A restless mind in constant learning, a young artist with a huge knowledge of history and art, reflected perfectly in all of his work. Our second collaboration with an illustrator, Víctor Siles, a really outstanding artist from Barcelona, Spain. It took us some months to publish this section, but we think it is absolutely worth the wait. We are very excited about the result of our collaboration, an amazing design came out, a design that perfectly fits into our believes and the way we see The Covenant. Víctor and us have something in common, the passion about Witchcraft. We hope you enjoy the following words and the result of our collaboration as much as we do.
OBNUBIL: Hey Siles, could you give us a bit of background about you, your education and work? What originally made you want to become an illustrator / artist?
SILES: I was born in 1989 in Barcelona. As far back as I can remember, I have been using drawing as means to express all I was keeping to myself or what distressed me but also to escape the world. I spent countless hours during my lessons at school sketching books and notebooks, filling up pages and pages with drawings, stories, caricatures of teachers, classmates, imaginary characters, absurd or parallel worlds. Absolutely anything. Obviously, I was never a model student, but when I finished high school I figured the most adequate option was to study the two years of education previous to university which are called "bachillerato" in the Spanish educational system. Fortunately, it includes a branch dedicated to arts. So I set it as my educational path.
I had been attending the same school since I was three years old, so changing the ever-known environment to study at a public institute located in the other side of town surely was out of my comfort zone. Nevertheless, those were interesting years.
After studying and due to several strong hits I took from life, I spent two years away from any form of art. I tried other career paths and studies: film production, first aid, radiology... It was all very eclectic. Two years going from here to there but really going nowhere, I made up my mind: maybe it was time to go back to art. It was 2010 when I decided to get into the illustration study program at the Escola d’Art i Superior de Disseny Llotja, in Barcelona. Ever since, I have been trying to dedicate to this professionally and full-time. And I will keep on trying until achieve this goal.
OBNUBIL: How would you describe your approach? Could you tell us about your creation process and your technique? How was the evolution to your actual illustration style?
SILES: Well, I am not entirely sure on how to describe my approach. I guess I try to focus on all what moves me or reaches my feelings in a certain way. I attempt to create something that, primarily, appeals to myself. And from there, I try to find new borders; see what my comfort zone is and exploit it to the its maximum until I reach its limit and then go even further from it. Once its been breached, I see what can I create in this new zone. Sometimes it is a success and, others (most) everything ends in a folder I keep in my studio, filled with endless disaster ideas and attempts.
I guess to describe my evolution towards pointillism I should begin by stating that I am color blind. I am aware it is strange that someone who is color blind is also an illustration artist, but well, I guess a life without challenges in no life at all. I had always used color because neither in class nor on my natural approach there was no other alternative. It was "the obvious". During many years I had to deal with the frustration of never really knowing what was I painting. At the same time I saw my classmates using colors with mastery, the more agility and ease they had with them, the more hieratic, unnatural and orthopedic I turned. I was painting forced, just using the theory of color as a basis, completely unable to let myself go. With the the magnificent illustrations of Richey Beckett I discovered dotwork and, with it, light. I had an absolute control of everything what was going on the paper. I was finally able to dominate what had always obsessed me: the volume and three-dimensionality. Moreover, I consider it an aesthetic form of representation in itself. I am now under control, still in need for tenacity and perseverance, but with enough ease to know at all times what I am doing. Finding the language behind black and white has been very liberating, and the options to explore are endless!
OBNUBIL: For our collaboration you made an amazing illustration available until now as limited edition. Can you tell us more about the artwork? What’s the story behind it?
SILES: Most of the blame or credit for this illustration goes to The VVitch, the movie by Robert Eggers.
Witchcraft is a topic that I am very passionate about. I have always felt very attracted to it and I had always wanted to draw a scene of witchcraft. At the beginning, for our collaboration, I thought of Baba Yaga, the witch from Russian folklore. It is a brutally interesting character, but I was not able to fully capture its essence in the sketches I drew and I was lacking some visual strength and it was not really clear whom I was representing. I was obsessed with the idea of an illustration related to witches, but I could not find what exactly. Then I went to the movies and saw The VVitch. And then it was all crystal clear: I had to draw witches outside their own old stereotype. I wanted a beautiful and intense Sabbath. And my own Black Philip! At first, there had to be more than two witches in the middle of pure ecstasy but the number I was looking for (seven) was too much and with so many people, the details got lost. It seemed more of a party rather than a Sabbath. So I opted for reducing the number of characters to the addition of just two of them being very powerful. The first one is number three, the trinity, the triple Goddess; a holy number in so many religions. To Pythagoras it was the perfect harmony for being the addition of Unity (1) and Diversity (2). A number full of strength. Then, number two: duality; good and evil, light and darkness, man and woman. In this case, said diversity is given by two women breaking the traditional dual archetype of man/woman. I thought the fact that it was, precisely, two witches disrupting this pattern was very powerful and it gave it the symbolism I wanted: feminine liberation and struggle.
Finally, playing with geometry is something I like and tend to use because of its symbolic charge. Triangles, like numbers, have a very strong meaning and the abundance of inverted triangles, the symbol of women, crowning it all is an ode to the feminist struggle carried out by the witches.
OBNUBIL: Who or what has been so far the biggest single influence on your way of thinking and creating?
SILES: Goya. I believe Goya has influenced me more than any other artist.
Right now, I can think of many, many artists that have had an impact on me one way or another. My greatest technical references are Gustave Doré and Albrecht Dürer, two real great ones. From nowadays, I can think of the illustrators Sineater and Richey Beckett and the tattoo artist Alexander Grim, from Russia. They do something I love and they can make a living of it! They have developed their own aesthetics and imagery, especially Sineater. And their art is recognized all over the world. The absolute admiration for their work is huge. However, I don’t think anyone has conditioned me more than Goya has. His life, his way of expressing himself, his black paintings, his etchings and engravings, his witches, his disasters of war… everything. I am obsessed with his work. I think Goya was aware of something the people of his era was not. He knew something, he perceived things and he felt something that very few others have been able to express such a magistral way.
OBNUBIL: What materials do you enjoy working with the most? Is there any specific element that you integrate into your work very often?
SILES: I mostly work with disposable, calibrated fountain pens. I started with the usual 0.2, 0.4 and 0.8. Little by little I looked for and found new brands and models, thinner and thinner tips to achieve the wished sharpness and control and also different shades of black. Now I work with a 0.03 Copic -the thinnest one there is to my knowledge- and a Sakura 0.05.
The ones I like the best are the Sakura because their black shade is the strongest of all the ones I have used. Nevertheless, I use Neopiko and Copic to work the volumes with grayer tones. However, right now what I am truly enjoying is white ink and pen nib. Gaining space to black and playing with the negatives is amusing me and I attempt to systematically add to all of my illustrations. Try out which new doors it can open me (and with this, the works of Dan Hillier and Nico Delort come to mind). Look for that engraving aspect. Work on the line. Moreover, I am slowly transitioning to nib pens. I intend to focus solely on them in the future. When I reach the necessary pulchritude and the precision I have right now with fountain pens. Do the transition to traditionalism and a more atavistic approach in the creation of my illustrations.
OBNUBIL: What would you say is your strongest skill? And your worst?
SILES: As I said before, there was a time in which I was obsessed with volumes. All I did looked flat and two-dimensional to me. It was lacking in depth, so I obsessed myself with being able to gain levels of background and play with the ethereal, trying not to enclose the characters in a closed, easy to find environment. I wanted to play with their volumes in a more surreal space.
My worst skill is color, no doubt about that! It will always be an unfinished business to me: dominate color until I feel free and comfortable with it.
OBNUBIL: Has anything you have seen recently changed your views on art or design?
SILES: As time went by, I started considering digital illustration something less and less alive. Less vibrant. All of them look the same to me. With the same techniques and resources (even though I am aware that the same can be said about dotwork in black and white). Anyways, mainstream digital illustration is no longer attractive to me. It is overexploited. I am mostly thinking about video-games and cinema. Artbooks and conceptual books from before are not inferior to current ones. I think a lot of language got lost on the way. It is faster, simpler and more cost-efficient. And, all in all, when it comes to business, a lot of artistic essence is lost and gone.
OBNUBIL: How do you think online design resources have influenced the art being produced today?
SILES: It goes in synch with the previous answer. The tools were created and they are being exploited to the max. And there is nothing wrong in it, but I feel like everything is being homogenized, labeled and canned. Very few artists use oils, acrylics, inks watercolor or gouache, for example. All of them use this or that program that imitates said styles. It works and it is faster. But, to me, all ends up looking very antiseptic, less organic, less alive.
OBNUBIL: What are you currently fascinated by and how is it feeding into your personal work?
SILES: Currently, I am still under the effects of having read all of Hellboy. It is inspired so much by folklore that I am crazy about it. And its witches… it’s wonderful!
I am also mad about the Middle Ages. And I am very influenced by the imagery of the Russian movie Hard to be a God. It took some time, but I was finally able to find it in Barcelona. Also, as I said previously, the movie The VVitch and the trilogy of books about the Hussite wars by Andrej Sapkowski. All of it is giving me a lot of ideas to work on!
OBNUBIL: What are you passionate about besides illustrating? If you were not an illustrator, what might have been your profession?
SILES: I would love to be a professor of Art History. Write an approach to the artistic thought of the Middle Ages. One of my favorite writers is Umberto Eco, an eminence in art and medieval aesthetics. He analyzes are from the prism of sociology. I would like to talk about the influence in art of certain usual resources: the infernal imagery and the treatment of death. The Ars Moriendi and how have they been handled and presented since the Middle Ages until the end of the 17th century: Hans Holbein, Dürer, Hans Burgkmair, Nicolas Le Rouge…
Art History or sociology are pending on my list and still today I ponder going to university to study them.
OBNUBIL: Do you have any superstitious beliefs or rules that you live by? What do you think about our ”Molded in Blackness” concept (in our “About us” section)?
SILES: Yes, I do have some superstitions and obsessions.
Occultism is very attractive to me. It gave me answers to certain doubts in my life, so I try to live it by certain rules and beliefs based on my own way of seeing and feeling the reality that surrounds me, of all what has been revealed to me and the seek for the secrets that are yet to be discovered. I try to learn and be respectful with what I do not comprehend and to treat with affection what is given to me.
When I create a sketch or an idea, I like to do it in the company of somebody. Especially with a very good illustrator friend from whom I learn a lot about occultism and witchcraft. We can spend endless hours together talking about it. It inspires me and helps me create. Once I have the sketch and I start to work on it, I want solitude and ambient music. I especially enjoy working at night, with the tranquility it offers me. I also like to surround myself by some books and objects that help me channel that idea.
About "Molded in Blackness", I absolutely share the idea. The taste for the hidden and the forbidden. I believe it is a form of perceiving the world more interesting, logical and meaningful than rational materialism. Much more natural.
OBNUBIL: What’s the best piece of advice you have heard? Do you have a personal motto?
SILES: The best piece of advice I was ever given was: "I am a slave of my words. I am the master of my silence". Since I heard it, I have tried to live by it. To the extent of having it tattooed on me (through symbols). Besides this one, I have several other mottos. All of them based on my experience. They have helped me change, improve and open me to a way of perception that roots me to the Earth and its elements. Curiosity, critical mind and respect for what the ancestral world; never let me be blinded by my own instincts… as I said, I have several mottos.
OBNUBIL: Thank you so much for taking your time answering our questions and for giving us more information about you! Is there anything that you would like to say to the readers of The Covenant?
SILES: I would like to add that it has been a huge pleasure to be part of The Covenant. Collaborating with you has been extremely rewarding and I have enjoyed the process very, very much. Thank you for the freedom and the time, support and treatment you offered me.
Thanks to The Covenant I discovered Treha Sektori and it is now part of my working OST, as an indispensable pillar.
To the readers of The Covenant, invite you to keep on looking for the occult, to enjoy the way and see what life offers. Fight for what you wish for and be opened to the changeability of life.
Thank you very much. For everything!
Victor Siles is wearing following t-shirt in the pictures: THIS ONE