By Diego Gisbert Llorens.
Pablo and I met roughly a couple of years ago, while waiting for yet another talk to start during Trojan Horse was a Unicorn; he shyly asked me for a quick look at his portfolio and asked, with a voice full of dreams and hopes, if I thought he could get a job in the industry with that work. As a reply, after the first few images, I told him: “you gotta be kidding me”. In the last couple of years, Pablo has gone a long, long way, creating tutorials and covers for several magazines, landing some serious freelance commissions for top-notch studios and sharing part of his knowledge teaching some students in Madrid, where he currently resides.
Hello Pablo, and thanks for the wonderful cover. What inspired you for this particular piece?
Thanks a lot! When Spiridon asked me to do it I just couldn’t say no. I was busy during those days wrapping up some works and planning the following weeks very carefully, with THU and Playgrounds Festival very close and moving to Barcelona for a full time contract position in between. Suddenly, in the middle of this madness, Spiro appeared saying “let’s make a full four-pages-long cover in A4!”. And of course I said yes, because it’s said that you only live once. Since the beginning Spiridon had in mind the idea of representing how it looks to start a career as a freelance in this industry. He had this vision of people facing the edge of a cliff, some totally decided to jump to the unknown and others still hesitant and scared about it. The main inspiration for this piece, as you can imagine, is David Friedrich’s Wanderer above the Sea of Fog; this artwork always captivated me, and I thought this was a good chance to do some kind of tribute to it, since the mood and feeling that this piece transmits is very close to what one can feel when starting a journey like this. On the other hand, I’m a big fan of American western painters, so I took Mark Maggiori’s work as an inspiration for those epic clouds that rule the composition.
As I mentioned in the introduction of this article, not too long ago you were not even sure to make into the industry. What was your breakthrough? When did it happen?
I remember perfectly that moment that you mentioned at the introduction. I was sitting on your left thinking “damn, this guy works for Games Workshop, this stuff really happens.” I was raised painting Warhammer everyday since I was around ten, it was my main hobby, so meeting you was like a milestone for me in my journey. You were the physical answer to the question: can you really reach the goal to work for this companies? Before THU 2015 I was already working doing small commissions for particulars, logos, portraits… nothing solid or with future. I was already applying to a lot of companies, sending mails to websites and trying to contact people through Facebook and other sites. The answer was always “not good enough”, “not experienced enough” or nothing directly. I was lost and depressed, not seeing the way to get that experience and how to improve my art. After that event, I went back home and took several decisions that would change my habits, goals, and objectives. One of them, the most important, was to understand that I needed to improve in the hard way, by painting everyday 8 hours at least. Sometimes we need to know our place and be honest with ourselves, and realize that to build a house you first need to have a solid terrain. The second thing I did was investing my money in trips and events where I could meet people, and develop my skills talking and making contacts. Two months later, I got my first gig for ImagineFX making some tutorials, and after that everything started flowing.
You seem to have an eye for simple but majestic compositions; where do you draw your inspiration from?
I always thought that composition is the most important thing on a painting. If you can’t make someone get stuck in your piece and make him or her travel through it, you have lost. I spent five years studying Fine Arts and one of my favorite subjects was Art History. I learned and read a lot about how to analyze paintings, sculptures and architecture, and that made me understand how pieces work, their context, their story… it’s always important to have a big amount of sources to find inspiration, and if they are classic artists, even better. It’s hard to build a good eye for composition or for ideas just by playing a couple of viral video games and watching blockbuster movies. In movies, one of my main inspirations is Sergio Leone. If I had to choose a painter, I would probably say Rembrandt or Velazquez.
Ah, don’t be shy now. I know you have a little music band. Tell us a bit about it.
Actually I had it. I used to play in several bands for around ten years, from Indie Rock to Metalcore. My last band (the Metalcore one) was actually starting to take off in a really professional way during the last three years. We recorded an album and started giving concerts around Spain. However, leaving the band to focus on art was one of the decisions that I took two years ago to be where I am right now. Music was my other passion since I was a teenager, and I spent a lot of time on it and on my bands. But one day I understood that my path was going in the direction of painting, not playing music for a living, so I had to leave it as a small hobby. I still play alone at home and sometimes with friends, but not anymore in a serious way. Before 2015 I was rehearsing around four days a week, at night, even out of my city, taking the car every night for a couple of hours to play… that had to stop at some point; it was time I was not painting!
There is a bit of controversy with the issue of using 3D and photobashing to create original artwork, and especially younger artists seem sometimes hesitant to use this in their pieces. What are your thoughts on the matter?
I think that in a production pipeline for films or video games you basically need it. Normally the producer or the director don’t know anything about painting, and if you don’t deliver a product that is 100% photorealistic they will not understand what you are trying to show. Even for the first sketches, normally they will ask you to reach a level of detail and a number of variations on a day that are impossible to do just painting. If you are doing pitch work for the preproduction of a Hollywood blockbuster and you have to design a keyframe in three hours, the director will want to see four or five iterations, and understand all of them as something that could be shown on a screen. A very different thing is to base your knowledge about art on photobashing and 3D. You need to learn drawing, perspective and color to make your work stand out and have a meaning. As I said previously, it is important to have a base of knowledge in different fields to make your skills grow in the right direction.
Despite the good quality of your work and having some interesting contacts, I think it took you a while to start getting regular commissions for good projects. It probably felt like an eternity to you, even though it was not too long ago. A word of advice for those who are probably going through a similar period?
Keep calm and keep working. Sounds cheesy but it's everything you have to do. I had the luck to have supportive parents that gave me a place to live while I was starting my career, and that’s something I don’t take for granted. I bought my first Wacom Tablet at the end of 2011, and got my first “real” job in the industry four years later. I have to admit that I didn’t spend four years working everyday, that’s something I only did by the beginning of 2015 (before I was finishing my studies, playing with my band and basically being a bit lost). Actually, 2015 and half of 2016 was a transition time for me. It was a year and a half that I spent basically working at home on my own portfolio. In the meantime I had some gigs from books and magazines, but nothing from film or video games companies. So I set myself the goal of posting at least one piece per week, and be productive as hell. So I painted, and painted, and posted work online, and painted, and talked to people… and around the end of the summer last year, I got a mail from Ubisoft. I didn’t look out for it, it just happened. I was not applying at websites anymore. A month later, MPC called me, and then another company, and another… and all started growing super fast. I just can say that everything is exponential if you work to make things happen. If your position is not that lucky and you have to pay the rent, taxes, have kids to take care of, etc. just analyze your situation, try to avoid loosing time in stuff that steals energy from you and take advantage of every second to improve and keep evolving in your journey. It will take more time, but it will happen.
What are your professional expectations for the future? Freelance life, or perhaps a good studio? Art direction, maybe?
I had the chance to visit Riot in LA and their projects and the facility just made me loose my mind. Naughty Dog, Bioware, MPC, Disney… there are lots of cool places I would like to have the chance to work at in the future. It is true that working as a freelancer gives you a lot of freedom (sometimes) and lets you organize your life in your own way (sometimes), but being part of a “family” inside of a studio, with different people fighting to make a product be a reality must be a very constructive experience. I would also like to try art direction one day, but that’s still something I want to keep for a distant future.
Since most of your recent work is still under NDA, tell us a bit about your personal projects.
It’s super frustrating to be here talking without being able to telling you about what I’m really doing right now! Sadly, every project I started will not be released at least until the end of 2018, so I can’t tell you anything. In fact, I even have an NDA that doesn’t let me talk about the name of one of the companies I’m working for! The only thing I can say is that I cannot be happier and more excited for the next months to come, there are some cool projects waiting for me. Now that I have work as a freelancer in a regular way I almost don’t have time for personal projects, but it is true that I’m still focusing my portfolio in finding a job inhouse in some of the studios. So I’m always trying to find time and do personal paintings to drop them on social media and keep my contacts active. I’m also starting to work as a teacher for CGMA with students around the world, and it is really exciting and challenging to teach and learn from them at the same time. Hopefully in the next years I’ll keep doing this and giving more talks, since I really enjoy motivating people and helping beginners to find a way to start their own careers.
Check out the full interview in the Firestarter Community Magazine #2
Full-time graphic designer and publisher with over 11 years of experience in print design. His passions are books, magazines and everything connected to them, including crafting these in his workshop.