By Patrick Morgan
PM : Finding a Muse. Antonio Lopez had Jerry Hall you have Celine Dion which is a major part to any creative fashion artist? As an illustrator how has Celine helped your process develop and enable you to find a way to communicate your personal vision?
'Celine has been nothing but supportive and extremely encouraging when it comes to my artistic journey.'
Pepe : Well, what can I say, Celine has been nothing but supportive and extremely encouraging when it comes to my artistic journey. When I started working for her I was initially hired as a dancer, and when she discovered I also had a passion for fashion and illustrating it she was very very excited and immediately wanted to help me in any possible way she could, and she did. She took me to places I would have never imagined I could assist to and was, and still is nothing but supportive. In fact, since January 2019 I became, together with Sydney Lopez, her stylist and much of that work sometimes includes sketching some ideas, re-sketching some ideas that wonderful designers send to her and its always a collaboration. I have made illustrations of looks we have styled for her and its funny because I get requests about if those illustrations are available for purchase and I always say no, they belong to her private collection. I am not ready to sell them or see them go or multiplied. They hold a very special place in my heart.
PM: When working with a celebrity do you share ideas of how to mix and match items and style fashion for the stage? or out on the street being photographed?
Pepe : Absolutely! It is always a conversation, and a creative process of a team. For streetwear it is always perhaps a little easier, and you can be more risqué... we always have a few options ready to be chosen from because many things can change the day of, weather, mood, hair....... when it comes to styling somebody for stage there are many more factors to take under consideration like, stage surface, are there steps on stage the artist needs to go up and down, where do we place mic packs, we need full range of arm movement, zippers need to be comfortable, efficient and fast, quick change are like the formula 1 tire changes......sometimes there is only 90 sec to change a full couture look into another, plus shoes, hair and make retouching...... so it is like a well choreographed dance backstage.
PM : Your work plays with many techniques and has undertones of Tom of Finland and Antonio Lopez's fast paced line work?
Pepe : Who and what else influences the drawing a and illustrations ? Those two names already are huge references and consider them masters! One of my last jobs as a performer was for Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas, in a show called Zumanity, created and designed by Thierry "Manfred" Mugler. His illustrator Steffano Canuli is also a virtuoso of fashion illustration and his sketches of the costumes were all over the theatre, I can't help but to think about them very often and perhaps my line of illustration is heavenly influenced by him as well. I also love love love Rene Gruau and his master pieces for Dior.. and I guess all those influences are in my head like a blender. As a queer artist , male erotica is also a fundamental part of my work and my aesthetic, I love drawing clothes and women but also have a passion for the male figure.
PM : Do your illustrations ever get made and become fashion pieces? or do you prefer, just to draw alongside other visionaries?
Pepe : I honestly prefer drawing what other people have designed, i don't consider myself a designer, im an illustrator, however some pieces I have drawn in the past have been made into garments and it is a very odd and satisfying feeling.
PM : Do you work in a studio or work with sketchbooks on the move?
Pepe : I wish I had a studio... I have been on the move so much the last 3 years that I don't have the time or the space to have one. I travel with sketchbooks, paper, watercolours markers...all in my carry on always with me on the plane, I never check that suitcase, losing it would hurt more than losing all the clothes in the world! And I try to spend as much time as I can drawing in hotel rooms. Sometimes I even use the hotel stationary in lack of paper in what I used to call "hotel diaries"....
PM : Your social media work shows lots of figure drawings, are these from life, and do you have any muses from the male model worlds for inspiration?
Pepe : Well, its a very big mix, I go to live drawing sessions when im NYC and I love drawing there although I take it more like practice and a challenge which is thrilling. I have drawn some friends as well that have posed for me, some commissions of portraits I do from pictures that people send me of their loved ones and I also, thanks to social media, am fully inspired all day long with images to draw..... many time I will ask my partner to pose for me for poses I have an idea for and he gladly does :)
'My advice to any illustrator out there, is to draw every day, like my Cuban ballet teacher used to say to me, it is 10% talent and 90% hard work'
PM : What would you say is your strongest asset and what advice would you have for any other illustrators looking at your work and wanting to follow in your foot steps?
Pepe : Very interesting question because as every artist, and as I was in my performing years, we all battle with insecurities, sometimes a lot of them, so I wouldn't know what to tell you in terms of what my assets are, however the thing I can say and perhaps is my advice to any illustrator out there, is to draw every day, like my Cuban ballet teacher used to say to me, it is 10% talent and 90% hard work.... my artist friend Amadeo from Barcelona also told me "you have to draw every day" even if I don't feel inspired I try to sketch or doodle everyday.....
PM : What are you plans going forward and any other words of wisdom for the future?
Pepe : Since I started my illustrating career I never found the time to just devote my entire day to the kraft, but due to the situation we all find ourselves in right now I have a lot of time to draw and also im stationed in the same spot. I have made a temporary studio at my partners place in Utah and I have the most beautiful view in the world so for the moment I am here. Im planning on going back out on the road when things get better but mostly I plan on keep drawing, exploring and evolving as an artist.