His work is the kind that grips you; catches your eye and reels you in, your inner thought process slowly, articulately absorbing the expert application of each intricate layer. Hailing from Chile, artist Alvaro Tapia Hidalgo’s style is many things: bold, abstract, contemporary, and unexpected; an aesthetic he developed both naturally and instinctually, it’s one that is utterly and truly unique. While his work has long been featured in publications such as Rolling Stone, Forbes, and Wired, it’s now available in a totally new spot: his very own Threadless Artist Shop. Read on to learn more about Alvaro, and snag his work through his Artist Shop here!
Hi, Alvaro! Welcome to Artist Shops. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a graphic designer and illustrator born in Viña del Mar, Chile. After graduating from Universidad de Valparaiso, I went on to Escuela de Cine de Chile to specialize in Film Studies. Beginning in 2000, I worked as an art director for design projects, as well as both a film editor and post-producer for audiovisual projects. Since 2011, I have been working as a full-time illustrator. I have lived in Granada and Madrid, Spain, and a few months in Manchester, UK, where I started off as a professional illustrator. I’m currently based in Viña del Mar, Chile.
How did you originally get into illustration, and why did it become such an influential part of your life?
I first started working with vector drawing, and then I began to combine it with textures, watercolor, and traditional drawing until I reached a more refined technique. I started drawing characters that interested me, such as the monsters of classic
horror films, or those that I admired, like characters from popular culture. Francis Bacon has been a big influence since I was very young, and during my stay in Manchester, I discovered the portraits of L.S. Lowry, which helped me give more character to the people I illustrated. This, coupled with being very perseverant in reaching out through the Internet, enabled me to catch the attention of websites and blogs of art and creativity. I soon began to receive my first professional assignments of illustration for magazines and other media. Illustration is my main activity today; it is very rewarding to work on what you like and be recognized for it.
Your aesthetic is many things, from graphic to innovative to richly textured.
How did you work to develop it?
I think I have answered some of this in the previous question, but I can add that the development of a personal style and aesthetic is largely the result of hard work and experimentation, essentially trial and error. You need to take advantage of your background and be aware of what surrounds you. In particular, my aesthetic is based on duality: a dark interior in contrast with a bright and colorful surface. Beauty vs. grotesque, abstract vs. figurative, abstract vs. concrete, the mechanical vs. organic, etc.
In what ways has it evolved and changed over the years?
I expect that my work is constantly evolving and changing. For me it is important to experiment and explore new forms and techniques. I think my work over time has matured in terms of my use of color towards a visual synthesis of organic feeling.
What’s your typical process of creating illustrations?
I always start from an existing concrete image. Then, if it is a portrait, I focus on the visual synthesis in the drawing and define the forms, then I apply my own hand-painted watercolor textures. If it is exploration work, I never know what the final result will be. I like to manipulate the image, fragment it, multiply it, juxtapose it, and mix elements until I achieve a result that satisfies me or that works for the specific assignment.
You have such a wide range of work, from portraits, to anatomy, to animals. What’s your favorite category to illustrate and why?
The categories are defined by my interests, therefore they alll interest me in different ways. That being said, I’d highlight the Anatomy series. These are reinterpretations of illustrations of an anatomy atlas made in the 1700s and 1800s; there is something in these images that I find fascinating. They are impregnated with depictions of drama and allegorical meaning, despite being illustrations for scientific purposes.
What are some of the coolest projects you’ve been apart of to date?
There are many interesting projects of different types. In general, commissions for music album artwork are of great interest, as music allows for such creative freedom and risk. The album art for the Danish band Tako Lako is an example of this. In publishing, I am happy to work for media outlets like The New Yorker and Eight by Eight, a magazine about football with exquisite design, which has just been chosen Magazine of the Year by The Society of Publication Designers.
How did you choose your designs for your Threadless Artist Shop?
I made a selection of what, in my opinion, would be the most desirable and wearable designs.
What about your new Threadless Artist Shop excites you most?
I think it’s great to offer my artwork on quality products with the support of a brand like Threadless. It is a huge help to spread the word on my brand and sell my products without the hassle of printing and shipping logistics. It is an incredible opportunity for illustrators, designers, and artists to have their own shop to sell their products in a simple and effective way.
Any other shout-outs?
On May 9th and 10th I will be showcasing some of my works on “Illustrated 2015” at The Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London, E1 and on June 8 through June 21, the “Angry People” series will be on exhibition at the EBK gallery, 218 Pearl Street Hartford, CT.