Looking for some creative artist accounts to follow on Instagram? Don't worry, we've got you covered!
This month we chatted with Layout Supervisor, Francisco Ruiz, who is based in our Manchester studio. His Instagram account @sad_environments is packed full of interesting designs and beautifully coloured street scenes.
We scrolled through Francisco's artwork and chatted with him about some of our favourites!
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I'm from México. My favourite band is Gorillaz. I really miss the food from my country, but I learned how to cook nicely from my mom, grandmother, and my dad which makes things better.
I discovered art as a profession when I was 19, before that I used to do drawings as decoration for my notepads or my bedroom door. My real goal was to go to film school and become a filmmaker, never happened!
I studied graphic design where we use to do life drawing sessions and a teacher of mine saw my drawings and told me I had the potential to become an Illustrator, I had no idea what Illustration was. That day I went to the library and looked for illustration books and I just found myself, I guess. I went crazy about people's ability with a brush, paper, and paint, so I specialized in illustration in the same school.
My first job in the industry was as a Layout and BG painter for a Nickelodeon show called Pig Goat Banana Cricket. Real fact - I learned how to paint in Photoshop just for the test and that job, before that all I could do was illustrations with traditional materials.
How would you best describe your work?
I would describe my work as colour before anything else, I always put a lot of effort in creating my very own personal colour palettes because from my perspective light and colour are not the same thing. I think this is because of my background in graphic design, maybe?
A lot of people make fun of the term “Sad Environments” but that’s how I feel every time I finish every illustration. I like to think that my illustrations are about a strong memory in someone’s head.
The majority of your work concentrates on structures, can you explain why these appeal to you so much?
I find them interesting in the way planners decide to put such a massive structure in a very specific space, what makes them so confident that everyone will like that. And it doesn´t matter if people don´t because you can't remove it anyway or at least not easily. I hope this makes sense, haha!
The scenes you create are predominantly cityscapes, is this intentional and why do you prefer designing city scenes rather than countrysides or internal scenes?
I blame the Cyberpunk movie “Akira” by Katsuhiro Otomo and the making of that movie when they talk about painting BGs for an animated feature film. I literally got obsessed with the abilities of those artists but also because many of the places where I used to hang out in México look like that movie.
Mexico City is a very bizarre city where everything looks just overpopulated with stuff, shapes, and colours everywhere. So, when I knew what Cyberpunk was, I thought yes, the place where I grew up is cyberpunk.
I also got obsessed with perspective when I became a layout artist so that’s why cityscapes are my favourite thing to paint.
Graffiti is also a theme in your work, is this a medium that interests you?
I like graffiti in general, legal and illegal but in my illustrations I use graffiti as decoration, my perception with graffiti is that I think people always try to customize their belongings so if this is “my city” the place where “I live” then I have the right to make it look like it's mine.
This can be related to the previous question - “We don´t like that building but we are gonna try by adding our personal signature” - just the same way you put stickers on your cell phone or place a bunch of posters on your bedroom.
What artists/things inspire you and your work?
I always get inspired by rundown places or places that give the feeling of melancholy and surreal scenes that could remind you of a dream or a very strong memory this could be a very happy one or not.
I also get inspired by experimental use of colour that’s why I think symbolism artists are my biggest inspiration. I mostly get inspiration from my own dreams and memories that I don´t want to forget.
Can you explain the above scene to us?
As mentioned above a lot of my illustrations come either from a memory or a dream. In this case, this was a dream that I had and I can´t really explain what it is because I was only there when I was dreaming. I remembered some of the colours and the stuff that was there and I just liked the way everything looked.
How do you develop your work and skill set and what motivates you to do so?
I love traditional materials so I always try to improve by watching other people painting. I observe how they grab the brush, what materials and tools they use. I think the most important thing is that I do a lot of colour studies from my favourite paintings and my motivation is just saying to myself 'if that person painted it with a brush and some paint it’s not impossible'.
How do you approach a personal project and is this very different than your approach to a professional one?
My personal work will always be something that I wait to happen, I wait for that idea at 3 in the morning that sounds just great, I do a drawing, then I do a bunch of colour tests and then I do the final piece. I respect the time of the creative process, if an illustration takes me 2 months and it’s not how I imagine I can tear it to pieces and start all over again.
I like to take my time because this is something that I do for me and I do it because there is an image in my head that needs to get out. I don´t spend the whole day practising or studying because I don´t want to be the best, I just want to paint something that I have imagined, something that I don’t want to forget, something that made me feel intrigued.
So my professional work is something that always goes under someone else's vision and I know that my abilities are required to help a team, a production or a clients vision and I like that too. I´m thankful that my artistic skills are appreciated in a different environment.
For someone starting out in their career, what is the one piece of information you would give them that you feel could help them most?
I would like to say “choose your path” in my opinion it’s pretty clear that creating images has two opposite sides “Beautiful Art and Art for Industry”. In one you can do whatever you want without giving any explanation to anyone because it’s about how you feel and what you want people to feel. The other side (industry) tells you that they need your skills for doing something they want and obviously they are expecting a very specific result, so don´t be upset if they just don’t like what you did. The good thing is you can move between the two sides just learn the differences of each!
What tools do you use in your work and what is your favourite?
I love these basics:
Windsor & Newton acrylics set of 6 colours
Nicker Poster colours set of 12 colours
300g hot pressed watercolour paper
What are your aspirations for the future?
I really would like to make a live-action movie!
Make art with the feeling of being different not the best.
Make art for people to become more sensible.
If someone is nice and asks for some art give it away.
You can check out loads more of Francisco's work over on @sad_environments!