just about to open. I´m enjoying all projects very much probably because they require different approaches and styles.
Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
A series of illustrations I did on famous characters like Oscar Wilde, Mata Hari, Lucky Luciano and Peter Sellers. I did them for a cocktail bar where all sorts of activities take place: cinema, live music, exhibitions, etc. Apart from having total creative freedom, it was a real challenge to try and capture their essence. Check them out here http://www.oscargimenez.com/publicidad3.htm under Barcelona Rouge.
Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
There are so many things I have yet to try. I´d love to do illustrations for record/cd covers. Regarding techniques, I´d like to find the time to get my hands dirtier. I think I got to trust my computer too much.
Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?
Be constant, persevere, experiment, learn, improve yourself every day. Don´t be discouraged by refusal, criticism or if you don´t get inmediate answer to your calls! If you believe in your talent and are willing to work hard enough, your reward will come sooner or later.
What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?
It has to convey the message it was meant to convey. I believe that any piece of artistic work (illustration, painting, sculpture,...) has to speak for itself.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
Whenever I get some time off, I set myself a challenge and try new things. I either enter a competition or do some collaborative work where I can have total creative freedom. Later I apply my new found skills to my regular work.
And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
TV in Spain is dreadful. It´s all gossip and talk shows. I rent a lot of DVDs or borrow them from friends.
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