Diego Andrade is a Mexican illustrator, visual artist and tattooist who possesses an almost tangible certainty towards the idea of death to explain the mystery of the soul and its relationship with nature. We had the opportunity to interview him and he told us about his beginnings, fears and concerns. As well as his relationship with his spirituality that leads him to give life to great pieces.
"I stopped to study it because I didn't feel that I was contributing to what I wanted to do as an artist and as an illustrator or at least the vision I had. My degree course was taking away so much time from me. It just didn’t make sense anymore."
Hello Diego! Before starting this interview, tell us a little about yourself. Who are you?
My name is Diego Andrade García, I am an illustrator, visual artist and tattooist. I live in Mexico City and I'm 25 years old.
Tell us about your formative career.
I studied design and visual communication at an art and design University, but I dropped it off. I think I spent 3 years in this degree course that lasted 4 and a half, and the last year I stopped to study it because I didn't feel that I was contributing to what I wanted to do as an artist and as an illustrator or at least to the vision I had, and I decided to leave it to dedicate myself more to my work. My degree course was taking away so much time from me. It just didn’t make sense anymore.
Do you devote yourself exclusively to art or is there something else you want to share with us?
Yes, well I prefer to say that "I draw in different formats and for different purposes". I consider myself more of a drawer than anything else but what I do most is illustration, a personal work that in the end is commercialized in galleries or by myself and I also dedicate myself to tattooing; that's another activity with which I profit from my work.
What do you think about the word ART?
I think that many people are afraid of it. They feel it as a heavy, strong word. Sometimes it sounds like a certain amount of courage from an elite group in order for your work to be considered art. It is perceived as something that is only exhibited in museums, but which for me at least is simply any sort of honest work that arises from the need to communicate a personal concern and it is expressed through a drawing, a song or a film. It connects with other people who process it with their own experiences and it becomes a very interesting cycle which in the end I think is where its artistic value lies. It doesn't necessarily have to be considered something serious.
You present yourself as a visual artist and an illustrator. What aspects do you think link the two disciplines?
I think that at least within what I do (which is drawing), the difference lies in what the works are destined for. For example, if someone is commissioning me a project and that project is going to reach a market where they have to think about selling the piece, I consider that project as an illustration; a visual work instead comes from a personal interest; it comes from wanting to get an idea or a feeling and put it on some paper or canvas for someone else to read. I think that in any case, now we are talking about tattooing. If I had to link the two things I do, that is where it would be. When I make tattoos, someone pays for that work but the work itself seeks to blend your vision with the emotions of the other persons and this turns into a collaboration of work which I find very genuine and beautiful.
"I do not draw my dreams, but I can say that it is related to the spirituality that causes me the fear of death. It is a little more complex because I look for beauty in nature and the unreal and magical that it can become, as well as the connection of the one with the whole."
When did you understand that art was made for you?
When I was studying at a technical high school I was taking drama classes, and it was precisely my teacher who noticed that I was spending my time drawing, so she enrolled me in a competition on an important event in the country where I had to draw something related. I won this contest and all the judges told me that art was what I should do. I always knew I had talent, but I never thought it was something I would be able to live with. And here I am today.
Tell us about your creative process, where does your inspiration come from?
Recently I was talking about this inspiration thing with a friend. My inspiration comes from different processes. Some people are inspired by their external environment, but in my case the inspiration comes directly from my interests, my tastes and also from films, music and the work of other artists. I do not draw my dreams, but I can say that it is related to the spirituality that causes me the fear of death. It is a little more complex because I look for beauty in nature and the unreal and magical that it can become, as well as the connection of the one with the whole.
"At first it was just my fear of dying but then I added loss, nostalgia and related issues. Your own death and that of your loved ones is a very intense theme."
Do you have any rituals or preparation strategies before starting to work on your pieces?
The technical process is quite boring so for me that is a sort of meditation ritual. I heard on a podcast that almost every religion has a meditation process. For example, meditation itself is a repetition of technical processes, sentences and movements until your mind disconnects. That happens to me with drawing.
In your works, there is a clear allusion to death in relation to the human being. Can you tell us something about that?
Death genuinely scares me a lot. I'm very afraid of ceasing to exist. I try to understand that part and understand it in order to deal with it but my final conclusion is that nobody has an answer. Everyone creates their own personal answer, in my case I try to create it through my work. At first it was just my fear of dying but then I added loss, nostalgia and some other related issues. Your own death and that of your loved ones is a very intense topic.
Tell us about your book FLASHBOOK VOL.1.
I believe that any artist aspires to have a compilation book of their work. I wanted to have a personal preview and self-publish my own material. Last year I was tattooing a lot in different states in Mexico and USA and I realized that I had created a lot of flashes (more than 50) that I used as material. Eventually it will become a book saga that hopefully will continue with VOL II AND VOL II. The pandemic has delayed the project a bit but I hope to be able to continue very soon.
Do you prefer traditional techniques or are you more interested in digital art?
I always prefer digital techniques. The workshop you took with me was probably with ink or watercolour. Although in tattooing I always prepare the designs digitally because it speeds up the process. I find a certain romanticism in doing things digitally. That could be my ritual now that I think about it.
"Remember that there are people who may think that what you do is worthless and rubbish. But there will be someone else who thinks exactly the opposite."
Today it seems difficult to be an illustrator. You have to deal with a lot of competition, and keep up with the new techniques every day. What advice would you like to give to those who decided to start the profession of illustrator?
To be honest, at least from my personal opinion, it's the opposite. It has never been so easy to be able to commit yourself to what you like. Social networks provide competition but also work for everyone. Being able to create an audience through your work is a responsibility. My advice is to take your art seriously. It is a job and it requires discipline. All of that together generates a captive audience without the need for artistic direction. I also advise you to believe in your art and be true to yourself guys. Remember that there are people who may think that what you do is worthless and rubbish. But there will be someone else who thinks exactly the opposite.
Looking carefully at your works, we notice many details in each piece and a complex composition. Tell us more about this.
I think I have always been fascinated by complex works, and this moves me. The idea of looking at a piece for a while and try to unravel each single part or line of it is wonderful. Nevertheless, I also really enjoy the minimalist line.
Do you have a favourite piece of work?
I think every new piece takes the place of "favourite": usually the most recent one takes my attention.
What is the secret desire you want to fulfil with your art? Is there something specific you want to achieve?
I don't know if it's a secret, but my intention is to make people connect with my work. Questioning one's own death is not common and I like that the fear I have of dying becomes an engine to live life the way I want. This is what I want to reflect with my art. Once you understand that your life will inevitably end, everything becomes less important and you start to have real priorities. My work invites to this reflection.
What are your plans for the future?
My future plans for the moment are to continue working. Holding new exhibitions and creating new art, which is what I like in the end. I simply like to draw. Eventually I just plan to enlarge my formats.
Join Diego on his artistic journey by following him on Instagram.
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