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Interviews with illustrators: Jotaká

09 Jun 2020

We are always happy to bring you a new interview in our blog, and this one is still more special. Jotaká (or Juan Carlos) was the very first illustrator we interviewed in our blog, back in 2014. We love to have him back and talk with him about his new editorial projects. We hope you enjoy the interview!

Before talking about your new publications, and just in case someone still does not know about you: Who is Jotaká?

Jotaká is Juan Carlos, a boy who can't live without drawing and painting. I've been illustrating professionally full-time for 5 years now, and I work on publicity campaigns, illustrated books, and lots of crazy things in between. I like to take up challenges and work trough them with my personal filter, to see how I can improve them.

Interviews with illustrators: Jotaká

You recently published an illustrated album called "The ship of Ernest Shackleton" written by David Aceituno, with the publishing house Astronave. Could you tell us a bit more about this project?

"The ship of Ernest Shackleton" is one of the projects I enjoyed the most, no doubt. I just had published "The black sheep", my first illustrated tale (written by Magela Ronda), when the team from Astronave proposed this new project to me. When I read the first page of what David Aceituno had written, I thought: "This is going to be so cool, I've got to do this". The book is part of a new collection by Astronave about characters who made history through different objects.

The album is about the famous Antartic expedition leaded by Shackleton with other 27 men aboard the Endurance. It is a story about taking the right decisions on the right moment. One of the big challenges was building the story with the existing references (which, luckily, were a lot). But I wanted the album to have an aesthetic of its own, nothing similar to anything I had seen before. The final production is great: the book has a cloth cover, and has a lot of pearl-coloured engraved details. It has been a pleasure to be part of it.

You also published your first graphic novel, "Under the Glacier", last year. Although on this story there is also cold and ice, the book is much more personal and autobiographic. Can you tell us about how this project was born, and which was the process until it became a reality?

"Under the Glacier" is something completely different. Through Oliver, the protagonist of this graphic novel, I tell about my experience suffering anxiety and agorafobia. I wanted to visibilize an issue that is somewhat hidden in society. Anxiety affects to more people that we think of, and in some cases it severely limits their life in many aspects. The illustrations in "Under the Glacier" are like the character's travel journal, and the story has more lights than shadows, even with the delicate issue it talks about.

I spent a lot of time writing and rewriting the main plot again and again. When I had a draft I showed it to Hidroavión (a publishing house that had contacted me previously), and we began shaping the project together from that point. When I had the final result on my hands, I couldn't believe it: it was great! Also, I got a lot of positive comments from readers, and I know the story has helped a lot of people. Sometimes, you just need to feel understood to begin normalizing something.

Entrevistas con Ilustradores: Jotaká

On the editorial side, did you feel different when working on a personal project and then working on another project with a bigger creative team? What did you enjoy the most?

On my experience, it wasn't so different. The decisions may not be 100% on you, but they are all agreed upon a team who is fighting to get the best book out there. In the books I've published I always had total freedom to propose things and illustrate as I wanted. I think that's key: at the end of the day, if you are illustrating something that you can't identify yourself with, it is very difficult to get things right, specially on a bigger project. I also have a great relationship with my editors and it is very easy to work with them.

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 mainly focus on day-to-day life and small things, the ones that makes us happy even if we are not always aware of that. Cinema, music, books, arts, or strange color palettes inspire me everyday.

What did you discover and learn with this project and journey?

With "The ship of Ernest Shackleton" I wanted to go full-Antarctic and create a color palette fitting such an epic story. When the characters are surrounded by ice, the palette sort of turns down, and when inside the ship, the warmness goes up. These are details I usually didn't pay attention to and gave a lot of inner coherence to the illustrations.

Theres a scene that's one of my favourites, when the crew of the ship is playing football on the ice with the boat in the background. On close-up, there is a penguin mother and her baby, and the cold ice-toned colors melt with pink and purple tones.

And last, but not least: What can we expect from now on of Jotaká?

I don't know very well myself, but I feel my style is evolving, and I'm re-definiting shapes and details to create new things that people hasn't seen before from me.

Right now, I'm working on a new editorial project that is going to be different concept-wise, and I'm very eager for people to see. I also keep doing small projects for publicity and magazines. I get myself into every jumble I can!

Thanks a lot!

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