There's no mistaking the work of Argentinian artist Alvarez. His crowded and highly creative canvases evoke a kind of incredible frantic energy: a bold and comedic commentary on our overpopulated societies. Here, we chat with the prolific artist about about travel, recurring dreams (featuring dogs!), and how 60's California surf music is the soundtrack of his life.
Your style is incredibly unique and incredibly specific, the kind of artwork that could never be mistaken for another artist. When did you settle on this style?
Sometimes my friends tease me and say that I am always repeating myself. I guess at some point, when I started working on my own, I had a sense that I had to work harder, practice a lot more, and try to define more clearly what I was trying to achieve. There is a lot of good illustrators in my city, but it felt that everyone was trying to imitate someone else's work. That's why I knew I had to stand out with my stuff, specially the work that wasn't made for a specific client. So I started to let my hand go with my imagination, following the things I have in my mind but not necessarily don't think of.
Your work has some consistent characters, could you tell us a little bit more about them?
I do have some characters, or families of characters, that you can recognize through my works. Actually some of them are in every single piece I do. I think these creatures lived in me before I even knew that I could draw.
When I'm doing a new illustration, I rarely plan what I'm going to paint. It's usually just random things that get stuck in my head. Sometimes, when I come across an old drawing, it feels like if somebody else that knows me really well made the artwork.
Are you originally from Argentina? Has living there influenced your work in any way?
Yes, I am native Argentinian from South America. I was born in Buenos Aires, the capital city in 1982. I wouldn't say living here did not influence me, but I also wouldn't say it was a big influence on me either. I'm not really a fan of the classic Argentinian interests, like soccer, tango, Folklore music, polo, and I'm not a Mate drinker either! I guess I was always turned on by outside, the alien, other countries' music, artists and food. I love travelling and I'd like to think that is an influence on my work.
I love the non sequitur, dreamlike quality of your illustrations. Do you have any recurring dreams? If so, what are they? If not, could you tell us about a dream that has always stuck with you?
Yes, I do dream a lot and often get recurrent apparitions of my first dog, Brutus. It's not always the same dream though, the scenarious change: our ages will be different, or sometimes it's action movie-style, like running or hiding from something. Maybe I try to express that concept through my work by taking a subject and giving it different perspectives, ages, situations, or like alternate universe shit.
I love the way you play with color. How do you decide which pieces will be black and white, or in full, bold colors?
Thank you! I used to have a steady color palette. If you'd look through my stuff you would always find black ink, or black inked markers and then a few colors. I was in this phase where I was obsessed with covering the whole paper in black (although that phase does come back sometimes). Eventually it started to be fun to add a little color to those black pieces and eventually colored pictures started to grow on me. It sounds kind-of moody or something, but it really has nothing to do with me feeling happy or sad. I would do a whole black ink classic on my best, sunny, happiest day!
Are you an artist full-time? If not, what else do you do for work?
I've been working as a freelance Illustrator, art director and graphic designer, for the past ten years or more. Many times my artworks are mixed with my professional works, so I guess I can't really separate my career as an artist or illustrator. Since March I've joined a new team, and we've been creating a cartoon together. Hopefully next year the world will hear about it! This project is probably the most challenging and inspiring in my life so far.
Do you listen to music when you draw? Name three musical artists that are you go-to for spurring creativity.
Constantly, I listen to music all day really. When I was a kid, I would go to sleep listening to records, but now that I'm a dad there's no music for my precious sleep time.
I'm really into Surf-Instro music so my first pick is The Challenger, 60's surf music from California. That I would listen to everyday. Second, I go for the classic, my first love, The Ramones.
And third, a local band called Pelea de Gallos. Just good simple old rock and roll. I promise there's no better band to see live nowadays in Buenos Aires.
Your depictions of people are often grotesque and exaggerated, is there a reason for this?
I actually see people as grotesque and exaggerated, overdressed or poorly dressed or overly made-up. I'm not much into sad things or people being depressed, so I always try to find comedy in life which is probably why almost everyone in my drawings has a weird, but happy face. I just like to make fun of humanity, to be a happy critic for the decadence and over-crowing of our societies.
Answer these, quick!
Favorite thing to drink:
Favorite famous painting:
Nychos's first translucent mural in the intersection of Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco.
Time of the day when you always need a pick me up:
I would say at 4 pm I'm always up for a coffee.
Photos by Elizabeth Engle.
Check out more Alvarez here!