Fuelled by his fascination with the relationship between life and death, Diego Andrade’s art juxtaposes both the blossom and decay of nature in stunning depictions of reality. He uses his creative work as an outlet for his mortal and spiritual explorations, resulting in drawings that lodge themselves in your soul.
He debuted his first solo show last year and is already planning a second. Having worked his way into the public eye from humble beginnings, his work has exploded in popularity and is now available on pins, hoodies and even as tattoos.
We spoke to Diego to find out more about the questions that drive his creativity and where his art will take him next.
Kirstie: How did you get into art?
Diego: I think it’s funny how I started. Like most people, I started to draw when I was a child and never stopped. But I always saw it as a hobby. I didn’t think that I would be an illustrator. But I got curious about a career when I was in high school. When I was fifteen, my art teacher (it wasn’t even a drawing or painting class, it was theatre) entered me into a painting competition in my city. I won first place and the judges suggested I study design and become an illustrator. That was when I realised that it was a way to make money drawing, because I live in a part of my city with very limited possibilities. It’s a place where the people make you think that you can’t live off art, and as an artist you’re gonna starve.
Kirstie: Who were your earliest influences?
Diego: I actually didn’t have an art education as a child, maybe my first approach to “classic” art or history of art was in college. I think my very early influences were cartoons and comics. I’ve always loved superheroes. I didn’t have brothers, so I saw a lot of TV as a child and drew all the time, so that’s what I drew – Marvel and DC superheroes, characters from movies, Cartoon Network, things like that. Then as a teenager, I started to look into some art in punk rock and alternative rock albums that drove me crazy. I started to copy them and their style. Stuff like Gorillaz, MCR, Good Charlotte, Green Day, etc.
Kirstie: Who are your predominant influences now?
Diego: I have a lot, and some of them do not have anything to do with my artwork or style. But I like the old illustration, the engravings of past centuries. My favourite is Gustave Dore. I also like M.C. Escher. I like a lot of the Art Nouveau period. I´m in love with Alphonse Mucha Artwork. A more recent artist that I admire is James Jean, and maybe he could be my favourite of all time, he’s great, and really crazy!
Kirstie: What is your favourite material to work with?
Diego: I think it has to be ink and paper, but my favourite too is the Pentel Pocket Penbrush. I like to play with the freedom in the line that it gives. I also do a lot of dotwork, but I have to be honest, sometimes it’s frustrating, haha.
Kirstie: If you could design the poster for any movie, what would it be? What would your design be like?
Diego: Oh man! I’m not sure, that’s a big question. I actually would love to work making alternative posters to a lot of movies! I’m a big fan of Hollywood blockbusters, but if I have to choose, maybe something by Marvel, like Avengers or Spiderman, and of course Star Wars! I actually do some fan arts of Star Wars but nothing really serious. Hopefully someday I could do something official to any of those franchises. Someday…
Kirstie: What is the first piece of work you were really proud of?
Diego: I’m not sure, maybe a piece that I did when I was 17. I was sure of the path I wanted for my artwork and that I need the concept of a life/death duality on it. So I did this piece in a notebook called “Tomorrow Never Knows”, like the Beatles song (I’m a big fan). Then I thought I could make it better, so I bought some Sharpies and I did my best for the first time at something personal. Maybe it’s not so good now, and a little basic, but I really like it. I feel some kind of connection with that piece.
Kirstie: How have you changed as an artist since then?
Diego: Maybe my interest in those concepts are still there and always will be, but my knowledge is bigger now. At that time I didn’t know to draw at all. Maybe what I’ve kept since that piece is the motivation to try to do the best that I can in every piece, and search for the virtuosity in my technique. But I’m still learning. At that time I felt very satisfied with my work. Right now, I don’t, but that keeps me learning so… it’s cool.
Kirstie: You often incorporate elements of nature into your work, like birds and flowers. What draws you to natural imagery?
Diego: I think that my interest in those elements is their symbolism. I found inspiration in life itself, in organic shapes and the movement of them. I guess my taste in flowers and birds mostly came from my grandma, she loves both.
Kirstie: What is your favourite animal to draw?
Diego: I don’t think I have a favourite animal to draw, I guess I choose the elements of a piece depending of the concepts that I want to share. But at the moment, I really like birds, but I enjoy drawing animals in general, also cats and humans (if we consider ourselves animals).
Kirstie: How did you get into drawing skulls?
Diego: I choose elements depending on the concept or symbolism, and a skull is the universal symbol of Death. It’s strong and beautiful at the same time, a very expressive element and very interesting to draw. I have a weird scholar model that I constantly use for references.
Kirstie: What do you like about the imagery of death?
Diego: I suppose I like it because I feel it very closely. I really, really fear death, it’s my biggest fear. But after a lot of reflection of it, I learnt to appreciate life, and nature, and I understand now that I’m never gonna know the answer about what’s beyond life. So my work is a speculation and a therapy about that fear, about that inevitable fact.
Kirstie: Your work often explores the more mystical aspects of life and death. How does you art help you to understand these aspects of the world?
Diego: It’s a therapy to me. My work is a constant reflection of that. I’m always scared about death, about the time when everything ends, so in my work I try to give myself some hope. Hope that we have a soul, that there is something else beyond these bodies. Thinking about how I represent that in an image makes me feel safer. It makes me feel calm. Sometimes think that it’s actually true, but I’m not sure if I could say that I believe in all that. I guess it’s like religion, it’s comfortable to have something to believe.
Kirstie: You have a very realistic style of drawing, which you combine with mysterious and sometimes supernatural subjects. How did you develop this style?
Diego: I’m not sure, I guess I’m always trying to add more quality to my work, so I try to do it as detailed as possible. I find it more impressive when the images that look “real” in some way, but not that much. I want it to be like a dream, something that feels real, but also doesn’t. That’s really sweet to me. I guess it’s a heritage from my attraction to the ‘60’s’ and 70’s psychedelic music, and also to some movies and cultural elements like comic art and toons. I guess that’s why I like to keep it on that way and don’t go fully hyper realistic.
Kirstie: Your first solo show, Transición, took place in 2017. How did it go?
Diego: Pretty good, thank you for asking! I never thought that someone in another part of the world ask me about that show, haha!
Kirstie: What was the theme for the show?
Diego: Well, I try to put all my interest in my shows, into to exploring very different works. This show was based on the Tibetan book of the Death.
The word Transición means Transition, and the show was a short story about the transition of a death soldier into his new life. Some pieces show his soul path in the beyond (a cosmic space where souls find their way to their new lives). Others show the decomposition of the body, until the end, when he has to born again in a new body, and the previous one is now one with the nature.
Kirstie: Do you have any plans for future shows?
Diego: Yes! I’m working in a new one to this year, also in Mexico City but in a different gallery. That’s all for the moment, but hopefully I can exhibit my work soon in other countries.
Kirstie: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
Diego: I’m not sure because I actually consider myself an aspiring artist too! But if I can say something it would be, DON’T GIVE UP! It’s gonna be hard, it’s gonna be frustrating, but it’s worth it. If you don’t have the resources or the schools in your country, try to learn everything you can by yourself and try to meet professionals and people who are doing what you want to do. If they agree, feel free to ask all your questions, and always try as hard as you can. Try to be better every day, and when you feel ready and sure about your project, start to do some social media, and a portfolio to show to the world. Good look and my best wishes!
We’d like to say a huge thank you to Diego for taking the time to talk to us! If you want to keep up with his latest work, you can follow him on Facebook, Tumblr, Behance and Instagram, and support him by checking out his BigCartel shop.