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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Interview #9--Enrique Flores

Hi all!  I'd delighted to finally get the interview with Enrique Flores promised in this post up for your enjoyment!  First Enrique was out of town, then I was, then I got sick...so we're finally back on track.  Believe me, it was worth waiting for!

This photo shows not only Enrique's technique, but a representative collection of his gear.

You're probably familiar with Enrique's marvelously bold, fresh sketches on Flickr, as 4ojos, HERE, or on his blog, HERE, or as a correspondent on our Sketching in Nature blog.  I was delighted when he agreed to be part of the upcoming book, and of this blog.

Here's a quick intro from Enrique himself:

I´m an illustrator working in Madrid, Spain mainly for publishing houses but also for newspaper EL PAIS, where I do political illustration. I publish books I write and also illustrate words of others. I´ve been doing that for about 15 years. In a previous life I was an advertising man not far from the stupid style of life of MadMen.  

(Funny how many of us have left that life far behind...I owned a small ad agency in the early 70's, myself!)


But now, let's  jump right into the interveiw! 

Q. Have you always journaled, or is this relatively new?  (When did you start?) 

A. I´ve been drawing since I was a kid, not stopping even when most children do (at about 12). I started journalling in sketchbooks in 1989 when I did my first long trip (to Cuba). I bought a squared Cahier at the airport and did quite a few biro sketches in the month I spent there. I´ve been keeping sketchbooks ever since and I guess I have a good bunch of them by now, around 300 or 400, I´m not sure. Never counted them as they´re not all together but in three different houses.
Q. What have been your inspirations? 
A. Great illustrators from the sixties like Paul Hogarth or Ronald Searle (and their artistic father Ardizzone and Ben Shahn) have been a quite important inspiration. The freshness of their strokes it´s something I try to keep on mind when I work. Loustal was kind of a shock when I first saw what he was doing in the eighties. Also Spanish illustrators like Alfredo and Ballesta but I´m afraid they´re unknown to US audience.

Q. Watercolor seems to be your favorite medium, can you tell me why? 

A. It´s fairly easy to carry, dries quick and can transmit the light of what I have in front of me. I also love the speed of the medium and also the dizziness of working with no safety net. Correcting mistakes in watercolour is always difficult specially as I never use previous pencil lines!

Q. This is a very exciting and bold effect…your work looks very sure.  Do you visualize it all first, or just GO with it?
A. I just GO with it. I´ve learned over the years to overcome my fears and now I don't care If something goes wrong on a sketch as I always can do a new, better one. I try to think of the freedom of jazz musicians when I work and prefer to make ten quick, spontaneous sketches to a single "finished" one. A lot of time, insisting with new washes and lines, can spoil a sketch that began well.

Q. You’ve said you use waterbrushes a lot…can you tell us why, and expand on your technique a bit?  
I remember your saying that sometimes you put paint in your waterbrushes.  Tell us why?
A. I use to put liquid watercolour in NIJI waterbrushes. They´re Vallejo, a quite good Spanish brand. That allows me to use bright colours. Years ago I travelled with colour little bottles but I got sick of them opening in the backpack and spoiling the clothes. Carrying them inside the waterbrushes is safer. I carry also a small box of solid watercolours. They´re not as bright as the liquid ones, as you know and I mix the two depending of the area of the sketch I´m working in

Q. You use fairly small waterbrushes, but get big, juicy washes.  How do you do that!?

A. I carry a big brush beside the waterbrushes. I make the colour first but not in the watercolour box tiny mixing area. I use instead any other recipient. When the colour is OK I apply it in quick washes  with lots of water. I use to work on a different sketch from the same spot while the first paper drys.

Q. Does your journal keeping impact or enhance your work, or the other way around? 

A. I try to draw every day as I think by doing so my hand and eye will be "trained" somehow. Compositional skills need to be exercised. 

Q. You obviously travel a lot; do you go alone?  If not, how do you find time to sketch when other people need to do things elsewhere?  [See more of Enrique's travel sketches here.]

A. I´m lucky to travel with another sketcher so taking my time has never been a problem. When travelling in groups one can´t stop them any time to make a sketch even if they´re 10 minutes long. It´s not like I don´t like travelling in group but I´ve noticed I draw less when I do it.

Q. How much to you take with you when you travel?  What are your supplies like?  Do you try to travel light?
A. I travel very light and depending of the length of the trip I carry a A4 or A5 hardbound sketchbook. A couple of brushes, eight waterbrushes, a Sailor Calligraphy pen and a small plastic 12 pans W&N watercolour box filled with high quality colours. Sometimes I carry loose sheets of watercolour paper whenever I think I might do an exhibition afterwards. That was the case of my 3 trips in Algeria.

Here's Enrique at work with a bit more equipment!
Q. How do you decide to design a page? 

A. I dunno... Sometimes I can foresee clearly the scene (landscape, architecture...) I want to fix. Depending of the composition chosen I use a double or a single page. Sometimes I draw a tiny detail and leave some white space around for writing later on. I try not to work back at the hotel as I feel the drawings lack freshness. I´m not a cerebral (do you say that in English?) type of guy.

Q. Other thoughts? Whatever else you feel is more important, personally, to YOU...

A. I´ve been growing a bit obsessive, Kate.  Just to mention some examples: I try to draw the airplane in which I will travel as kind of exorcism, I always draw the shoes I use, I never rip off a page no matter the quality of the drawing,  I try to follow a chronological order, I keep a calendar on the last two pages... 

Sometimes Enrique works on  loose sheets of watercolor paper, besides keeping a thick journal, just to try a different approach--he writes that he discovered later than "carrying all day long sheets of paper makes moving harder and slows down my usually fast pace."  But we all experiment and grow, don't we!?  Journals ARE more portable. 

For more of Enrique's work, check this direct link: http://www.4ojos.com/blog/?tag=cuadernos

Thank you for joining us, Enrique, it was most enjoyable!


  1. Interesting interview. I love to see how others work.

  2. Wonderful sketchbooks and beautiful color!

  3. Enrique's art is incredible, awe-inspiring! Great interview, Kate!

  4. I'm always so amazed at how many journals these artists have!! Wow! And I'm once again inspired to try to loosen up like he does. Not change my style so much, but I've always wanted to work looser than I do. Great interview, Enrique and Cathy!


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