How did you get started doing what you do?
I’ve been drawing since I can remember. When I finished the School of Fine Arts, I started to work for advertising in illustration. A short time later, I began to work for educational books for schools, and a year later I was transferred to the area of children’s literature. I started to draw entire books or book covers. In a few years I already had orders for different customers: animation, newspapers, campaigns, advertising, books and children’s magazines.
How would you describe your creative style?
In personal work, I enjoy doing certain expressionism in the line of the Art Brut with vivid colors, strokes, and gestures. Sometimes I do assemblages or puppets with objet-trouvés in this sort of this brutal style. But I have another mixed-digital volumetrical vein with precision drawing, perhaps some kind of constructivism, static, or sharp lines- very geometric. The differences are only determined by the tools I use. Sometimes I combine different procedures on the same drawing, and if I have to illustrate a black and white book, I enjoy working with Chinese ink in a more traditional cartoon style.
What’s your inspiration?
I think almost everything around me or the things I like: politics, history, some books, Flemish old painters, Art Brut, the expressionist architecture, constructivism, primitive art, medieval iconography, etc. But all those things distilled by my brain almost always becomes the same stuff: old buildings, lonely characters in a suggested landscape, witches, monsters, men and women, cats, bandits, hobos, devils, insects and not much else.
What is art to you?
Bernardo Soares (heteronym the great Portuguese poet F. Pessoa) said that art was a road out of the middle of an empty field, that takes you right into the middle of another empty field, and that is precisely why it is so valuable. In a world where everything is intents and purposes, art frees us for a moment. I agree.
What does your typical day look like?
I wake up at about 2pm, have breakfast and go to my studio, a ramshackle house 3 blocks from my apartment. There, I feed my cats, I put on music or the radio and work until 10 at night when I go back to my apartment to prepare dinner. I can continue to work at home if I am with any deadline, but basically watch movies or TV, read, and continuously make mini-doodles on my notebooks, even when I take a bubble-bath. At 4am in the early morning I go for a bike ride with my wife, along the coast of the Rio de la Plata river. Back home, I go to bed to sleep with the first rays of sunshine, as the lovely Nosferatu.
How long does it typically take for you to finish a piece?
It depends on the procedure. Sometimes I can do four drawings in one day, and sometimes I spend a week on the same piece.
How would you say your surroundings have influenced your work?
My father, Carlos Trillo, was a creative director in advertising firms and also a comic writer, and my mother, Ema Wolf, is a writer, mostly of children’s literature. I had no choice but to live surrounded by the cartoonist and illustrators who worked with them. They were the best, and logically my home was full of magazines and picture books from all over the world. There is strangely, since the nineteenth century, a long tradition of great illustrators in Argentina. I’ve met since childhood great Argentinian masters and their work, like: Oski, the amazing Carlos Nine, Mandrafina, Alberto and Enrique Breccia, Ciupiak, Scafatti, Fortin, Tabaré, Ajax Barnes- the list is endless. Enrique Breccia was the man I met first, and maybe my favorite artist on this list. Over the years, the incorporation of digital tools by many members of my generation has given us new solutions, opening new ways of working- for better or worse, it has influenced us. Finally, I will mention the work through years with my girlfriend, Lara Dombret. She is a talented illustrator and partner in our study La Pecera. With some kinds of assignments, we always work together. She is so meticulous and has criticized me so effectively that I think that without her, everything that I do would be 50% worse.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
I was recently talking obsessively in a bar about drawing and illustrators with my friend Lucas Nine (one of the most original illustrators and cartoonists of my generation) and his wise girlfriend, Nancy, said something very true: “It is OK, but in the end, they are just a bunch of painted pieces of papers.”
What would you tell your younger self?
I would tell him what horses to bet at the racetrack! Also, that he should work less and get drunk more often, and that he must prepare his mind because people have the nasty habit of dying without warning, and that is not easy. But above all, that he has to always remember that, in the end, the drawings are not very much more than “a bunch of painted pieces of paper.”
Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
I am not a man of great wisdom, but maybe that they should never seek inspiration in the image-banks, knowing that even if it is the long way, their own inner demons will always give them more delicious, real, and beautiful drawings. That when the results stop surprising her or him, it is time to burn all the formulas and start again. And finally, to stay away from fads like they were the plague, and if they are afraid of the lack of money and job security, they better not even try this.
What are your thoughts on art school?
I enjoyed it. Requirement levels are not as tough as at the university, and that gives you time to experiment. Practice and study are important, and there you are forced to do it. It helps to have a historical dimension of the processes in which art unfolds, and how it has always functioned as a mirror of the historical events and the imagery of cultures, but also how some great people changed the paradigms, arriving first to unprecedented solutions, building a sort of bridge. Above all, the working hours are going to make you good, and a portfolio is all you have. No art director, producer or editor will ask for your degree ever. Before entering the Academy of Fine Arts, I made a vain attempt to circumvent fate. I started studying anthropology at the University of Buenos Aires, but I made it only three years. In the end, instead of taking notes about the exciting life of Malinowski in the Trobriand Islands or the “potlach” in Kwakiutl tribes, I spent all class time drawing doodles in the margins of my notes. I tell this because, interestingly, over time, the themes of anthropology gave me better and richer ideas than all my art studies.
What’s your dream project?
Getting paid tons of money to paint whatever I want on a beach surrounded by dancing odalisques!
What art supplies do you use?
In addition to some software, I use acrylic, watercolor or gouache, pencils, chalk or oil-pastels. I mix everything in a chaotic maremagnum. When I paint, I always do it on a rustic brown paper that in Argentina is called Misionero.
What’s your process like?
It depends on the style. I do not have a monolithic formula, but absolutely everything I do comes out of mini sketches of 5 or 6 centimeters that I do in notebooks. I transfer one of those to a larger size by scanning and often printing it on a special paper for painting. Then I re-scan them. The composition sketches for submitting are done with pencil on paper and in Photoshop. Then I replace the objects drawn on the composition by volumetric elements done in 3D or Photoshop. My work goes in and out of the computer continuously, but I never use digital lines, brushes or bucket-colour tools.
How could the art industry become better in your opinion?
The art industry is a difficult term for someone that works in an applied-art such as illustration, but also attended a very traditional School of Fine Arts. When someone orders a job (for an advertising illustration for example) the art part will be always clashing with the business intentions. In those cases I do not feel that I am doing art, what I am trying to do is to sell a new candy or a toaster with a nice drawing. Advertising art sounds a little like an oxymoron. I think that illustrators who studied graphic design may not have this kind of boring semantic problems. But maybe the best way to have a healthy and thriving art industry is by respecting the workers, listening to their demands, avoiding labor exploitation, paying well, giving rights- it works in all industries all over the world.
Check out more by Matias Trillo here.