Although the use of particular artistic tools and techniques will have a distinctive influence over any animation production, the workspaces, artworks, and ephemera surrounding creators are rarely mentioned in interviews.
Cartoon Brew launches a new section — Inside the Artist’s Studio — to cast a light on how the environment can inspire and influence animation creation. In our first visit, we dive into the world of Spanish animator Nacho Rodríguez at his Madrid studio, located in the colorful neighborhood of La Latina.
Rodríguez is one of the most original creators in the contemporary Spanish independent animation scene, having developed a unique graphic universe showcased by his most recognizable creation, Mr. Coo. The animated character is the star of The Many Pieces of Mr. Coo, a forthcoming video game that can be experienced as a linear puzzle game or as an interactive animation.
The project was awarded the Best Ibero-American Animation Innovative Work at the first Quirino Awards held last April. Development of the game began in 2011 but recently quickened pace with the involvement of the indie studio Gammera Nest.
Let’s visit Nacho:
Rodríguez has always lived and worked in Madrid’s downtown neighborhood of La Latina. This photo show his views across the corralas roofs surrounding his attic room in central Madrid.
Two more views from the artist’s room in La Latina. Corralas are working class apartment blocks with outdoor corridors, very common also in other traditional districts such as Lavapies and Embajadores.
A street very close to the artist’s house in La Latina, decorated with traditional Manila shawls left over from a local festival. A street vendor died here last spring, provoking intense street riots that could be heard from Rodríguez’s studio.
On Sundays the streets of La Latina are flooded by El Rastro, an open-air flea market which is the source of many of the found objects populating Rodríguez’s three-dimensional creations. A market stall under the statue serves as a common meeting point for Rodríguez and his acquaintances.
Nacho Rodríguez’s favorite coffee shop. He likes to spend time here as a way to take a break from home while seeking inspiration.
Dipping a brush into a brew of coffee is one of Rodríguez’s preferred techniques for coloring his sketchbook drawings.
The sketch in progress. The artist usually takes a loose, impulsive approach in order to explore new ideas quickly.
A completed page from one of Rodríguez’s many sketchbooks. The books are stored so later he can recall and re-explore all his passing thoughts and inspiration.
The sketchbooks include all kinds of ideas, in a dazzling mix of written and visual planning.
Even the sketchbook covers are hand-decorated to differentiate between them.
Sketches of one of the video game characters, loosely based on a statue of Saint George. Rodríguez argues that the well-known Western iconography of the saint and the dragon reflects two living opposite poles of order versus chaos, but also of rigidity, intolerance, and authoritarian behavior versus flexibility, openness, and free-flowing creation.
While the sketchbook’s odd page features a monster that Rodríguez’s identifies with his worst inner self, the blockquote word on top of the even page reads ‘BLOQUEO’ for ‘mental block’, another of the artist’s recurring fears.
Despite largely working with digital devices, Rodríguez likes to carry a handcrafted leather bag equipped with all sorts of drawing tools. One of his most cherished items is an ink brush.
Back at home, Rodríguez wears an artist’s glove while working with a Wacom device. Rodríguez is still fond of working with Adobe Flash CS3, although until recently he used the 2004 Macromedia Flash MX version. He considers it “a brilliant piece of software, much lighter and simpler than later Flash versions, which allows me to combine animation with programming in a simple way.”
For the programming, Rodríguez prefers to use Actionscript 1, more suitable for his needs than later Actionscript coding versions. Although the artist has tested 2d software such as Toonboom, with improved rendering of brush lines, he prefers the shabby trace of the Flash software due to his familiarity with the program after many years.
The band of adhesive tape at the top holds a transparent sheet to protect the display screen. The artist used to alternate between playing music and thought-provoking talks about philosophy while working, until he began to find the latter exhausting “through the sheer amount of attention it demanded.” He now prefers Richard Williams’s advice of working in silence.
Nacho Rodríguez’s workspace is surrounded by books, awards, finished sketchbooks, Chagall paintings, good-luck charms, toys, and an array of odd musical instruments. The studio, which also serves as his home, is just a temporary setting. Although he is pictured working alone, Rodríguez is used to working as part of a collective in different studios around the area. Rodríguez suffers from chronic back pain but combats it with several methods, including sitting on an exercise ball as part of “an ongoing process to try and develop better sitting posture.” The small attic apartment, pictured here during the summer months, remains quiet throughout the day despite having doors and windows open to fight the intense heat.
The room is filled with unusual musical instruments that the artist collects from the flea market and his trips around the world. Sometimes he also plays them as a way to distract himself from work and find inspiration.
Only a few months before this interview the artist suffered from a severe breakdown, caused by pressure from the work he is putting into his current project and bad working habits, such as working alone for long, grueling sessions. The tiny papier-mâché figure next to the red toy piano is not only Mr. Coo’s arch enemy; it also serves as a constant reminder for Rodríguez to fight poor health and bad habits.
Some posters to measure eyesight levels hang next to a collection of flutes and other wind instruments, one of Rodríguez’s passions.
Several compositions of objects, created by Rodríguez’s collaborator Sara López in her studio and used as scenic backgrounds for the game. Most of the objects were acquired by López in El Rastro.
Background test by Nacho Rodríguez.