Art and beauty are appreciated by almost everyone to some extent but, unfortunately, there are many talented artists in the world who are little appreciated despite their incredible abilities. Noting the lack of outlets for up-and-coming, underground, or outside artists to showcase their work, I decided to start an “Artist Spotlight” series where I will interview various artists in order to gain a deeper insight into what inspires their creativity and what they plan to do with their careers.
New Jersey based artist Mauro Balcazar is and illustrator of comics, cartoons and T-shirts who is strongly inspired by movies, comic books and science fiction that contain robots, monsters and super heroes. He is also one of the talented artists who agreed to answer some questions for this series:
Q: What influenced you to become an illustrator?
My parents, they were definitely a big influence on me. They were architects before I was born and I like to think their sense of creativity was passed down to me in some way. They always encouraged me to express myself. I used to love looking at their early sketches that hung in our old apartment. Growing up I was never really good at communicating my thoughts clearly and always found that I could express myself on paper better than any words could, often finding any piece of paper I could use to doodle my big ideas and dreams on.
The more I grew, the more art I was exposed to in films and books. I remember vividly discovering a little tiny book at a Barnes & Nobles called “The Gashlycrumb Tinies” by Edward Gorey. At the time I had been in love with Tim Burtons’ gothic style, but Gorey’s art took it to a whole other level for me. His dark style and gloomy outlook influenced me early on in my sketches and still does till this day. Unfortunately, while starting college, I stopped focusing on art and pursued a different career. Sadly, for a long time, I never picked up a pencil and gave up any chance of being an artist. I consider those the dark times in my life because I wasn’t really happy and felt a void missing in my life.
Thankfully, my love of movies only grew larger and so did my fascination with theatrical posters. As a kid, I didn’t know his name, but I had fallen in love with each and every one of his posters when I went to the movies. Drew Struzan is influential to me in so many ways and has largely impacted how I see art and how to use it to tell a narrative. Looking at his posters for Indiana Jones or Star Wars as an example, his art is able to tell you everything you need to know about the movie without words, it’s truly amazing. I think of about Drew Struzan whenever I create a poster and ask myself if I’m able to tell a story with my art the way he does.
Q: In terms of subject matter, what are your cartoons about and what inspired the ideas for them?
Movies, Pop culture and the macabre have always been largely what I love to create art for. I have such a deep-rooted love for film, TV and monsters and try to express that in every piece that I create. Each poster I do starts the same, with me writing down my favorite scenes along with key words I want to express in each piece. With my Short Circuit print, for example, I wanted to depict the sense of wonder and life that Johnny 5 had on film. After countless sketches and layouts, having him looking up a butterfly made me smile. Often, I draw the poster, walk away for a few days, and when I come back to it, I hope it gets me excited. That lets me know I’m on the right track.
Aside from poster art, I paint anything having to do with the macabre. I often dedicate the entire month of October to paint something Halloween-centric per day using traditional media. It’s an odd and happy ritual I do that involves me listening to lots of Halloween music on Pandora and painting madly well into the night. It’s a fun way to express myself and pay homage to my favorite artists like Edward Gorey, Guy Davis and Charles Adams.
Q: As far as working in illustration, what has been your most rewarding experience so far?
It’s been really great meeting people who love and connect with my work, especially when I go to Comic Con. I get to hear people react to seeing my art and they can’t believe they’re seeing a “Revenge of the Nerds” poster, for example. I feel like I’ve done this movie, that’s so embedded in me, some artistic justice and it brings a little bit of happiness to other fans. Only recently have I started to meet actors from some of the films I’ve drawn art for and it’s been a really rewarding experience for me. Getting a chance to give these actors my artwork and hearing them reminisce of when they made these films which had such a big impact on me growing up is surreal. In a lot of ways it brings me a little closer to these movies and I get to capture what makes their movies so special to me.
A few years ago I got to meet Adam West and give him a painting I had done of his character the “Gray Ghost” from the Batman animated series. This was a very minor character that was only ever seen in one episode but had a big impact in the Batman lore. I remember him vividly saying, “You did this? This is me, I’ve never seen this, this is pretty damn awesome, come here and give me a fist bump”. Seeing how delighted he was made all the hours I put into the painting worth it. A fist bump from Batman does wonders for the soul! I take a lot of risks when I draw something and never knowing how it's going to be received in a world where everything is instant is very scary. It makes me really happy to think that somewhere around the world is one of my posters hanging in someone’s room. It’s surreal and rewarding.
Q: How has MoCCA helped your career?
This was actually my first year exhibiting at MoCCA. I had an opportunity to participate with some friends and I had an absolute blast. I loved being around so many talented people and seeing all sorts of different art was really nourishing. I hope to continue exhibiting going forward and meeting more like-minded artists. I’m also going to try and bring more of my non movie-centric pieces with me as I feel they will be well received as well. MoCCA is a really great place to see all the different ways that art is used to tell a story.
Q: Are there any up and coming projects that you would like to mention?
Right now I’m actually in the middle of designing a new print for The Last Dragon’s 30th anniversary screening taking place this November in New York. It’s very full circle for me in many ways. My first ever real piece of art was for The Last Dragon 4 years ago, and is what’s led me down this poster rabbit hole, sort of speak. I’m currently pacing back and forth my apartment laying out Last Dragon art to get this just right. I look at it as a way to show how long I’ve come as an artist and a storyteller.
My second project, which takes place immediately after The Last Dragon print, will be a theatrical poster for the 1990’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It’s my favorite film and I finally feel confident enough to draw it as a print. Co-inciting with their 30th anniversary and my 30th birthday I feel I can finally do them justice in my art. I hope to have all of this ready for this year’s Comic Con in October, gulp. You should see my apartment wall with all the color post-it notes of projects I want to have done, its nerve wracking!
Q: Where do you hope to be, career wise, in ten years?
I’d like to have drawn enough art to have my own gallery showing for sure. I want to be able to look back in 10 years and think, “How did I ever get any of these things done?” It would be cool to see how my art has also progressed and to see what my style will look like in 10 years.
Professionally, I want to work with Mondo, Gallery 1998, and the Hero Complex creating art prints for films and pop culture. They put out such amazing work from different artists, whom I all admire, and would love to be in their company.
Aside from posters, I really want to focus on creating my own work. I’ve had luck using my art for t-shirt apparel but as a career, I want to draw my own series of children’s books. Very much in the vein of my heroes like Edward Gorey, Guy Davis, and Guillermo del Toro, I want to dive into the world of the macabre and create Halloween centric books for all ages.
As an artist, nothing makes me happier than being at my desk, well past midnight, bringing something to life that I’ve spent months drawing in my mind. As long as I can continue telling a story through my art, I will be a very happy and fulfilled person.
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To find out more about Mauro’s artwork visit his official website:
And, for further reading, his sketchbook blog:
T-shirts depicting Mauro’s art can be purchased here: