Javier Capetillo is a Mexican artist whose passion for art led him to abandon his work as a sailor and dedicate himself to it, creating art pieces full of reflection and awareness.
Javier, tell us, how are you?
You know, right now I just ended watching a season of an anime, as expected it´s pretty weird. These are weird times for all of us but, I have been doing a lot of thinking during the pandemic, mostly about the future. All and all, to be honest, I have a lot of mixed feelings, due to the choices that need to be made as soon as possible, so the pressure is on for sure.
What are your origins?
I´m Mexican, born and raised in Cancun. By the age of 9, I moved to Cabo, on the other side of the country, traded the Caribbean for the Pacific, jungle for dessert, it was a radical change for a nine-year-old boy (I was under shock) for about five minutes. My childhood was amazing, thinking back to those days I would say: What a lucky bastard! The most important part of my upbringing was the connection with the ocean; Poseidon called, and I answered. Even from a young age I felt its power, swallowing deeper and deeper.
When did you get interested in art? Do you remember a specific moment?
My father has always been very creative, he used to draw random things to my sister and I as form of entertainment. My dad was funny guy, as a young boy I always wanted to be like him, so I drew and drew and kept on drawing, with time it just became something I did out of love, creating with my hands was a great feeling.
When does your career begin formally speaking?
My professional story, the short version because the long one is not very interesting. I was living in Cabo and working as a sailor for sailing boats, but one day it was time to give drawing a chance. My first time ever taking formally art/drawing lessons and that was it. I fucking loved it! It never crossed my mind becoming an artist or doing any of the sort, but damn, I knew that I need it to create with my hands one way or the other and make some cash in the process. Authority and myself don´t play nice together so becoming my own boss and investing in myself, I was sold! Plus, my levels of stubbornness are quite high and epic proportions of stubbornness more likely, so failure was not in the menu. Then I moved to Mexico City and began this rollercoaster ride by mid-2013.
What message do you want to communicate with your work? I read in some other interviews that they ask you a lot if your work is related to the sea and your past as a sailor?
The more I do art and think about art my stances change, at first I had no idea what my voice was or should be, then my abstraction lead me to speaking about emotions, then those abstractions evolved into more deeper and personal emotions, mainly about my connection with the ocean and my experience trading something I truly love for a fighting chance of becoming an artist. Because, damn it, I hate Mexico City, I had a plan like 4 years at most in this city! I’ve been here like almost 8, kill me. I am super grateful with this city but, next to the sea is where I belong. Back to the topic, tons of my abstractions are about the Ocean, the energy, the mystery, the awe. I don´t know how to explain this connection so I try doing a pictorial representation of it. And now, my new project is more about telling stories about what makes us human.
How did you get the courage to change your profession and dedicate yourself to what you love the most?
Stubbornness, that´s my secret power and origin story! I knew that the more they said “no” to me the more the fires inside me grew, the more the rejection grew and the more fuel break through. I just knew that eventually someone had to say yes or believe. Also, not having a boss, all the responsibilities were up to me. I saw the opportunity to see myself as a lonely man in the army, the most important part is that I believed in myself and I was willing to bet on myself all in.
Besides painting, do you practice any other artistic discipline?
Visual arts are my main thing for sure, other artistic things not really. Writing fictional stories in the future, maybe doing a kind of illustrated novel. If you consider cooking meat an art and making alcoholic drinks, I love to learn how to do it at a higher level.
Do you live from art?
It took sometime but yes; I have been living for a few years now by selling my art pieces.
How difficult is it to be an artist in Mexico?
Me moving to the capital was the only option to truly grow as an artist, in my opinion if you try to become an artist in Mexico and you are not in Mexico City it is going to be some much harder and slower. So, in this city there are tons of opportunity to start as an artist. Is it hard!? Hell yeah! But possible.
Do you have any favourite piece?
Well, the true story is that I hate most of my “children” – as I call them - , the reason I hate my creations is because when I analyse them I always see ways to improve them, so the cycle never ends! Poor little bastards, most of them never stand a chance against their creator. Must say, a few make papá very proud, I look at them and I say: Legit as fuck, I´m an artist! Hahahahaha!
Yup, deep issues, human after all. Got many inside jokes with myself.
Where does your art come from? What is your intention?
With the passing of time, this thing of becoming an artist and doing art started as a job, but then I felt in love with artistic creation and the whole struggle to make great art. Now my intentions are to create what I consider true art and what is asked to me. Basically, is doing something honest that has the power to make an impact in someone else.
What is your favourite technique? And if you have any ritual before starting to paint, could you please tell us what you do before starting a piece?
To use any kind of tools with which I love to draw. I´m starting to draw in the computer, it is not the same but still pretty cool. But drawing directly with your hands, you can´t beat that! Nah, I just need to tell my brain drawing mode on, that´s it. Before each piece there is a process of thinking about the piece, where can it go and all those things, also I do make little sketches to establish visually the idea.
What did you feel the first time you sold a piece?
The first time I sold a real art piece, was like: “I got this. I know, I´m badass.”
If I asked you to describe yourself in 2 words, which ones would you use?
Stubborn obvoiusly and Ocean.
What is your biggest fear and your biggest dream?
The biggest fear would be to live a life where I´m not myself and I hide from myself. The biggest dream would be to live by the ocean and just be.
What are your pieces focused on lately? We see a Mayan / Japanese style in this new period, tell us a little about this.
My new project called “Shin Seikatsu” is Japanese for “New Life”, is a mix of Mayan art and Ukiyo-e art. With this project I wanna tell the stories that makes us human while bringing two art styles that I love and making them coexist, respecting the past but also making it new. This project has so much potential, can´t wait to see where it goes. Right now I´m thinking: Years and years to mature in this line, fuck yeah!
What are your future plans?
The future! Oh mighty future, what do you hold? And is it worth it to plan while you scheme behind the curtain? I can tell you what I´m fighting for, the idea is to move to Japan and learn as much as possible, to start fresh somewhere new and far, to enjoy life and to do something crazy once in a while.
To end this interview, tell us what you enjoy the most about what you do.
What do I enjoy out of all of this? I absolutely love experimenting, and trying to figure out what works, there is a lot, I mean a lot of failure in pursuing this but, when I start getting it! Oh my! Baby Geezus! It´s glorious and very exciting! Also, opening a show and watching people reacting to the work makes it worth it. But sometimes it´s in the little things and every once in a little while you can see a smirk peeking out.
Join Javier on his artistic journey by following him on Instagram.