Keen to make opportunities for himself, Cristóbal Schmal moved to Germany via Spain. He is now based in Berlin where he has been steadily building up an impressive portfolio of work for publishing, book covers and advertising. He didn’t go straight into illustration, working first as a graphic designer, which makes sense given his appreciation of strong, simple shapes and interesting compostions.
We like that the use of almost grid-like placement is balanced by bundles of looser shapes, especially in his figures, who seem a bit more carefree. In illustrations like his ‘Life & Style Mexico’ image, where we see the perfect positioning of a Cadillac in the ocean, we get the strong sense of design in his layouts.
We asked him a few questions to find out how his travels have developed his work and how he would describe what he does today.
How did you begin working as an illustrator?
I have always drawn but years ago in Chile I wouldn’t have had the possibility to be an illustrator so I decided to study graphic design.
After my studies, I took a one-way plane to Madrid. I wanted to work as an artist or comic maker. After 3 months, I’d spent all my money so I worked as a waitrer, making opinion interviews, selling beers at parties, etc. After one year, I started seriously as a designer in a small agency. For the next 6 years, I worked as a designer in different small agencies and graphic design studios doing political campaigns and pharmacy brochures.
In my last year in Barcelona (2008), I started to include some drawings and illustrations in my tasks as a designer. Deep in mind, I wanted to become a professional illustrator and leave office work. So, the process took 7 years!
How did you end up being based in Berlin?
I wanted to go away. Barcelona could sometimes be very claustrophobic. At that time, I met my girlfriend (who is German) and we decided to move to Berlin.
What visually influenced you while growing up? Do you think that you can see those influences in your work today?
I grew up in a little city in the north of Chile in the Atacama dessert where there’s nothing. Just stones, garbage and too much sun.
That’s not very visual but maybe from there came my affinity for primitive things.
Please tell us about the materials you use.
Paper, acrylics, pencil and/or digital pencil.
Would you say that you work mostly by hand or digitally, and how do you think that affects your work?
By hand, I work always by hand. What sometimes changes are the resources. When I work digitally, I try to think in an analog way. I don’t like to use effects or brushes.
Everything that I use in my digital work comes from an analog world.
Can you tell us about something you’re working on at the moment?
For the last 4 months, I have been very absorbed in finishing some commissioned projects. Now, I’m trying to start a new phase looking to get some new projects.
I would like to do some music covers, book covers or posters. I’m also very interested in motion, films and I would love to illustrate a book.
© Cristóbal Schmal, 2012