El Dodo Albino: An Interview with Cristóbal Graciá Salgado
AN ARTIST BORN, FINDING INSPIRATION
IN A BOOK SHELF, AND THE COMMON STRUGGLE
WITH AN ARTIST'S EGO ~~~~
The belief surrounding a natural artist is confirmed when you meet an artist like Cristóbal Graciá Salgado of El Dodo Albino. Cristóbal is a self-taught artist who taught himself how to sculpt using guides he found on the internet. Not without a great sense of humour, Cristóbal enjoyed his family's first disgusted reactions to his 'dissected-looking' creatures. His creations are so life-like that it is no wonder they would entice such reactions.
Not all his creations look like specimens which one might find in a macabre science lab. Some are animated creatures which look like they came right out of a fairytale storybook, others are tiny adorable fairies, and then there's the oddly delightful monster here and there. A fan of Lovecraft, he has created miniature cthulhus as well. They all share irresistibly morbid characteristics which are further enhanced by their incredible detail.
How did you come up with the name el dodo albino?
Everyone has to learn something even masters. A bit of EGO is good but you should not live thinking about what other people think about you or your work.
I came up with the name during making my blog ... I was thinking about something surreal, strange and odd, and the extinct bird dodo came to my mind. It is a character from Alice in Wonderland and so I thought it was perfect for the kind of things I wanted to make. To make it even stranger I added the "albino" condition. It was like a flash. And since then, it has been my artistic name on the web.
What inspires you?
I think I am a very distracted person. I love to learn about everything that catches my attention. This is good for some things and very bad for others so I could say I get inspired by a mix of things I see from other artists - nature, the amount of residual images from tons of sci-fi movies and monsters I've seen on the tv, videos, dvds, videogames...
How and when did you first get started creating your sculptures?
When I started sculpting, I was collecting and devouring all of Brian Froud´s books. I had the Faeries book when I was at university in the late 90s and I started to look at the fantastic illustrations of Brian, collecting all his books and so on. As I am a collector personality , I look for fairie and pixie sculpts available in the market, and honestly, apart from the Wendy Froud commercial sculpts (yellow pixies and fairies ) I found all the others had really bad sculpt and paint jobs. Then I started to find people who make ooak sculpts in the web from other countries and discovered the wonderful material polymer clay. It was perfect for sculpt! Not air dry and with a texture fantastic to mold! You could bake it several times, working in layers and there are also translucent ones! I learnt from web tutorials how to work with it and still I am learning from other people and tutorials. Internet is the great invention of this century!
What inspired you to incorporate a macabre theme to your artwork?
Maybe it was the need of making something that looked real. I mean...polymer clays are flesh-like and you could make live looking creatures with it that works very well on photography. I wanted to make something that at direct sight looked real so I made some mummies and "dissected" specimens like the ones you find in museums and naturalist collections. I showed them to my relatives who found them disgusting and I enjoyed that :D
What is the hardest part about creating your sculptures?
Now I think I am more concerned about the initial concept. I want to be original, not to be very inspired by other artists' works but to find my own style which is really hard. I think this is the really hard part. After that, it depends. If it is an OOAK sculpt you start to sculpt more or less with an idea or a sketch (maybe just improvising) without many technical things in mind. If I want to make a mold of the sculpt it is very different as you have to think how the mold is going to be and if one shape is o.k. for a mold or not. Apart from that, I love to sculpt heads and hate hands and feet.
Are you working on anything new at the moment?
I am trying to focus now on channeling my definitive style, trying to make original or "more original" things. I've just started with a series of cute-weird specimens like the spider crab or the termite fairy. I also have one Lovecraft related idol on the making. I enjoy these sets of cthulhus statuettes and people ask for more continuously!
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I am a very normal person not eccentric nor strange looking (I think). I collect Toy Art and illustration books. I played bagpipe when I was younger, maybe this is something not usual, I guess. LOL.
Do you admire any artists?
Of course! Why not? Chris Ryniak, Amanda Louise Spayd, Tim Lee, Shing Yin Khor, Leslie Levings, Alan Lee, Brian Froud, John Howe, Paul Komoda, Felideus Bubastis, Mark Ryden, H.R Giger... I am not focused only on one kind of painting, I love a wide range of styles.(Lowbrow , macabre , sci-fi , japan vinyl...). I love all sci-fi or fantasy related paintings/works if they are good.
Can you tell me a bit more about these creations - the process you took to make them, what inspired you to create them?
Owlguins: these are mold made casts. That means I did an original sculpt, made a mold of it, and cast several copies of the same initial sculpt. This character was made improvising with a very little idea of what I wanted to do at first. I started with big eyes and the mouth and I continued adding things, retouching, remaking feet until I get a "cute" creature (that was my only first intention - to make something that fits in the cute Toy Art category ). I wanted something that could be painted with bright and explosive colors.
Fetuses: These were made for a collective expo in L.A. curated by Shing Yin Khor and Leslie Levings. The theme was scientific expeditions. I thought about specimens collected by scientists from around 1920 more or less. I did these two small fetuses thinking of dinosaurs and birds using the natural color of polymer clay and some oil colour touches. Bottles were aged and a specimen label was designed for these. Fetuses are very intriguing and disturbing to see...it is the beginning of a life, the unfinished body of a being.
Mandrakes: I first sculpt the faces with glass eyes. I try to make them cute and different from each other. Once baked I attach faces to a piece of uncured clay to form the body. I leave holes for the leaves and roots that are glued after everything is baked and painted.
Fairy cocoon: These ones have a clay head that is made and baked at one time.Once baked it is painted and hair is glued. Head is attached to a wire and the body is formed with tape and aluminium foil, sometimes cotton. Body is wrapped with tinted gauze. Wings are made of an impression in celluloid paper.
Favourite or most inspirational place where you live?
I live in a small town not very green (southeast of Spain) ... I´d like to have a river or forests nearby. I think these places are very inspiring. Maybe my main inspiration site is my bookshelf. I collect "Art of" books of all kind, and when I have time, I take a coffee and look at the wonderful drawings and concept designs from artists around the world. Inspiration comes with silence or some music with a piece of paper and a pencil. I have one room with a table with direct natural light from a window. I need natural light to sculpt and see well all the details on the sculpts. For sketching ideas I just need a notebook and a mechanical pencil .
What does being an artist mean to you?
It is a way of living. I mean ... I need to do it. When I am some days without artsy things done (due to work or other obligations), I need to get a piece of paper and start drawing or watercoloring .
Hardest lesson you have ever had to learn as an artist?
It´s not a lesson but a thing I try to avoid and control: Artist EGO. I think it is a common human characteristic but I find it is more intense in artists. It is a thing you have to deal with and a thing you have to control. When you create something, there will be people who love it, people who ignore it and people who hate it .You have to accept this as a normal thing, accept a bad critique, and continue working. I see it many times in the artistic media, in many forms...and I don't like it at all. Everyone has to learn something even masters. A bit of EGO is good but you should not live thinking about what other people think about you or your work...