Inspiration is a powerful force. It’s the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially something creative. The thing about inspiration is that it is not limited by location, circumstance, or resources. Anyone anywhere can be inspired and that inspiration can motivate that individual to achieve great things and attain great heights. One such individual is ground-breaking artist Guillermo A. Angel. He is the lead artist on the indy manga-styled Dog Eaters graphic novel. We had the opportunity to speak with Guillermo about his inspiration to become such a talented artist.
IM: Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and when you first realized you wanted to be an artist.
GA: I must confess, I always think of this a lot, trying to remember “that exact moment”, so I can tell when asked: “here, this moment, I realized I wanted to be an artist forever,” but the more I think of that, I come to realize now I didn’t really know what being an artist really meant… or even the definition of ‘artist,’ or what was it I really wanted to do, as someone who wanted to draw nicely. As a kid, I just liked to draw and the truth is, I didn’t even know where to look at, or how to improve, art classes, or something as simple as a comic book collection. I just did stuff that came out from very random things, my own silly comic strips, characters, cheap copies of my favorite heroes (like Robocop or the Ninja turtles), funny classmate caricatures or video game drawings. I enjoyed my friends and family sharing that with me. I always felt it like a true passion, but I can’t say I considered myself an artist, or that I seriously planned doing it for the rest of my life. That was something out of my world boundaries, out of my knowledge!
For me, artists were far and away superhumans that created awesome things in secret places, with skills that were impossible for me to comprehend. I’m 35 now. I grew up and lived all my life in La Serena, a city to the north of Chile. As a kid, I didn’t have too much access to comic books or too much art-related stuff. Not because there weren’t any available, but just because it wasn’t common around me, and especially not in the city I was. Chile has a good history of awesome artists and great publications, but you need to have the exact influence from the right people to really get to know about it and still, back then, the general importance of art just wasn’t part of the main concerns of the average person. I think in the end, it was just as mysterious for many of them as it was for me as a small kid. It still is. In Chile, most people are still worried to death if a son or daughter wants to study art, or wants to become an Illustrator, or even a graphic designer. There’s a long list of “dreams versus reality” professions. It kinda happened to me, but I will be always be grateful I was raised by my grandparents, and was always supported in what I liked to do.
So the moment? Well, when I was young, I always got kinda said that I liked to do a lot of stuff, but never felt like I was really going to become GOOD at any of it. Then, for a birthday, I was finally going to get the guitar I always wanted!! That was when I realized I needed to focus on one only thing if I wanted to do it good. I passed on the guitar and, on my 15th birthday, I decided I was going to get really good at drawing comics for the rest of my life. I still didn’t have a clue of what an artist was.
IM: Who are the people that most influenced you as an artist?
GA: Well, the people around me as I grew weren’t really into art, mostly. It didn’t go beyond “Look how nice you draw, I wish I could draw anything”. With few choices for art training, while studying graphic design, I was lucky to meet some of my best friends up to this day, Patricio Salfate and Felipe Monardes Mena. We shared the same passion and eagerness for creating nice things and they were a key influence when I really didn’t know where to look. I realized I only needed to do one thing: keep drawing. After that, I kept having the same luck of finding the most awesome friends a kid like me could have. When I moved to Santiago to follow my illustration career, I did it under invitation from a group of talented mentors that included Mauricio Herrera, Genzoman, Carlos “Draco” Herrera, Sergio Quijada, and Sergio Lantadilla. Later, I even got to work together with the amazing Brolo (Eduardo Bromhbley) and other very talented artist guys. Most of us became great friends beyond art, and always get together for barbecuing and drinking whenever we can. They are the gang that helped me become a true professional. After that, like some of the luckiest people in the world, I got married to a wonderful person, my wife Pepi Gonzalez, who is also an artist, and who has completed the circle of the perfect people supporting me. They’re all the best influences I’ve got.
IM: What is your motivation to draw/create and keep on creating?
GA: The same motivation that made me decide on becoming a professional: knowing that no matter how difficult a task seems, you can always learn more. The idea of wonderful art I had as a kid, of it being almost a superhuman skill turned into my biggest motivation: I can learn how to do it, and I must never stop learning. I can always do it better.
IM: Tell us about Dog Eaters: The Saga of the Black Dog Clan. What was the experience like working on it?
GA: So, there I was, in the middle of my freelancer jobs and some other “art gigs,” when I was contacted to be the pencil artist in a manga-style new project for a publisher. I did test pages for it, but in the end, it didn’t happen. They were still very happy with the results, so the next thing was, I got the offering to do the pencils for a completely different project, Dog Eaters. From the first brief description and visual reference, I realized it was a huge challenge. And the challenge was so awesome that I took it without hesitation.
The only main concern was, my style was very manga-oriented at the time and they were not looking for a manga-style novel. So, as part of the challenge, I had to define a style that fit for it. It still has a lot of manga touches, because that’s how I like to do comics, but it allowed me to create visuals with some level of freedom for the character and world designs. I also like to put a lot of video game-like ideas on my stuff, so I tried to go with that concept in mind all the way down. At some moment at the very beginning, my relation with the publisher changed and I got to be directly working for Malcolm for the rest of the project. And by working for him, I really mean with him. That’s the best thing that could have happened to Dog Eaters. From that moment on, I was more involved in the developing of the visuals of the book, and I’m very thankful for the experience.
IM: What was the inspiration, from your artist’s perspective, behind Dog Eaters: The Saga of the Black Dog Clan?
GA: Inspiration, I had a lot, but I think, if you say “post Die Off themed” stories, most of the existing good ideas point to one big reference: Mad Max. For me, the main idea in mind at the beginning was different, but also derived from it. Since I was looking to create something in the manga style, I immediately started researching and looking to some of the greatest Japanese mangas, specifically The Fist of the North star. In the end, there is a visual combination of several inspirations from awesome things Malcolm and I liked, to create this very personal result. Dog Eaters can be dynamic, cruel, funny, violent, romantic, cute, sexy, mystical, and magical, all in the same story, thanks to the versatility of the style we defined. I was very comfortable with that, and it worked perfectly.
IM: How many books have you worked on to date and which is your favorite?
GA: Dog Eaters is my favorite, and I’m not saying this to flatter. The truth is, before, I was a lot more involved in fantasy illustration: TCG, book covers, etc. Whenever I could, I did commissions and jobs for different projects with a varied range of styles and themes, but comic books and graphic novel weren’t my main work. I got to participate in different small projects and ministories here and there, always putting the main focus on storytelling, so when Dog Eaters knocked at my door, it was the biggest book project I ever did. I had the chance to help giving shape to an amazing world, side by side with the creator himself, and that’s an experience to be treasured anytime it happens.
IM: What is your assessment of today’s art industry and what do you think the industry needs?
GA: I’m amazed. Completely amazed. I really enjoy how it has developed in different areas, and all the possibilities available for new artists. It was something I didn’t even dream of as a kid, and It’s awesome to see that people get interested day by day. Self-teaching is now a strong option. You can have access to the most awesome courses, groups, communities, etc., and get in touch with publishers, writers, and artists from all disciplines. It needs to just grow more. There are so many talents everywhere, waiting for a chance. And there are so many chances for anyone who looks for them.
IM: In your opinion, how difficult is it for an artist to make a living today?
GA: It will never be difficult if you get yourself into doing it better every time. You don’t need a local industry to be able to work; you can be literally anywhere and be part of a project on the other side of the planet. It all depends on you. The better you do it, the better your reward.
IM: Do you use social media and if so, how has it helped in getting the word out about your work?
GA: I’ve never been really fond of the social media phenomenon… Not because I’m antisocial or anything, but because I just use the media in the way I need it. Still, there is one social community that has been key for me from the very beginning: Deviant Art. That has been my one platform to share my work and the most important to find them also. I’m very happy with how it has developed over the years.
IM: What is the most important thing you hope to accomplish as an artist?
GA: As an artist, I’d really like to have my own publishing company someday, but I’ve always wanted to link it to teaching. I hope I can create something where I can help others accomplish their goals, including any of the people I love.
IM: What are your future plans and where do you see your career as an artist in the next five years?
GA: Well, currently I get to be involved into my other big passion of life: video games. Right now, I’m working as art director for Behaviour Interactive in Santiago. I’ve been here for more than three years now, and have had the best experience I could have found in Chile in the video game industry. I started here as a concept artist and I’m completely happy to see that my main effort has always been rewarded. It’s a constant challenge in every way, where I’ve had to start learning again and again, while working next to a great team. The cherry on top of the cake that any artist always needs.
As for future plans, anything can happen, but as of now, I really want to grow into my career in the video game industry. The next five years? I only hope I’m doing it way better. I just want to be next to the same awesome people, whatever happens.
Guillermo’s story is an inspiration to anyone who’s ever wanted to be a creator and looked at the goal as unreachable. His story tells us it is not. You can reach that goal. Even though you look at a great artist and see them as superhuman, inspiration tells you that with hard work you can become that superhuman. Feel free to follow and support this great artist.
Online follow through:
Guillermo on DeviantArt: http://www.giye.deviantart.com/
Dog Eaters print on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/pz6lkk8
Dog Eaters on iTunes: http://tinyurl.com/klf8d54
Dog Eaters on Kindle: http://tinyurl.com/l9s5h7v
Learn more about our interviewer at: Everard J. McBain Jr.
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