Interview article for a magazine, Signature, which I'm creating
|Guava de Artist, or just Guava, is an entrepreneurial artist who operates mainly in Antigua and Japan. He has illustrated the news for the Antigua Sun and the Guardian. His style is vibrant and attention-gripping as you'll witness on the next pages. Guava is daring, and his art seems to be borderless, as they move together across countries and mediums - walls, shirts, pages, banners, boats, and more. To get a better understanding of Guava's life as an Antiguan illustrator, we had a talk with him.
Signature: What does it mean to illustrate Antigua from the angle of an Antiguan newspaper cartoonist?
Guava: It means a lot to me because I'm doing something I've always wanted to do from since I was a kid. I've always wanted to become a cartoonist, or an illustrator, or something like that on a professional level. So to do it for Antigua, or for something that's based in Antigua, it's good. It's really good.
Signature: Where did you study?
Guava: I studied in Canada. I studied video production and media which is television production, studio production, camera work, and online editing. The media part was about learning how to use Photoshop and Illustrator, and 3-D modeling. I didn't study cartooning or animation. I began drawing when I was a kid and as I grew I just kept on teaching myself different techniques that I would see from other artists and apply that to my work because that's how you teach yourself - picking up things here and there, by seeing what people do, taking what they do and adding it to your skills.
Signature: How did you get into illustrating for newspaper?
Guava: After I graduated from school I came back and I started working at Sun Prinitng as a Graphic Designer like doing magazine designs, cover designs and business cards - media stuff. Before I got that job though a friend of mine, Harold Dickens, told me they might be looking for a cartoonist and that he could put me unto that. So he spoke to Andy Liburd, and Andy Liburd talk to Stanford and they said they wanted to take a sample. The sample was basically me making fun of the editor of Observer. Stanford liked it a lot and told me to add to it and gave me like a pay for that. They hired me. So I was working as a graphic designer, and as a cartoonist for them at that point
Signature: When you began illustrating for newspaper was it welcomed by the audience?
Guava: Yes, it was. A lot of people thought it was something that looked like a newspaper cartoon should look, and they found that refreshing. Sometime ago there was a guy who used to do cartoons for Observer when it was on Fort Road, I think. He was the one that did the cartoons of Lester Bird in the Big Bird suit. Do you remember those?
Signature: Only vaguely.
Guava: Okay. That was the time when Antigua had really good newspaper cartoons and then it disappeared, and then you had Shane Daniel at Observer who is still doing the same cartoons, and you've seen his cartoons so I'll let you be the judge.
Signature: Is it easy to illustrate for a newspaper? How much control do you have over what you do? How often do you decided?
Guava: Yeah, it is. Sometimes I come up with a concept, but in reality most of the times the editors come up with the concepts, and I just draw what they tell me. They give it to me in notes, and I take those notes and turn them into a picture. It's only once in awhile that they ask if I have any ideas on what they can use and then I'd suggest to them. Other than that I don't have any issues. You have your writers and then you have your talent. So I'm basically talent. I have to deliver in image what they write.
Signature: What goes into when you're the one coming up with the idea?
Guava: I just try to think of what's current in the news and just follow that. You know, do what the editors do.
Signature: What's the process of illustrating? Do you draw it by hand?
Guava: Yea, sketch by hand. Then I digitize it then add the words using Illustrator to type in the words.
Signature: Does the lack of colour affect your illustration?
Guava: No, it doesn't.
Signature: Has anything changed since you began illustrating for the newspaper?
Guava: My style has changed a little since from when I used to do cartoons for the Antigua Sun, just slightly. I even try to add more details when I'm doing the art work for the newspaper now.
Signature: Has the response of the audience changed?
Guava: Not really. People still like the stuff that I do. If anything I've just gotten more fans, and that's good. And more work.
Signature: Is there a specific style that is conformed to in Antigua which sets it a part?
Guava: No. Everything I've seen outside of Antigua is taken from somewhere else and is being used here amongst the artists. There are some unique things that they do. But at the same time they still follow the traditional guidelines as to how they painting things and do things. So it isn't really different.
I think Antigua lacks so creativity in that aspect because people need to stop watching what other people are doing and just do what they feel they should do. People need to stop following what other people are doing and listening to what other people are saying and just create. If they think they do a painting by accident they push the brush someway, and it looks cool but at the same time that's not what their client wanted when they were doing the painting they should take note of that mistake and apply that to the next painting that they do for themselves and make that become their style or their unique medium. A lot of artists simply follow each other, and it's the same thing is being regurgitated over and over again. That's why my style sticks out, because not many people are being unique, and when they try to be unique they still fall into the fray. They always play it safe. We don't need that right now. If Antigua is to compete with other countries in terms of art and technology and other things like that we need to get out of the safe grounds.
Signature: How does illustrating for a newspaper differ from illustrating in general?
Guava: For a newspaper it isn't very different. The only thing that's different for me is that it doesn't take that much time when you're doing newspaper cartoons, because it's less details and less effort. But if you're illustrating something a part from doing cartoons you're going to put your time, and your patience into it and add a lot of details to polish it.
Signature: What about changes in the world of design? Have there been changes there, and how have they affected you?
Guava: The only thing that has really changed in terms of the way people go about doing cartoons worldwide, is a lot of people are using tablets to sketch instead of on paper, you can have it already digitized. I've used tablets but I haven't gotten around to getting a proper one. I didn't want to get a regular tablet with a small space, what I want to get is one with a big touch screen desktop computer and use it as my sketchbook. That's the one thing I'm going to upgrade with.
Signature: Where do you draw inspiration and influence from?
Guava: You know, I don't know. Inspiration comes at any place, any time. People like to say, and even I've said it a few times in the past: a lot of my inspiration comes from nature. But at this point in my life I'm realizing that inspiration is all about timing, it's how you feel at the time, that's where you get your inspiration.
Signature: What are your top persuasive techniques used in illustration?
Guava: I shouldn't even say that. Should I? I think I just leave it to the audience to guess what I use and how I do it. And if they catch me doing, then good but I can't really say.
Signature: Are there local illustrators you've been inspired by or who you look up to?
Guava: A time ago I would call people's names. But I can't really say "I look up to", but I can say "I admire" because I admire art. So I would say one of my friends, whose artwork I've admired from along time ago when we were kids, is Jessy Manderville. We used to draw together and he's a really good artist too but I haven't really seen anything from him as of recent but I used to admire his artwork. And then there's, my cousin, Mark Brown. He's a really good painter here. Do you know Mark Brown? You know his artwork, right?
Signature: Of course!
Guava: I've always admired his artwork. I've always been impressed with his artistic skill. He was painting when I was still drawing. He was painting and using different techniques, different layering techniques and different brushes. He was using oil paints and stuff. I used to be like: "How this man know how to do this?". You know what I mean? I would go home and try but I could just never get it, you know. But he had training though. He had both the training and the talent.
Signature: How is the business side of illustrating Antigua?
Guava: It's good. It's decent, I can't complain. I'm still living on it. Somebody always has to call me up when they want some kind of logo done and some kind of characters but I think it needs to be pushed more. I think more people need to start buying more characters, get more characters representing their business. In Japan when you check it out almost every company in Japan has a mascot.
Signature: Don't talk about Japan. (laughing)
Guava: I want to because Antigua needs to step up their advertizing game and this helps. When you have a mascot for your company it helps. Get your mascots done by a professional cartoonist or a professional illustrator. Do it! Do that instead of having something knocked up by somebody in Photoshop and then calling it a logo or taking somebody's image and changing it to their will. You can still see it's somebody else's image. So it's best to get it original created by somebody who has that skill.
Signature: What would you like to see in the future for illustrators?
Guava: I'd like illustration to be taught more in the schools not just when it comes to still life because anybody can do a still life painting. And it's not going to really help them. If it's more illustration where you get to learn how to draw hands, feet, body parts, organs, bones, eyeballs, and all the parts of things that people are looking into for things like reference books, then it becomes useful. Somebody has to draw the parts of the cars and other machinery, and animals. Have courses in the schools which teach how to draw those because what they do here is teaching art as a hobby here in schools instead of as a career.
Think about this. If you were a detailed illustrator you could work for any company that needs things sketched and designed. Before they make the actual product, and I'm talking about anything - the watch on your hand, the sneakers on your feet - it has to be sketched. That's how it is . If we get in on this we can start to have people here making and exporting instead of importing more everything. We should export. Antigua imports to many things. We should be producing our own products and exporting them. A lot of people aren't thinking in that direction and we need to be thinking in that direction. We need to be pushing our talents more on every level.