Interview with Chile-Based Artist Xaviera Lopez
The Surrealist Dreamer
Once upon a time on my Tumblr blog feed, I stumbled upon an animation, where it illustrated a couple kissed passionately. As they shared the romantic moment, their faces blossomed into a surrealistic creature, making connections with each other… I clicked “liked” on the post, as I normally would if I think I would come back one day and explore further. The following day, the same blog post came up again on my Tumblr, reposted by another blogger. Subsequently another surrealistic animation of similar aesthetic popped up on my feed. This time it was a girl stripped of herself to reveal yet another layer of her nested inside like a Matryoshka doll. This looped animation was coined ‘Skin’. Given the illustration style, I was pretty sure it was from the same artist. The vivid imageries by this mysterious artist meant something to me. It was a sign that I should explore who was behind this fascinating creation. My research led me to discover Xaviera Lopez, a Chile-based illustrator who quickly became one of my favorites after reaching out to her, and expressing my admiration of her work.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, and when did you found your passion in making illustrations into animation art?
“I was born and raised in Santiago de Chile, and for now I’m living here. Chile is a long and small country, literally at the end of the world, with every possible weather and landscape you can imagine. It’s difficult to be an artist here because almost everybody seems to be more focused on the “practical”, but if you’re resourceful and stubborn enough, you can make it. I’ve been drawing since I can remember, I was the art teacher’s pet (and a burden for everybody else) and I took drawing and painting classes outside of high school because I needed more. Drawing is thinking visually, like when you explain something complex and you need to doodle to make it understandable. It is a language on its own where with just three elements (dots, lines and planes) you can have a billion different results and messages. Then I went to Art College, a very small and experimental one where I got to try a little bit of everything but became fascinated by video and animation, so I took a 2D animation class to understand the basics. I had a few exhibitions in local galleries and museums, then I worked as an art director for some years and forgot about personal work despite having a little voice always saying: “hey, go back!” but I didn’t have (make) the time or motivation. I found the Vine app in 2013 and I was reminded of everything I used to love. You could only create in-app, so the possibilities were limited and you had to use all your imagination to make something good. I also found really talented and supportive people. I remember thinking: “WOW! How did he/she do that?” and I would just ask, and they would reply! So I started using all my spare time making vines, tried different materials and techniques and reconnected with my personal work. Then I expanded to other formats like film or gif. The word animation comes from soul: it’s about giving a soul to otherwise still images. It’s wonderful and magical.
Many of your work give off a surreal vibe, where does your inspiration come from?
“Many things can’t be communicated only with words, and that’s when images are important. Nowadays we are used to this constant overflow of images and we don’t pay enough attention to them, but they work on a subconscious level. My inspiration comes from my life experiences. I see my work as an attempt to document my process of figuring things out. I try to be as awake and aware as possible and absorb like a sponge all the ideas, images, sounds and feelings I can, so that I can make a connection between whatever is going on with me and things from the outside world. I am very picky; Images are food for the brain. You want your body to have all the best, healthiest possible nutrients; you want the same for your mind, as they’re not really separated."
Often artists create ‘art’ through emotions gathered from life experiences, do you think yourwork is influenced by that and is it a good representation of who you are?
“That’s where my inspiration comes from and my work is a very good representation of my internal process, that’s why some of my animations and illustrations are sad, or creepy, or lighthearted, or have mixed emotions. It’s all meaningful stuff for me, and I put it out there hoping to connect with other people in different ways, because I really believe the viewer completes the artwork, and interesting things happen when you expose yourself in a respectful way. Sometimes someone will say something about what I did and I’ll be like: YES! Never thought of that! Or they will give me a reference that I didn’t know about. I love feedback because it gives me perspective. I remember this time when I had a photography exhibition at a gallery, and I would go there just to listen to whatever people commented about my work (nobody knew I was the author). On the Internet people feel freer to speak their minds and I have the privilege to read all those thoughts, I love it! There are many other dimensions of me that nobody gets to see: I am funny, talkative sometimes, I love to dance, I am afraid of many things, I have troubles sleeping, I go to yoga everyday, etc.”
Can you give us a brief process how you create these animation?
“It’s all a mix between analog and digital drawing, rotoscopy and 2d animation, and after effects at a basic level. I’ve developed this method based on my needs, maybe there is something simpler or easier out there and I haven’t discovered it yet, but I’m comfortable with my strange technique. I have this notebook where I draw my ideas and associated concepts to have a clear idea of how I want it to look like and what the action has to be. Then I figure out what I need to make them. I shoot, draw, print, scan, import, draw, export, edit, export, draw… I work at 15 frames per second, each frame is a drawing. I take my time, listen to podcasts while I draw, and try to make something I am proud of aesthetically wise. I take dance breaks because all the sedentarism drives me crazy.”
You artwork are widely shared on the interweb and social media, when did you know you are getting the attention? Has anyone asked you to do commission?
“I have done a lot of commission work both in illustration and animation. I’ve had the opportunity to work with big brands and have creative freedom, which is something I love! I don’t feel that I’m getting that much attention except when I’m on my phone, maybe because of where I live. In my daily life it’s not even a thing. When I started on Vine I almost didn’t know about social media (I knew a couple of Instagram and YouTube popular accounts but I never imagined myself doing that). I remember being super excited with interactions there not because of popularity, but because this x super talented person was saying that my animation (that took a lot of work and was meaningful for me) was good for some reason. Then I started having these sudden spells of activity and realized maybe this was a good way to show my work to the world. And I started celebrating every new interaction and growth. I still do, I’m still surprised by the power of the Internet and what has happened to me, as obvious at this may seem for a lot of people. I didn’t expect this to go so far.”
Do you personally have a favorite artist? Or anyone that inspires you to do your work?
“I love History of Art because I feel that I have all this friends across time and space that I look up to for different reasons. Aubrey Beardsley has been one of my favorite artists recently, but there are so many more it’s a never-ending list. I also look at non-museum-art places: music, film, yoga, nature, fashion, podcasts, social media, pop culture, etc. I believe in coincidences and the things that I’m looking for always seem to find me at the right moments. I just try to be open.
Can you tell us what are you currently working on? Any upcoming projects you are involved in?
“I’m always doing personal illustration and animation work, it’s what keeps me motivated. I’m also working on a couple of branded projects and making animations for a very interesting documentary about women directors. I want to make a short film, paint a big mural and translate some of my imagery into jewelry and fabrics. I’m very grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had and the people I’ve met so far, and I’d love to find a way to give others what has been given to me.”
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