Today’s interview has a bit of a back story: A couple of months ago, I did a special on vector graphics. One of the artists I was planning to do an interview with was Xavier Salvador. Well… it turned out that he doesn’t use vector graphics at all. Of course I asked him, how he achieved his perfect black lines and shapes. Here’s his reply:
For my caricatures I use a process I invented myself. Some years ago, I used to ink my drawings – but I felt that it would take me years to learn this technique. And I don’t have the time! So I tried this: I do the first sketch and then, instead of inking, I trace with very clean lines of pencil. I scan it, and I darken it in Photoshop. Then I fill in the spaces between lines. Finally, I color the non-white areas and.. voilà! It is a very simple yet effective process.
[click here to see a work in progress]
About half a year after my first attempt I finally managed to continue the interview:
Xavier, now that I know how your technique works.. Can you tell me how you learned to draw? Did you have any artistic schooling?
I drew my first caricatures back in university, and I noticed they looked pretty good. That’s why I decided to take a local ‘comic book course’ in my hometown, Reus. My teacher was Marc Sardà, a great illustrator and artist. He opened the door of this world to me, and I’ll be eternally grateful to him.
Do you still change things about your personal style?
Yes, I always want to try something new. Take, for example Matteo Bertelli‘s hair. I had never drawn Rasta hair before…So, I had to try out a couple of different ways of drawing it until I found the right one.
I think we always should try to improve. In my case, I developed from a ”standard” style more or less, to the current one. My objective is this: I want to communicate a maximum of content using a minimum of lines, colors and shapes. I think I have achieved this with the black-and-white style.
The most curious thing is this: one of the reasons that I have reached this goal, it is that I am color-blind – I am frightened of colors! And, obviously, I am more comfortable using black shadows.
Yeah, you got me! I try to discern them from their position in Photoshop. I also ask my girlfriend to check the colors before I exhibit a picture. Coloring is the hardest part for me!
For some reason, I’ve never asked this question before: How do you decide on whom to draw next?
I like this question. There is more than one motivation to draw a person. Sometimes I like a piece of art created or performed by someone – music, a painting, or a film. Sometimes will draw a person I admire for their career. Or a historic character I have read about, or someone who is in the news. Other times, there is a request. And sometimes I just like the person I am drawing.
Did your new technique change something about the way you perceive lights and shadows?
Of course! I pay attention to light a lot more. For example, when I have to draw a caricature I reject a lot of photos that other artists would use. Why? Because they don’t have shadows, so I can’t see the volumes of the face. Without lights and shadows I can’t develop my drawings. For example, in my version of Michelangelo’s David, I applied a lot of shadows that you almost can’t see in any photo – but I need them to make my drawing live.
I’d say that now I do a lot more detailed analysis of my ‘victims” faces. I have also become quite meticulous about the shadows and volumes and I try to internalize them. In the last years, developing the style of fragmented shadows has been a step forward, for example in the Jesse Owens piece.
Is there something that you would still like to improve upon?
Yes, one of my weak points is drawing backgrounds, and I love drawing comic books! Therefore I must practice it…
As for human bodies and faces… I have worked with them for a lot of years now, but sometimes I still find another way of drawing something I have already done a thousand times! We can always improve, even on something we perfectly know.
Thanks for your time!