"Artistic creation is for me a form of freedom. Art must be free, without disciplines or rules."
Fernando Ferreiro is an illustrator, born in Madrid in 1968, and the second of four brothers. His parents were educated people, with a great interest in art, although that was not their profession. From a very young age, Ferreiro showed special drawing skills and soon decided that he wanted to make a profession of it. He drew everything he saw around him. While his sisters and brother played, Ferreiro drew. While they asked for gifts like toys or bicycles, Ferreiro asked for pencils and sketchbooks. But, not everything was drawing, Ferreiro also had fun. He had a bicycle and went out regularly with his friends.
At the age of 17, Ferreiro entered the Art School and four years later finished as number 1 in his class. Those were very important years for him. He met interesting people, traveled through Europe, studied drawing in Florence in 1987, met the woman who is now his wife and started earning money with his jobs. After finishing his military service, Ferreiro started working in different advertising agencies and design studios. But, most of his professional life has been as a freelance illustrator and continues to be today.
Fernando Ferreiro has worked in all fields of illustration, advertising, editorial, comic, press, movie posters, covers, there are many works that have stood out in more than 30 years of profession. He can mention book covers, naturalistic illustration works, posters for the London 2012 Olympics, portraits of famous people like Chris Gardner, Barak Obama or Idris Elba. Also, exhibitions such as the one held in Córdoba, Spain, in 2016, dedicated to plus size models. There are many important moments.
Ferreiro's work style is based on realism and attention to detail. In his opinion, drawing a human face is no different from drawing a landscape. The set of details is what makes up the whole picture. In the case of a portrait, the smallest details can define or change the expressiveness or the resemblance to the model. But, Ferreiro also considers it important that his works do not look like photographs. He knows they look like it, but if you look at them closely you can see the pencil stroke and it is verified that it is a drawing. Ferreiro doesn’t like the sharp precision to the point of not differentiating their works from photographs. He likes that in his drawings, no matter how realistic they are, continue being drawings.
Ferreiro’s works of art are astonishing. The attention to detail, as well as the care put into each and every stroke of his pencil is truly mesmerising. He beautifully brings illustration to the 21st century at times with his digital tools and other times maintains the unparalleled traditional ways of old. When observing Fernando’s pieces it can take a few moments before the mind grasps the fact that these are not simple photographs but intricate and time-dependant productions. Fernando Ferreiro leaves us with a piece of himself in each and every one of his masterpieces.
Q. What role does the Artist/ Painter have in society?
A. I believe that artistic expression continues today to have the same purpose that it had when humanity lived in caves: the need to express feelings and concerns. This has not changed throughout history. Society needs art and culture as a means of expression and as a vehicle for evasion. Art frees us for an instant from everything that concerns us, from the frenetic pace of life today. Art continues to be necessary as therapy to survive out there.
Q. What’s your best childhood memory?
A. When I was a child, I looked forward to the arrival of spring for a reason: the Madrid Book Fair. I have always been passionate about books and at that time, I saved money throughout the year to buy books in May at the Book Fair.
Q. As a child, what did you wish to become when you grew up?
A. I always wanted to be an illustrator, that was very clear to me as a child. But, since I was passionate about wildlife and nature, I also wanted to be a photographer. I studied photography a bit, but that has always been my frustrated vocation.
Q. Do you remember the first art you made? What was it and how old were you?
A. My first professional job was some drawings for a military electronics company. I remember that they were collage-like compositions drawn in ink on colored spots with watercolor. They were part of a brochure that the company edited to promote its products. I was 16 years old and the amount of money I received in return seemed incredible to me.
Q. What does your art aim to express?
A. The purpose of my work is simply to reflect reality as I see it. In the case of portraits, I am interested in capturing the personality of the character, the gaze, the soul, what is seen and what is not seen. Only in my last ink works is there a symbolism, a more decorative purpose. But most of my work consists of capturing reality, with its lights and shadows, with its beauty and with its defects.
Q. What medium(s) do you work with?
A. The medium with which I have always felt most comfortable is the graphite pencil. It allows me to get fine details and real volumes. Also with color. Color pencils have been very useful to me for naturalistic illustration. However, most of the editorial and advertising work is done with digital tools. Digital illustration offers endless possibilities and good results.
Q. What personality trait has gotten you in the most trouble?
A. My worst personality trait is sincerity and my rebellion against authority. I can't stand injustices, wherever they come from. That has cost me more than a displeasure at work and also in my personal life. Over the years I've become more docile, but it is a trait that never completely disappears.
Q. What have you had to sacrifice for this career?
A. When I was young I had to face my father to be able to dedicate myself to art. He believed that I should study something that would provide me with a secure job and then dedicate myself to drawing, more as a hobby than as a profession. I was the first of the children to leave the family home to make my life. It took many years and effort for him to accept me as an art professional, not as an amateur.
Q. Who are your biggest influences, Are you inspired by the work of your peers or anyone else in particular?
A. My artistic education has always been based on the legacy and respect for the classics. In Florence, I received a lot of influence from the Renaissance. Michelangelo is my favourite. But as an illustrator, I have always thought that there has been no one like Norman Rockwell. His ability to tell stories in his illustrations strikes me as fascinating. It is not just the impeccable technique he had, it was his ability to focus entire lives on one image.
Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
A. The artist's life MUST be lonely. In my opinion, solitude is as necessary for artistic work as materials are. That does not mean that we artists are wild and antisocial monks. It is always possible to combine artistic creation with family life. In some cases it is not easy, but it is not impossible. I did it with will, love and planning. If you want you can.
Q. Apart from your art, what do you love doing?
A. I love reading, traveling with my wife and daughter, walking with my dog, having a beer under the sun with friends, talking, leading a simple and quiet life. Inner peace is very necessary for me. Those things help me to get it.
Q. What is your philosophy in matters of art?
A. Artistic creation is for me a form of freedom. Art must be free, without disciplines or rules. I do not like how some artists despise the work of others for considering that it does not meet certain aesthetic or technical standards. We are talking about creativity, not military discipline. Freedom must be part of the creative process. Then the audience has the ability to applaud or despise the result, but the artist's work must be free and without restrictions. If a person decides to crumple a sheet of paper, put it in a glass urn and call it art, it is their decision. The blame for that going to a gallery, exposing itself, and selling for obscene amounts of money rests with others. The artist has expressed himself in this way; considering it a piece of art or shit is the responsibility of the audience, the gallery owners or anyone else.
Q. What does 'success' mean to you?
A. Success is peace, success is time with the ones you love, success is a dog next to me when I´m drawing. The love of my daughter. To be remembered as a good person, that someone smiled when your name was mentioned. To die leaving something beautiful in this world. Success is much simpler than people think.
Q. What are the biggest things you've learned in life thus far?
A. I have learned that with work and effort you can get everything you want. That we cannot allow ourselves to be overcome by frustration and that happiness does not consist of having more things, but in not needing them.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and by who?
A. Treat everyone the way you want them to treat you. My grandmother told me this you know, the wisdom of the elders.
Q. What advice would you give to the next generation?
A. Work hard, don't try to imitate the style of others, find your own style, live your life and pursue your dreams. Practice every day. You will discover that you have to break many drawings before you get the result you want. Flee from excessive ambition and be patient, success will come.