An interview with artist Mauricio Abril
I have been enjoying the art styles of Mauricio Abril for many years. Superhero and video game character mash-ups with lots of hints of nostalgia, what’s not to love?!
Recently Mauricio created a new Superman piece caught my eye. Some of the artwork was teased and I recognised lots of different Superman variations and I knew the final piece would blow my mind and I was not wrong!
Mythologies:Superman is the title and it is majestic! Lots of classic styles and new. A few characters are missing but it is still epic. Vibrant colours and different eras giving the viewer a heavy dose of nostalgia and feels.
Recently I had the change to ask some questions to Mauricio and I was so grateful for his time. I wanted to dive into that mind and found out how those designs are born and where he gets his inspiration.
Can you remember when you first realised that you had the potential to be an artist?
Yes, technically I first remember wanting to be an artist when I was about 8 or 9 years old. At that age and before I drew a lot almost like any kid, but I remember feeling like I had a “knack” for it. Unfortunately due to the circumstances around me at that time, I stopped drawing by the age of 10 and never pursued it after that until my mid-20s.
Who were some of your biggest influences when you first began creating art and who do you look up to today?
My artistic spirit was born from comic books, so when I was a kid first creating art it’s no surprise that it was all inspired by and derived from comics. I would copy my favorite panels from my Spider-Man comics or I’d sit down and draw my own original comics with panels and speech bubbles and even a price on the cover. At the time my favorite artists were Jim Lee (the one and only) and Mark Bagley. Now it’s a little too hard to pick because it would depend on the genre and medium. If we’re talking the world of illustration, I’m a fan of classic illustrators like Norman Rockwell and Harry Anderson. In Comics I still love a great Jim Lee drawing, but I also admire Jorge Jimenez’s work and European graphic novelist Guarnido (of “Blacksad” fame). And in film, I’ll always love the work of original Star Wars concept artist Ralph McQuarrie.
You have a degree in molecular biology, no easy feat, what made you choose a career in art over science?
Haha, that’s a long story that I’ll try to condense here. Basically while I was at UCLA I was secretly always jealous of people in “creative” tracks. I put creative in quotations because a lot of people mistake science and art as being opposites when really they’re not. Science is inherently creative. After all, it takes creativity to figure out new knowledge from pre-existing knowledge. It’s just a different type of creativity than in art or music or something like that. Anyhow it wasn’t until my senior year that I was really forced to look at my short-term future and what it entailed – grad school applications, studying for the GRE, figuring out what kind of research I’d want to do – when I realized that I didn’t want my life to be all of that. The way I tell it now is that’s when I realized that while I LOVE science, I wasn’t IN LOVE with science LOL.
At that point I figured I’d at least finish my degree of course, but I didn’t transition to art until a few years later. I just knew that I didn’t want to do something I wasn’t interested in for the rest of my life. Well after college I had a bunch of free time and that’s when the boredom led to a renewed interest in sketching which snowballed into the seed of “hey, maybe I should try being an artist for real this time.”
Did you have a moment where someone inspired you to follow your dream?
Sadly, no. There was no Hollywood-esque moment where I was depressed walking through the halls of my science building when the kind old janitor gave me some advice which then led me to applying to art school. As I wrote above, the story of my transition was drawn out over many years. However, I have to give a shout out to my mom who at least ALWAYS supported my decision to give up science to pursue a possible art career.
How do you get into “your zone” when creating? Do you have a certain playlist or room/place to work in?
Good question. I don’t have anything so methodical because it depends on what I’m working on. Sometimes I can work with Netflix on in the background, other times TV is too distracting so I’ll put normal music on (like with lyrics), and other times even that is too distracting so I’ll only play music that’s largely ambient/instrumental. For that my go to is a playlist I made on Spotify called “Floating” which is largely word-less lounge, chill-type of music.
You pride yourself on being able to tell a story through your artwork just by using colour and and lighting. If you created a piece using only black and white, what or who would you create?
Hmm, if I could only use black and white I’d want to create something reminiscent of film noir with heavy blacks contrasting against areas of white. And in keeping with that theme it’d probably be hero or heroine based with some kind of urban environmental element to it.
What has been your proudest achievement so far?
I’d probably have to say having Kevin Smith tweet out my Superman short film “A Smallville Man” with the description “This may be the best Superman anything ever made! Let this filmmaker handle Supes next!” Not only was that surreal but why it touched me so greatly was because I had seen and loved so many of his films that it felt like a cool albeit fleeting moment of mutual respect.
Through your art you are able to create a sense of nostalgia by choosing scenes and everyday moments and adding our favourite characters to them. Which much loved characters from your childhood would you like to create which you haven’t used so far?
That’s a good question cause I think I’ve pretty much used them all (at least as far as my childhood is concerned) – Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Ninja Turtles, Star Wars, classic Disney Animation, etc. It’s hard for me to create art based on something I don’t absolutely love which is why I tend to repeat those same fandoms over and over. If we’re talking fandoms I’ve fallen in love with as an adult that I haven’t yet done, then I’d say Futurama, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the Boondocks, and maybe Assassin’s Creed.
In some of your Superhero artwork you have drawn many different variations of Superman. Is there a reason why you have not created a Henry Cavill version yet?
Technically I have lol. I drew Henry Cavill in my “Boys of Steel” Superman tribute piece. He’s the character sitting in the bus stop waiting to go work at WB Studios looking sad while all the other Super Boys are smiling and having fun. But he’s not really singled out anymore than even Christopher Reeve was because until my most recent “Mythologies: Superman” piece, I hadn’t really done anything with Christopher Reeve’s likeness. I know I left Cavill out of that piece, but for the record it wasn’t anything against him. I also had to leave out Krypto (that one hurt me personally) and Jimmy Olsen but when you overcrowd a composition the individual scenes become less important and you end up with a “Where’s Waldo” type setup. Anyway I liked Cavill as Superman despite not liking the Snyder films and their creative decisions.
You have created Theme Park designs in the past. What would your dream theme park be like?
It kind of already exists LOL. I had the good fortune to visit Japan last year which also included visiting Tokyo Disney Seas and that would be pretty much my ideal park. It’s basically designed around the premise of adventure, exploration and mystery and each land has such immersive theming that you often forget you’re in a park (well, at least if you let your imagination run wild a bit). But essentially what that park does well which is what my ideal park would do is that while you’re inside, you forget that the outside world exists even if just for a few moments.
If you could have a private art lesson with any artist from across the years, who would you choose?
That’s a good question too! I’d probably have to go with Norman Rockwell for his mastery of storytelling in a single image and his ability to look at models and photo reference for his paintings and instead of copying them actually capture their essence.
Finally, what artwork do you have on your walls and what is the one piece of original art you wish you could own?
My home is filled with a combination of original art and prints I’ve picked up at conventions. Of the original art I have some Superman and Batman portrait commissions from various comic book artists, but that’s about it. In terms of prints I cycle them because I like looking at new things every couple of months. These include some Marvel pieces from Ryan Meinerding, some cool fantasy illustrations by an artist named WLOP, and some comic posters that I’ve had since I was younger like my Michael Turner Wonder Woman poster.
I always enjoy asking questions to artists as it gives me a glimpse into their creative minds. I hope Mauricio continues creating wonderful pieces of art for many years to come.
Where to find Mauricio online: