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Interview with Perspectives/Perceptions Artist Iris Esquivel

Iris Esquivel was one of the artists featured in Fridge Door’s Winter 2016 exhibition “Perspectives/Perceptions.” She is a U3 Elementary Education student at McGill whose work as an artist is multidisciplinary, ranging from poetry to illustration. 

Interview by Sylvie Schwartz

How did you become interested in art and what drew you to your medium?

My mother is an artist, and so art was always a big part of my life growing up. I was never into sports, and I never took ballet. I sort of just hung out with my mom watching the news and making crafts. I’ve experimented with many mediums in the past, but I gravitate naturally towards illustrations because I can visualize the outcome just right in my head and add all kinds of delicate little details! The drawing process is relatively quick. It was to be, because there’s always something new that catches my attention and begs to be etched. I end up with dozens of unfinished illustrations collecting dust in my studio, but that’s fine with me because once I’ve gotten the idea out of my head and onto paper, even if its just the skeleton of the final product, I feel happy and relieved! I go back and finish these pieces on lazy Sundays, or when it’s raining. Or at 4 AM when I can’t sleep.

Are you exclusively interested in illustration, or do you work in other mediums as well?

I appreciate all mediums of art, but for the moment illustrations are my sweet spot. I’m able to take an idea and conceptualize it into something personal, or clever, or funny, and in a few hours I have a little product in front of me that represents a whole mood, or story. I paint a lot too, but with a different purpose. I illustrate when I have something very acute to articulate, and I paint when I simply feel, and have nothing to say at all!

(Where) Do you see intersections between your artistic interests and your field of study?

I’m in Elementary Education right now, so I’m going to be a teacher! I think the most important thing for me, when making art, is to listen to my body and only create things when the mood is right and the inspiration is thick and delicious. I don’t like the idea of pushing art onto kids that aren’t into it. Rather, art is always present as an option and it delights me to see kids choose it. I teach a drawing class right now, and the biggest challenge it trying to motivate students to care about art. That kind of thing should be intrinsic. Until you have the urge to make something, I don’t think it’s my right as an instructor to force it. Bottom line: in the future I’d prefer to keep my art and my teaching at a cushiony distance.

Are there figures that you particularly look up to?

Perpetually obsessed with Francisco Goya. Really into the art of so many local Montreal artists who lend their drawing skills to gorgeous concert posters, comic strips, and illustrate for neighborhood diner menus. Too many to name.

What is your process like when starting an illustration? Do you know what you want from a work going in, or does it evolve as you’re working on it?

I have the clearest idea of what I want before I start. Something happens and a light bulb goes “ding” in my head. I usually write a little note on my phone to remember the visual in my head, or I sketch it out on an old receipt. Sometimes if the details or colors I’m picturing are really precise, I’ll even record a voice memo so that I don’t forget a thing. I’ll go a couple weeks without drawing something, and then all of a sudden boom! In one day I’ll come across 20 wild things that I need to draw. Gotta catch em’ all. The process comes in waves. Phase 1: draw thing in pencil. Phase 2: Trace thing with ink pen. Phase 3: Paint thing with acrylics. Beer. Music.  

What are some of the main influences on your work, both from inside and outside the art world?

Tough question. It’s like one of those big snow removal trucks that pass through the city. Bits of inspiration from so many places you end up with an untraceable, very colourful flurry! I take inspiration from comic artists, from album covers, from poetry that just sounds like a picture, from my mom the “artiste”, from funny t-shirts, from gallery windows I pass by, from international illustrators that share their stuff on the world of Instagram, from my students’ pictures, from classroom doodles… A compilation of wonderfully dirty snow!

Are there aspects of art that you would like to explore further, or other things that you would like to integrate into your work?

I want to experiment with computer software to see how it might fit in with my illustrations. I’m fascinated by digital art, but know nothing about it. Going to hire a gorgeous Italian man to teach me “how to computer”. I’m also going to make a children’s book. But it will also be for big people.

Where do you see art fitting into your life after college? (i.e. would you like to pursue a career as a professional artist, exhibit work in small galleries, keep it as a hobby, create works for yourself and your friends, etc)

I’m going to let art take me where it takes me! I think there’s a tantalizing line between artists that make art because they want to, and artists that make art because they need to—because they are compelled, and don’t know how to not art. I am having a wildly fun time making things right now, but I can’t fully predict whether or not I’ll cross the magic line, or how deeply art will seduce me and decide my life course.

For the moment, I’m plotting my first art exhibition which will take place in late May! Will provide further details as the date approaches, and hope to see you there! : - )

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