Leo Espinosa
on traveling
Nuts and Bolts
As I mentioned in my previous post, last month was bananas between driving out west to our new home and the amount of work that fell on me. One of the most complex but VERY fulfilling projects was the design and art direction of a TV spot that just aired on national television in Colombia over the weekend.
My good friend, (director) Mauricio Pardo, asked me if I was interested in designing the overall look and characters for a commercial commemorating 60 years of Colombia's biggest oil company. The challenge was to show how much the client cares about education, progress and the environment using some sort of loose mechainism the Ad Agency had in mind. Timing was tight, but I thought that my use of color, simple shapes and character design could really work well with their concept and agreed to it. What I didn't anticipate was  that the same look needed to be carried over to the print campaing and that I would need to illustrate the ads in record time.

Long story short, two weeks of solid work, many cups of coffee, a few all-nighters and all the graphics were done. Then came the collaboration with the director, the creative team, the animation studio and the sound designers. They all did their magic (with a lot more coffee consumption I must guess) and the campaing was finished up and delivered to the public!

One of the main constrains for the TV ad, was fitting in all the ideas that came from the agency, animated at a reasonable pace. All my drawings were already done but not all of them made it to the final cut. Like the frame you see above, which was meant to be the closing of the spot
This was one of the illustrations done for print. The look needed to be as close as possible to the TV spot but with a little bit more detail, texture and volume

These are some background and characters, both from print and TV, that will be featured in a 60" version of the commecial. I had a kick designing the little critters!
The short 35 sec. version of the ad!
PRODUCTION HOUSE: Colombo Films DIRECTOR: Mauricio Pardo ART DIRECTOR AND DESIGNER: Leo Espinosa POST PRODUCTION: Dr. Pepe ANIMATORS Dr. Pepe: Catalina Noriega PRODUCTION Dr. Pepe : Camila Robayo EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Nathalie Burnside ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Andres Cortes SOUND DESIGNER : Sonica AGENCY: Sancho/BBDO CREATIVE TEAM: Sandra Murillo, Dario Rodriguez CREATIVE DIRECTORS : Juan Gomez, Andres Maranta R&TV: Maria Mercedes Medina

I know it's been a while since my last post, but a lot has happened in the past couple of months that have kept me away from Drawger.
After years of living in the North East, la familia Espinosa decided to move out west and start a new life. We chose Salt Lake City because of many reasons but two of them stand out: One is family (cute little cousins for our kids included) and the other one is the easy access to the great outdoors all year round, mainly in the winter time, when skiing (which we all love) can easily replace TV and video games (which the two young members of our clan seem to love).

Back in May, we bought a swell mid century house that needed some work, planned to drive cross country and started "remote remodeling" while still living in Providence, hoping that our new home would be ready by the time we would land in Salt Lake. The trip felt really long at times due to the heat wave that was heading in the opposite direction, but at the same time it was very special in many levels and made us appreciate this vast and beautiful country much more.

Because of the strange ways the universe behaves, a few illustration projects I had on hold got the green light as we started our journey from lovely Cape Cod forcing me to work at night at every single motel we stayed in. Even after we arrived I kept burning the midnight oil and pulling a few all-nighters to complete all the assignments on time, including an animated TV spot, an ad campaign, a CD jacket, a couple of book covers, character and type design and my regular editorial jobs. It was truly insane!

But because the universe is not that inconsiderate, work finally slowed down and we have been able to explore and relax a bit too. We have hiked up to places where there's still snow, rode our bikes up and down these canyons, swim in the afternoons, enjoyed awesome concerts and met great people like fellow Drawgeroid, Robert Neubecker and his family.

As time permits I'll be posting the projects I've mentioned above, some of which I'm extremely proud of. Needless to say, after a month of being here, construction is still going on at our place and we still have a few more trips to IKEA. Alas, it all feels right, fresh and exciting.
Flying South

Visitations / JWT Mural
These are some images of a mural commissioned by J Walter Thompson and from the show Visitaciones (Visitations), my most recent collaboration with Jim Pluk. Both projects were created during my last trip to Colombia and although both involved time constrains and painting on large formats, the approach was very different for each; The first one was much more thought out and visually quite clear in my head before I started and the second one spontaneous and shaped by our two styles and way of working mixed together.

Top Photo: Alberto Morales


My friend Jim Plukart and I are having a small show this coming Saturday down in Bogotá, Colombia. All the artwork will be created during the day but we'll save our best energy to do some live painting during the opening. I've enjoyed collaborating with Jim in the past but it has always been sending files back and forth through e-mail and I can't wait to see what we can come up with playing with real paint and brushes.

Mi amigo Jim Plukart y yo tendremos una pequeña muestra este sábado en Bogotá. Todas las piezas serán creadas durante el día pero reservaremos la mejor energía para pintar durante la inauguración. Siempre he disfrutado las colaboraciones que hemos hecho vía e-mail con él pero me inquieta saber qué saldrá de un trabajo hecho con pintura y pinceles de verdad.  

Visitaciones / Espinosa + Plukart / Expo + Pintura en Vivo. Sábado Octubre 9 de 2010 / 7:30 p.m. Espacio 101- Calle 20 # 5- 18 (101) Bogotá, Colombia.
Moving Pictures
I recently moved to Providence, Rhode Island and sketching has been a great way to get used to a new place. Here's some simple stuff I've been doing in between jobs, trips to IKEA and unpacking boxes.
Everybody here has a story to tell... and the time to tell it.

There's a dog park a block away and Elliot has been busy. At the end of the day the guy's cooked.

People seem to suffer from leaf-blowing syndrome. Fall is going to be loud. Brrrmmmmm!!!!!

From my bedroom window I saw a squirrell having a heated argument with its own shadow. Nuts!
Back from Buenos Aires
Well, kind of. It happens every time I go back to South America, my body returns first and my heart takes a liiiittle longer... with really good reasons for that this time! The trip to Buenos Aires was just a fantastic experience filled with old friends, new friends, art, wine and the magic of discovering a city that breeds beauty and nostalgia.

My gallery show, Gitango, easily exceeded any expectations I had. I put some good hours preparing the artwork here in my studio and about a week setting up the show down there with the help of a terrific group of talented friends. There were long dinners and great conversations and laughs woven in between painting and building.

Here are a few pics of the pieces I created for the exhibit, mostly drawings and acrylic on paper, masonite, old fabric and canvas. Sorry for the titles in Spanish but they're a little tricky to translate.

Many thanks to Juli, Ramiro and DOMA collective, Orilo, Mariano, Julian and especially Matias, none of this would have been possible without your priceless help and kindness.
Pictured above, the making of 75 hand-crafted humming birds that are still "flying free" all over Gallery Turbo. (photo by Adriana Mosquera)
Amante flameante + Danza que no
Danza que no (detail)
Amante flameante (detail)
Si pudiesemos permanecer
Vendrá + Desde lo absoluto
Refugio + Llego,Parto + Estancia
Casiopea atemporal
Fosforesciento + Retrato de una vez
Persuación (this one's a funky mix of charcoal, acrylic, watercolors and film)
Entre más cerca (tryptic)
Fuimos todos (limited edition silkscreen)
Opening Sale! Think Argentinian Pesos :)
One of the walls inside Turbo. Between the humming birds, their shadows and the trees Matias helped me painting, I was able to create the mood I wanted. Actually, even more dramatic than I thought.
The fireflies looked quite real at night!
The translucent layered wings of the humming birds created a nice movement effect. It kind of looked like inside the gallery time had stopped.
Beautiful and talented Argentinas: Fenanda Cohen, Laura Varsky and Juliana Pedemonte.
Nate Williams was in the house! Glad you and Claudia made it, Nate :)
Silkscreen live was fun! People brought tees, jackets, boards and paper to get printed. Matias showed his chops!
Our very tough curator payed us a visit to the space to see if everything was in order. Ramiro, cutest baby south of the Equator!
At the beginning it wasn't so easy, but after a couple of hours climbing up and down the scaffolding I was in heaven!
See a whole set of the making of the show
Buenos Aires is full of great characters always willing to have a conversation. I spent some time with this eloquent gentleman who told me about his bicycle-knife-sharping-machine.
See a whole set of my photos of Buenos Aires
En el aire
I'll be heading down to Argentina in a couple of weeks for a solo show I'm having at Galería Turbo.

All the pieces, mostly drawings, small paintings and a few three dimensional objects were inspired by a conversation I had with fellow Dragweroid Robert Saunders during a party, in which he described to me the gypsy burial ritual of burning the caravan of the person who dies (Rob, plays Gypsy Jazz and knows a lot about the subject).
That simple image of flames over the traces of one's existence sent me straight to the sketchbook and I did tons of doodles related to freedom and detachment: Freedom from pain, freedom from feeling stuck in the same place, freedom from loneliness, freedom from fear of tomorrow, freedom from the material and the unnecessary. To my surprise, all of them looked more like a celebration or a moment of meditation rather than tragedy or loss.
In an effort to tame the vector monsters that still makes me do things too tight, I'm allowing more improvisation here and there, getting messy with colors and shapes as I render the finals. Not easy though, but I'm happy with the results I'm getting.

Before I leave I'll post pictures of the process, sketches and a little more about the theme but for now this is the end of the midnight break, back to Piazzolla and work. I still have a lot to finish...
I'm in the midst of preparing a gallery show and wanted to share a little portion of one of the pieces that has me really excited. This little humming bird (colibrí in Spanish) is one of a swarm of more than a hundred that will be adding to the mood of the space. I cannot give away the whole idea simply because I'm not sure (yet) if the swarm will create the effect I'm looking for; I'll certainly post pictures of the results!

The show will take place at Gallery Turbo in Buenos Aires, Argentina during the month of May. Stay tuned for more details.
Good Friday
Indeed, last friday happened to be a REALLY good friday! I arrived with my family in New York just in time for the gala at the Society of Illustrators where I was honored with a Silver Medal for my paper toy, Buster. It was very special to share that moment with so many good friends and to receive the medal from my brother, Edel Rodríguez.

Pictured above are the three pieces that were featured in the show: The Poet, Humans are Yummy and Buster.
Back from Macondo
My body got back from Colombia about a week ago. My spirit, however, seems to still be flying somewhere like yellow garcia-marquezesque butterflies.
One can call procrastinating what I've being doing during these "re-entry" days, uploading pics and videos from the trip and creating images like the one above, but to be honest, there was so much I saw and experienced that I needed some quiet time to digest it all.
Colombia is booming creatively like many other developing countries that have found in the web a great platform to connect, absorb and broadcast their work. Video artists, musicians, designers, illustrators, and plastic artists to name a few, are working on superb and out of the ordinary projects, some of which I had the chance to see.

Note: The diplomatic chest ribbon didn't exactly come from El Presidente but from a fun, fun restaurant one evening of music and rum!

The main reason of my visit was to give a couple of lectures and lead a workshop on Design and Illustration at the Universidad Autonoma in the caribbean city of Barranquilla.
The students, faculty and the other speakers (including animators, new media brains and street artists) made the event incredibly interesting, challenging and inspiring.
Pictured above some of the attendants to the workshop, the speakers at lunch and a colorful poster from the students' show.

It was a lot of work but since clocks move so very slowly in Latin America, there was plenty of time to go to exhibits, enjoy long lunches, play with old friends and meet new ones. Clockwise from the top, Puro Morbo from the Visual Gore exhibit by Manifesto79; A studio session feeling quite rusty on drums after so many years; A logo I did for ZS Recording Studio (turned into a cool lamp); And a beautiful and thoughtful present from a new illustrator friend, Diana Moreno.

The diet included good coffee of course, sketching sessions with other illustrators (Jim Plukart and López served a feast) and yummy breads and treats that not only calmed the appetite but provided creative material.
To top it off, the day I arrived in Colombia two great things happened:
One, the Design Annual 50 of Communication Arts came out featuring the CD packaging for Pombo Musical, which I illustrated and designed last year in Bogotá, together with the talented Lucho Correa, And two, the same project won the Latin Grammy for Best Childrens' album of 2009! Weeeeheeeee!

Now, as I slowly come down from the clouds of such a great trip and set myself in real time, I'm already itching to start so many projects I already have lined up for next year, including a show in Buenos Aires in May and my first attempt with Furniture Design for Kids. Hopefully all as fulfilling and meaningful as the ones I got the chance to do this year.

MoCCA Art Festival 2009
I went down this weekend to New York to attend the MoCCA festival and the only thing I can say is that despite the uncomfortable back to back bus rides and the crazy heat at the Armory (which I perfectly remember from a sticky summer Soundgarden concert ages ago), the event was totally worth it!
The place was packed with beautiful books from small publishers and some self-published beauties from around the world... faaaar from the classic superhero stuff. As it always happens when it comes to books, my wallet and I where in disagreement, but I managed to score a few unique comics from the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain. Pictured above is Kaisa from Findland, who kindly signed for me a copy of her book, Audarya Lila.

Audarya Lila by Kaisa & Christoffer Leka, is actually three books bound in an old Japanese style wrapped in a hard cover that makes you just stare at it for hours.

Can you tell the love that went into the making of this book?

Don't you get fooled by the simple drawings, the story is quite deep and moving.

Who cares about the typo, this book won first prize in my heart!

Another detail of the binding and I better stop before I start photographing every single page.
I'll be back next year MoCCA!

Dream Project
I've been very fortunate to do a few very fulfilling dream projects during my career but the one I did over the summer exceeded my expectations for many reasons: One, I was asked to illustrate characters from the classic fables of Rafael Pombo, one of Colombia's most famous poets and authors, but more important than that, those where the fables many generations, including mine, grew up reading and I always, always wanted to recreate them in my own style. Two, The illustrations were done for an amazing music project put together by Grammy Award winner, Carlos Vives, with the idea of bringing back Pombo's legacy, but this time, seasoned with all sorts of music rhythms so new generations would enjoy them as well . Three, I went back to live and work in Bogota for almost a month! That might not sound like a big thing to you but I had not been there for so long since I left for New York something close to sixteen years ago. I could keep going but I better stop at my fourth reason: The CD, titled Pombo Musical, was released in early August and in a matter of days turned Platinum! I finally got my own copy yesterday (gracias, Valeria), so here's a little mix of pics, sketches and final art of this dream project I will always hold really close to my heart.
Creating the characters was the biggest challenge since I wanted a contemporary but at the same time classic look to evoke my childhood Pombo books.
The music aspect of the project was perhaps the biggest influence when creating these characters. Every song is interpreted by a different artist and has a different rhythm. Because of Colombia's topography the difference of cultures and music is very rich and diverse. This was my everyday uniform for insporation: a "Vueltiao" sombrero from the Caribean coast.
Sketches and more sketches. I did many versions of each character focusing on the importance of making them my own, trying to forget about trends and visual influences.
Here's a detail of the CD sleeve. One side was printed with the lyrics/fables and the other was done as a big poster with tons of characters.
Another detail: Playing with type and a simple palet made the project really enjoyable and less stressful. The designer and I were working against the clock! (Keep in mind people always have to make room for very long lunches down there :-)
Macario, from the fable "El robanidos" (the nest snatcher) was perhaps one of my favorites. Because of how dynamic his pose came out, I had to go back and redesign some other characters that look too stiff in comparison. That added a couple of allnighters but it was totally worth it.
All those bright colors can make you very hungry. Fortunately there was always good food around. Pictured here, an Argentinean alfajor (my favorite dessert).
Et voilà! The unfolded CD sleeve doubling as a poster! I'm hoping kids would spend time exploring all the details I put in there and using these drawings as a reference to create their own.
Icons needed to be created to decorate the lyrics and to use with collateral material. I usually hate doing these little thingies, but I trully enjoyed creating this set. The little bird is from a song about the soul (which has no wings but it can fly) but I'm not even goint to attempt a translation. Pombo's words are too precious for me to mess up with them.
Besides the illustrations that were part of the CD cover, which I created in pencil and markers and colored in Photoshop, I also did vector versions that are going to be used for merchandising.
One more vector character I was really please with: Her name is "Tía Pasitrote" and she is that crazy aunt that's always in a rush going somewhere.
And finally the creative team behind Pombo Musical: My good friend and design director Lucho Correa, who taught me a lot while creating this project, Me, the doodle director and Carlitos Vives, the music mastermind. Not pictured here but a key ingredient of the whole enchilada, Claudia Vasquez.
Did I mention that that's a cardboard sombrero?
My Own Private Icon
I'm waaay too far from New York and ICON5 right now and it makes me a little sad to miss all the good friends I won't be able to see (and dance with) but the alternative is not bad at all: I'm down in Colombia doing an Illustration/Music project for kids that I'm itching to show you... but.... grrrr... I cannot yet.
I forgot how nice life is here. People work really hard but there's always time for friends and family. Moving around the city of Bogotá is kind of a challenge too and kind of an adventure in a way because so many areas and rules have changed since I left that I feel like re-discovering the place I grew up in.
Pictured above, Flash, The keynote speaker of My Own Private ICON. Who knew the guy was so knowledgeable in illustration
This is the Bookstore, which is conveniently placed at the bar. I found a copy of El Malpensante magazine with the cover I did. I snatched it right away.
The shops and boutiques around the area where the conference is taking place have everything:
From plush dolls to your favorite cigarettes and bubble gum.
Hands on during the road show... ¡Otra cerveza por favor!
One of the lectures with master designer Lucho Correa.
And the accommodations: Pencil fiesta, day and night.
¡Adiós chiquitines!
What a trip!
Last week I went to the Society of Illustrators to help Scott Bakal judging the first round for the Zankel Scholarship. I decided to give my son Ben a different kind of education for two days and instead of taking him to school we bolted ourselves down to the Big Apple for a one of a kind experience. Although he was a tad shy at the Society, he confessed later that he loved it. Me, I was in heaven during the whole trip.
Taking the Bolt Bus at 6:00 AM, yawn...
We played a game... I would say a word and he would take a picture.
This is what he found for "simmetry"
Bakal, Buzelli and Espinosa hydrating after a hard day at work
Hey, look up my nose! Ben and I at Kid Robot
On 14th street Ben spotted a piece by one of my favs, Tom Otterness. Usually his pieces are scattered around so we looked for more of his little guys running up and down the subway station...
we found one more...
and one more...
and another...
they were everywhere!
The second day we hit the Whitney Biennial and had lunch with Edel Rodriguez.
Can't wait to do it again!
Welcome to Second Grade

Ex Dark Horse Comics knight, Phil Amara invited me yesterday to talk to his students about cartoons, comics, the power of dreaming and the joy of drawing. Phil teaches second grade at Curtis Guild public school in East Boston (think Jackson Heights, Queens NY) and among many latino kids in his class we counted three from Colombia which to me was extra bonus points. Man, did we have a blast!!!? they asked great questions, had very smart comments the best part for me was that I don't think they even blinked during my entire presentation.
Thank you Phil and thank you second grade for a wonderful morning!
My Colombian War
Today, as thousands of Colombians protested in marches organized all over the world against FARC, the terrorist group that under a fake mask of socialist ideologies has killed and kidnapped innocents for more than four decades, I felt a little more at ease with my own self.
Wait, that sounded kind of dense so let me back up a bit:
For the past couple of months I've been reading My Colombian War, A journey through the country I left behind, a very haunting book written by Silvana Paternostro, a Colombian-born journalist based in New York, who's articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Paris Review and Newsweek. Her book, a great source of history and political information (not to mention an eye opener to the brutality and violence that has become everyday's bread in my country) was also a mirror to my own identity -or my lack of it- since it shows Colombia's situation from the point of view of the expatriated, the critical and annoyed expatriated that has managed to put him or herself in a very uneasy limbo that doesn't allow a sense of belonging here nor there.
Half way through my reading I had the idea of drawing something on the cover and then later send it to the author, but I didn't really wanted to illustrate anything specific from any chapter. The need  to do something on the cover grew stronger and stronger but I forced myself to read slowly so not to miss a word.
Right after attending the demonstration here in Boston, I got home, read the epilogue and drew without thinking. The image that emerged from my pencil was of a fertile, fertile but wounded woman laying on the ground, seen her children, the children that she cannot feed or take care of, kind of floating around her. I got the acrylics and painted over my drawing as fast as I could, swallowing tears but with an enormous positive feeling: There has to be an end to every sickness and this one cannot be stealing more lives, there has to be an end to suffering and change should take place. Today, although I know that change could take a while, I felt faith.
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