Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Guest blogger: Santí Duran

I met the artist Santiago Durán a few years ago, when I saw his work at the European cartoon art site, Toonpool.

Santí Durán, Artist

Reading comics and drawing them happened at the same time for me, ever since I can remember. I was an only child and had to distract myself with something. We had no TV, it was very expensive at that time. So I read all the comics I could get, buying them or borrowing them from friends.

When I was little I loved Disney, like everyone else, especially Donald Duck. I also read Western stories, humor and superheroes. Everything I devoured. I copied them in pencil, and then inked them with a toothpick dipped in ink!
When I was seven my family and I moved to France, where I discovered the wonderful world of Franco-Belgian comics and the authors who influenced me a lot: Tintin by Hergé, Spirou by Franklin, Asterix by Uderzo, Valerian by Mezieres, Blueberry by Giraud, and others. Five years later in the summer of 1968, when I was twelve, we returned to the village where our home was. The Catalans are very sentimental about the land.

My parents, like all parents, wanted me to be a lawyer, a nuclear physicist, or an interior minister, anything but an artist. As I had no enthusiasm for my studies and was a unique and spoiled son, I enrolled in a famous art school.
I had to learn about art history, art theory, perspective in art, deconstructing Picasso and his art, making art with mud, etc.  And comic art? The school principal asked me. What the hell was that? -- more or less affectionately. Fortunately a galactic conjunction would occur in my life, and I did not finish the studies of still lifes.

My parents opened a wine business in the village, and next to it there was a Cheers-type bar whose owner came to buy from our store. My father told him I wanted to be cartoonist. He said his son also drew, and he introduced me to him. So I met Gerardo Llobet, and as were the same age, we became friends right away.

Gerardo told me that some of the best cartoonists in Spain frequented his bar. By a strange coincidence they had come to our village and started a study group where they worked together, and they accepted him as an apprentice. One day he introduced me to them, and I showed them one of my drawings. They were very friendly and sociable and quickly accepted me. For a sixteen-year old boy, that was a revelation. Seeing famous artists at work was priceless. I would have paid for that, if I'd had the money.

After the Summer of Love in California and the revolution of May 1968 in France, it looked like the world was changing. In Spain we were at the end of the Franco dictatorship. Young people wanted to eat the world -- or at least a steak with mashed potatoes. And that was the atmosphere in that artists’ study group, and also in the village.

It was a school of comics, and a school of life – the Beatles, poker, girls, Cuba Libre cocktails, ping pong, Vivaldi, politics, football, sex, pop music, too much tobacco, cinema, classical music, pulp fiction, 2001: A Space Odyssey, humor, and good vibes. Ah! We also drew a little bit...

I decided to copy a lot, especially the American comic strip classics by authors such as Milton Caniff, Alex Raymond, Hal Foster, Joe Kubert, etc. We also had great artists in Spain, and I copied Victor de la Fuente and the girls of Pepe Gonzalez, the best Vampirella comic cartoonist. I also copied the works of French artist Jean Giraud, later called Moebius, whose drawings became known worldwide, influencing Japanese Manga and the style of American superheroes. His fame translsated to cinema, and influenced science fiction movies such as the classics Blade Runner, Alien, and others. Anyway, I and the other artists I knew were all huge fans of the geniuses of drawing.

The artists, writers, musicians, and others with bad reputations who influenced me -- the artists who lived in the village, as well as all the artists and friends who came to visit -- are very important to me. Carlos Gimenez, Adolfo Usero, Luis Garcia Mozos, Alfonso Font, the scenarist Manolo Medina, the writers Victor Mora and his wife Harmonia Rodriguez, and the best graphic humorist of Catalonia, El Perich. Also El Cubri, Canovas, Tunet Vila, Miquel Fuster, Joaquin Blazquez, Pepe Gonzalez, Ventura and Nieto, Rafael Losada, Ignacio Calvet, Enrique Ibañez, and many more...It would take a book to write the whole story of these people and what I learned from them. Special mention goes to the artist Fulgencio Cabrerizo, a great professional who for many years was my main mentor. He counseled me and was very patient with me.

At that time it was normal to experiment with new techniques to stain the drawings. We did scrapings with razor blades, and used sponges, charcoal, fingerprints, sand, and gray color washes like the old masters of classical painting. I greatly admired Luis García Mozos, who specialized in discovering new techniques. We all were influenced by the Italians: Hugo Pratt, Dino Battaglia, and Toppi, and by the great Argentine genius Alberto Breccia.

I admired artists who worked in color, including the Americans artists Norman Rockwell, Frank Frazetta, and Richard Corben, as well as the French Impressionists, and the great Spanish classical artist, Velazquez.

I never devoted myself to painting or to drawing portraits professionally. They were only ways of learning new techniques, and having fun in parallel to doing the comics.

I’ve worked with Gerardo Llobet many times. Usually he writes the stories, and I draw his ideas. As he is a great artist, too, his scripts were more like storyboards than texts. We created jokes and black-humor cartoons for the magazine El Papus, and cartoons in a sexy mood for the magazines El Cuervo, Harakiri, El Jueves and others. We also did drawings and paintings for Spanish television contests and advertisements. Gerardo is a total artist and with a great sense of humor.

I admire artists who have a good pulse. They can make a straight streak or perfect curve. I’m thinking of those who create ink drawings for Disney, outlining the cartoons. I was in an animation studio, and I lasted one week.  There are artists who draw directly into the computer with a stylus on a tablet. When I was in a digital art studio, I lasted one day. I also admire people who spend hours painting in front of a screen. What strong necks they must have, like a giraffe! I'm more nervous, more explosive when drawing and painting. I need to circle around the table. I like moving and splashing around when I draw, like Pollock!

Sometimes people have proposed that I have a one-man show in an art gallery in a village, or in a bookstore. But I do not consider my work important. I do not even consider myself an artist. At most, I’m a comic artisan. People with great talent are few, as in all the arts.

In addition I have almost no original material left. When I worked for them, the publishing houses kept the artists’ work, and the artists had no rights.

This is what I would tell an artist hoping to work in comics: First, study nuclear physics -- and at night, go to a school of comic art. Fortunately, now they exist.
Don’t stop drawing. Copy your favorite artists, and ask the advice of any professional who can help you. If you are young and adventurous and want to make a living, emigrate to the United States or Japan, where the world’s true comic markets are.

And if you’re shy and don’t want to leave the house, like most comic artists, buy some instruction books like the ones by American artist Andrew Loomis, and start learning about anatomy, figure drawing, color, etc. His books are classics, but very clear and didactic. They helped me a lot in the beginning.

It’s also important to expose yourself to culture as much as possible: read a lot, see classic movies, go to museums, listen to good music -- not the just the mainstream. Live life, and have experiences! Because you’ll be limited if you know how to draw, but you don’t have anything to say.

And above all: follow your instincts, and do what you want!


1 - My  village.

2 - Carnaval in the village.

3 - A page from one of the comic books I drew.

4 - The Wake, a collaboration with Gerardo Llobet.

5 -  Homage to my favorite guitar hero, done when I was 18 years old. Pen nib, footprints, blade stripes ...I experimented with black ink techniques as I listened to Jimi Hendrix' experiences with his guitar.

6 - A page from one of my comics.

7 - Cupido, a fun little angel who always got into trouble trying to hook people up.A project which failed, like so many, for lack of good managers.

8 - A collaboration with Gerardo Llobet.

- Vignette of one of the cartoons I drew for the German comics magazine Gespenster, specializing in Gothic horror for young people.

10 - Mobsters, a thickly atmospheric watercolor illustration with fun characters, done for my own pleasure.

11 -The Last Trip, a black-mood cartoon drawn by me and scripted by Gerardo Llobet for the famous magainze Papus. His critiques of the meaning of death and the absurdities of fashion, dessert, and space pollution, were very successful.

Santí's entry in the Lambiek Comiclopedia:

Gerardo's entry in the Lambiek Comiclopedia:

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