26 Apr 2016
The interview we are bringing today is one very special to us.Miedo 12 (or Emilio, as some insist to call him) is a good friend and PRO customer of Drawfolio, but also a graphic art titan in and outside the street walls and one of the creatives native to Valencia that we admire the most. As you will see, the interview resulted quite juicy as Emilio won't hesitate to express his strong opinions about art and graffiti.
Tell us a bit about yourself: How did the road began for you to become a graffiti writer, and later a designer and illustrator?
If I would have to use two words to describe it, they would be: changes and ignorance. I began with graffiti (or grafiti, as the academics say) on 1998, a lot later than many of my friends. It was a sum of many factors: my friends were into it, I lived near the spray paint shop, and my neighborhood was full of very worked graffiti pieces. I tried it one day and I haven't stopped ever since.
My first motivation to do it was a bit shallow: I wanted to be cool and accepted among my peers. But that motivation changed fast to one of personal improvement. In the next years, I was very lucky to me a member of one of the most famous Milan graffiti crews (Bn crew), which also run a yearly event with the best graffiti writers in Europe. That gave me a big chance to learn and see different perspectives on graffiti beyond the one that was being made in my city.
But I kind of lost some opportunities to make a living from it, because of listening too much to what my family or friends said. That's why I studied Industrial Design and got into graphic design. I also worked on some 3D modelling and made some concept art for video game studios. But I was never totally fulfilled with this things.
On 2010 I was drawing a lot, but everything I made was focused towards graffiti. My family and friends saw it as a waste of time, and that took a toll on me. But one day, I attended to a comic workshop, and that opened my eyes. Drawing whatever I wanted without limitations and outside judgement made me feel good, and I began drawing non-stop.
I started getting work on illustration and graphic design campaigns (which had a lot of illustration anyway), and I really enjoyed that. At that time, I worked making furniture blueprints, a job that was not creative at all.
So I decided to move on doing what I really enjoy, and I left my job to work fully on illustration and graffiti.
Lots of people confuse the boundaries between street art and graffiti. Could you explain the difference to us?
I'm glad you ask that question. Being over-simplistic, the main difference is that lettering is core to graffiti, while sending a message is the main purpose of street-art.
There's a lot of nuances to this. On the social aspect, graffiti is made for other graffiti writers. There are a lot of style and execution rules. Constrained by this rules, a graffiti writer must find a unique style, mainly through graffiti lettering. There is a diversity of styles for a graffiti piece: from wildstyle, to trash. Graffiti writers look to style and de-construct letters, influenced by traditional calligraphy, comic-books aesthetics, or any element that can make themselves unique.
Technique has also a core role: The more techniques used, the more difficult the piece is to make, and more relevant for other graffiti writers. Also, the use of spray paint during all the process is a must. Brushes or stencils are frowned upon, because it's seen as anti-craft and removes the uniqueness that graffiti aspires to.
Figurative art and characters are always secondary in graffiti, and work as a complement. Of course, there are exceptions to this: there are graffiti artists that will focus on making figurative art and characters using graffiti techniques. But spray is not like a brush, it's not a compact point, and has its own set of techniques.
The only thing that street art and grafitii have in common is their main showing media: the street. So, in street art everything is allowed with the aim to communicate: brushes, posters, stencils, etc. There is no special focus on spray paint, and message rules over technique and self-improving. Also, in street art there is no real focus on volume or perspectives. About the size of the pieces, there's also some myth about it: there were already some full building facades painted on spray in Germany or USA in the 90s. And there are a lot of graffiti writers that still make full building facades, like DAIM or PEETA.
When talking about this, we've got to understand that the mass public likes what they understand. But you can't call it graffiti only because you didn't use figurative art or stencils. Technique always rules over message. Also, the bombing side of graffiti (the tags) have a marketing purpose: it's sort of a game between graffiti writers to "rule" over the city, and does not seek the attention of the mass public. Train painting is the same sort of competition between graffiti writers for quantity and quality, with the same set of rules I explained before.
Graffiti borns from teens and socially excluded collectives, and that makes it a closed circle only enjoyed by the ones into it or the ones who invest time in understanding it. It's not really a market product, and that makes some graffiti writers to dislike street-art. The objectives are sort of opossed, and the public reaction is, too. People tend to like more what they can understand. Also, making yourself a name into graffiti is very tough, as it is based on competition and open rivalry.
Where do you find inspiration for your work, and how do you melt your sources of inspiration to create a unique style like yours?
I was really influenced by 90s american comic-books like Savage Dragon, Spawn, etc. Anime and classic graffiti also have a lot of inluence on me. Nowadays, I'm very influenced by art-noveau and cinema. My purpose is to transmit something different when you look to a piece, to go beyond that first impression.
Who are the artists and graffiti writers that influence you the most??
On Art, I would say Alphonse Mucha and Audrey Kawasaki. On comic, Todd MacFarlane and Humberto Ramos.
On graffiti: MODE2, MORSE , BOOST , BONZAI , CES and WOW.
You work a lot abroad, how is working in another countries different from working in Spain?
Landscape and food aside, in the social side we always get everything late in Spain, and a bit distorted on art & music. On working dynamics, the mediterranean countries are very similar, and the nordic ones are more professional, but less permissive.
Aside from graffiti, you also work as freelance designer and illustrator. What qualities does a client and project need to have for you to feel comfortable and motivated?
I think it' a matter of the nature of the work. For example: I love surf, and recently I made a poster design for a surf company in Mexico. It took me a while, because usually my style is very agressive. Actually, people in Spain didn't like it too much, but they were crazy about it in Mexico.
Maybe it's not a matter of creative freedom, which can become a problem itself sometimes: it's more a matter of the client having a clear idea of what they want to transmit, and that my work is a good fit on that. I love doing illustration for chopper motorbike workshops, but also for children books or for graffiti shops. Graphic and editorial work, I don't love that much. But it's usually fast and pays the bills. In my last job, I had to make a lot of furniture catalogues, and it was torture for me.
What good (and bad) things do you feel the Internet and the new technologies have brought to your field?
For me, there's only good things. Because of my situation and what I do, I don't have that much room for work here in Spain. Actually, all the work I do is for countries abroad: Guinea, Mexico, USA or Germany. Internet is my mean of living.
In my own view, there are four big types of clients. There is the client who does't value your work, always tries to down prices, and does not think much of creative skills (but will pay loads of moneys to a plumber). The second would be the ones who value design, but are too influenced by the current fashion and design trends or media. The third one are self-made businessmen, that don't have too much knowledge about design and creativity, but have big money to spend. And the fourth group would be the kind of clients I usually work for.
I don't see anything bad about the Internet right now. We live in a world of supply and demand, that feedbacks on new ideas. If you get a unique and different product out, there's no problem. You just have to move it in the right places. If you do what everyone does, just with little changes or typography, or making copies of something else, you will only get a minimal benefit from it.
Some time ago, I noticed that a company from US took pictures of my wall pieces and used them to make bags and thigs like that. I don't care, graffiti is free and that's why is made in the streets. It happens too with the people doing photobooks with my wall pieces as background: it would be stupid to ask them for copyrights, and they are also promoting me indirectly.
For me, the key is sharing just enough and creating something unique and different. And, above all, move yourself a lot. If you don't get valued where you are, go where you will get valued.
And last, but not least: any advice for aspiring illustrators and graffiti writers just starting up their careers?
Do what makes you happy, no matter what the people say. And be proud of what you make: eventually, someone who values it will show up.
Thank you a lot Emilio!
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