Domingo Widen studied graphic design in Spain and followed his passion for psychologically complex vector designs. His artworks portray a complex relationship with human interconnectedness and relationships, which suits his surrealist and abstracted aesthetic perfectly. We spoke with Domingo about his extraordinary life which has taken him from his birthplace of Venuzuela to working as an illustrator in London.
"I feel that’s half the process of a living piece of art, you give a visual hint and it’s down to the observer to complete the story, not me. That’s the real beauty of illustration."
How did you become a graphic designer?
I’ve always been intrigued by colours, shapes and storytelling, and since childhood I’ve immersed myself in the world of comics and illustrations. Growing up, I knew I wanted to dedicate my career to what I loved doing most: drawing. Graphic Design would enable to me to absolutely embrace my passion and skills and within an arena in which my work would be more readily accessible for others to view online.
I studied a Masters in Graphic Design in Seville, Spain, following which I set up my own Printing Studio. I learnt a huge amount about design production, typography, printing techniques, paper textures, client management and more – it was an amazing experience, but I knew I wanted to pursue a career in Digital rather than Print. I therefore moved to London just over a year ago to seek better opportunities to develop my skills and really get my teeth stuck into something outside of my comfort zone, as for me that’s really the only way you can improve as a professional. I have since been lucky enough to work at the global foreign exchange company Travelex as an Illustrator in their newly formed Design Team, and have been learning a great deal from knowing how to tell a brand’s story to new product and future concept storyboarding.
What’s your favorite thing about vector artworks?
Okay I know this might sound crazy… But I first got into vector graphics because it was really, really hard. It was a challenge, and I always like to feel like I’m pushing myself. But as time’s gone on, what started out as a technical challenge has actually become a real passion of mine. I love the crisp lines and boldness of colour that you can achieve with vector design, I love the malleability and flexibility of the medium – I know that with these designs, they can be implemented anywhere with minimal readjustment. To this day, I still have colleagues of mine who can’t believe I’m willing to go to the effort of vector designing even the most minute of illustrations… But it’s fun, honestly!
What’s been your biggest artistic influence?
That’s a really big question. And one I couldn’t possibly answer fully, as there are far too many artists I admire that have influenced me in some way out there, from Moebius’ colour palettes, James Jean’s surrealist subjects, Tadanori Yooko’s bold and colourful posters, and Yuko Shimizu’s precise inking techniques, just to name a few. I’m also a keen aficionado of the Low Brow movement, the Hutson River School and Franco-Belgian comic books. To be honest, as an artist you’re constantly observing. And with the thousands of incredible artists out who are all bringing something to the table, you can be constantly influenced without even realising. That’s why it’s so hard to pin down.
What’s your creative process?
It all starts with a pencil and an idea. You can get your idea at the most random of moments, so it’s key to write it down when it comes. That’s why I always carry a small notebook and pencil with me. I usually sketch out my idea first – recently, I’ve been using ProCreate on my iPad to do this. Once the sketch is finished, I take it straight to Illustrator or Photoshop to finish up the details. To be honest, there’s no single software or medium; I usually have to use between 2-3 programmes to finish a piece – it’s definitely a staged process. Pieces can take anything from 1 day to a week to complete, but if I’m really “in the zone”, it can take even less.
How does surrealism influence your artwork?
I like toying with the role of perception and the personification of moods through playful imagery. There’s often a challenging element in my works when it comes to death, sexuality and the societal impact on our natural state of being. Given people’s inherently different perceptions, it’s also fascinating to hear what people see when they look at my art. I feel that’s half the process of a living piece of art, you give a visual hint and it’s down to the observer to complete the story, not me. That’s the real beauty of illustration.
"...as an artist it’s so important to accept that things takes time, and that it doesn’t always go as smoothly as expected...this is a marathon, not a sprint."
What has been the biggest learning curve you’ve discovered as an artist?
Patience. And I’m still trying to learn it. It is THE most important thing to learn as an artist. Everything requires a lot of work and a lot of craft. If you want to improve your craft, you simply have to put in the hours. We live in a world that moves at a hundred miles an hour, so it’s easy to want to rush things. By all means, I think it’s worth knowing your optimal level of efficiency, but as an artist it’s so important to accept that things takes time, and that it doesn’t always go as smoothly as expected. At the end of the day, as I’ve been reminded by my wonderful partner, this is a marathon, not a sprint.
I really like the work “Musician,” can you tell us about it?
This was actually a busker that I saw when I first arrived in London – his music was incredible and there was something about his face and expressive state that struck me. As an artist, I can appreciate the emotional and even spiritual connection he had with his music, and I really wanted to capture that moment visually. And so he became Day 5 for my 100 Days of Illustration project!
Can you tell us more about that project?
Similar to vector graphics, this was another personal challenge of mine. It started somewhere in September last year and finished in December, just over 3 months. The idea was to push myself daily to ideate, design, and finish one hundred different illustrations. It was a significant milestone for me in terms of learning how to let go. At the beginning of the challenge, each illustration would take the whole day to complete, but it got to the point where I had to learn to let go of the illustration and accept its completion earlier on. I learned how to express ideas more quickly and efficiently. It was tough and I can’t say I like all of them – in fact some of them quite accurately reflect my mood that day – but to this day I still look at that project and can’t quite believe I managed to complete it.
How long do you take on each artwork?
It can take anywhere between one day, to a week to finish depending on the complexity of the piece and the number of other projects I’d be working on at that moment. That said, once I start a work, I always need to finish it. Sometimes I have to force myself to stop, exercise my patience and come back to it another day with a fresher perspective. Easier said than done, but it can really help develop a piece.
And lastly, when or what time of day do your best ideas come to you?
An idea can strike at any moment. I’m always ready with my pencil…