Miguel Monkc Illustrator Interview

Miguel Monkc

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Can you recall the first time you realized you were going to be an illustrator? What were your earliest impressions?
I spent 5 years studying graphic design in Havana from 2010 to 2015, and during those years it never went through my mind to become an illustrator. Actually, what I enjoyed doing at that time was to design and work with typography. Although my diploma project and supposed attempt at specialization was typographic I always carried wherever I went a notebook where I made drawings and sketches of things that intrigued me or that simply worried me about my surroundings. Without realizing it, those first drawings became my first illustrations.
It wasn’t until 2016, that I got my first client exclusively to work as an illustrator. It was the first time I saw myself illustrating an entire news magazine. After that experience I received calls from independent journalists and outstanding digital newspapers. That year I knew what I wanted to do in my life was to illustrate.

Who or what influenced your art when you were young?
I recall the first massive graphic impact. It was during a festival dedicated to the Polish School of graphic design when I fell in love with illustration and posters. I loved the work of Henryk Tomaszewski and Jan Lenica.

Do you remember what your first artwork looked like? Do you still have it?
It was a poster I did during my second year at the university. The task was to re-design a classic poster from a series of works from the Cuban School of poster design. I chose Strawberry and Chocolate “Fresa y Chocolate”, a 1993 film directed by Tomás Gutierrez Alea (Titón). Unfortunately, I don’t have the sketch or the final result of the artwork, but I do remember the visual concept clearly.
The poster showed two different types of shoes which joined in a handshake through their laces. One of the shoes referred to machismo and communism and the other to freedom and sexual diversity.

Why did you choose illustration as your life’s work instead of, for example, filmmaking, law, or even medicine?

I chose illustration not only because it calms my anxiety and gets my demons away, also because I was not good at doing other things. I was lucky thanks to my father to try the craft of upholstery, a family business that has existed throughout my childhood. Although I learned a lot using heavy tools and sewing, ultimately I knew upholstery wasn’t for me.

Where does your inspiration come from; your impulse to make art? Do you have a source for your ideas?
Mostly my impulses of ideas come from the world of news and events. Environmental issues or human injustice activates my creativity. Everything associated with politics inspires me to do things to try to reverse social situations. The subject-technology relationship is another issue that I like. Many aspects of life are constantly changing that worries me. One of them, for example, is that human affection is almost not experienced directly from other people but through the screen.

How would you describe the process of creating art?
To start, I make small sketches smaller than my thumb, then if I really like any of them I draw it with graphite pencil on paper a little bigger. I scan the sketch and then I work on it digitally.

If you could do something else, other than creating art, what would it be?
I would be very happy doing anything in a bookstore. The truth is that bookstores are to me one of the most intriguing and inspiring places after gardens and forests.

Do you think illustration has the eye of the public or could public awareness of this field be improved upon?
I think illustration draws a lot of attention from diverse audiences who love reading, music, movies, science, cooking and many other things. From young people to old. We cover spaces for all types of audiences, and that is what makes illustration so special. In many of the spaces where illustration was absent from, nowadays it plays a main role; such as banks, law firms, presidential campaigns and even religious institutions just to mention some examples.
I also believe that over time, illustration has and continues gaining its place in the taste and needs of the new companies. Before, for example, illustration was not a specialty in universities. Now it is. Universities and design schools act accordingly to the industrie’s needs. This gives you an example of the place where illustration is now and where in the past.

Why does art matter to you? Why might it matter to the world?

It matters because illustration has the power and astuteness to change situations, facts and opinions, form values ​​and tell us when something is going wrong. The world moves and acts according to opinions. Our actions depend on them. It matters because it is simply useful and not worthless.

If you could look back or forward 100 years, do you think the life of an artist was or will be better than today?

I am sure we have a better place on earth to be illustrators now. In the past, young people could not have the opportunity to work as illustrators. Although the future is difficult to predict, I can say that in ten years’ time we may not even do illustration in the same way we do it now, but illustration will still exist as the cleverest way to express ideas.