Heavy Metal Machines

We bask in the Spanish sun and chat with super-real portrait artist and illustrator Borja.

Tell us a bit about where you are from? What is famous about your homeland?

I come from Madrid, Spain. I guess other countries still know us for the sun, paella and Spanish fiesta. (Maybe the word "crisis" also helps these days).  It will be hard to change that image in the near future.

How did you become a professional artist?

I’ve been drawing since I was a child, when I started reading Spanish comics like Mortadelo Y Filemón and I wanted to become a comic-book artist.  Later, I started to work as a graphic designer and illustrator, until I was able to completely leave design jobs and focus on illustration and fine art.  I started as a graphic designer for important Spanish bands, then illustration jobs working for Drawing Book, and suddenly one of my paintings got to a gallery and they decided to do a show, and so on until today.

What are your relationships with the people you paint?

They are all friends.  I need them to express what every painting needs to say.  As we are friends, they are relaxed when posing, and I can recreate the idea I have in my head the best way I can. It’s always a pleasure to work with them. There are also some commissions with people I don’t know, but in those cases, I try to meet the person for a few minutes before, so we can find a good position or way of posing for the painting related to his or her personality.

How do you make your paintings look so real?

Layers of very thin painting.  Flesh is not only pink or black or whatever. You first have to paint a thin layer of blue (or whatever colour is needed) to recreate the impression of real flesh when adding the next layer of light yellow or red. One over the other will get you to that realism.

What are some of your most enjoyable projects to date?

I’m working right now on the new collection for my next solo show in October. I have to say I’m pretty happy with it right now.  I’m painting more scenes with people interacting, other than portraits. I have to fill a whole big-two-floor gallery by my own.  No time to relax.

Tell us about why some of your portraits reference the band KISS?

The KISS portraits were part of Año Uno, that focused on music. My own story is musical, and I'm a great fan of KISS. I wanted to paint my friends like they were playing their roles, and the last one got mistaken and painted Mexican makeup instead.

What is something that people might not know about you?

I studied law. Yep, you may not believe me but, I’m a lawyer. Sorry.

What would you like to say to the world through your art?

I always say that my paintings have a story all of their own, and all of them together tell another whole different story.  I’m not that worried if those stories coincide with the one I had in mind when creating the painting.  I had the idea, I expressed it and now it’s out there for you to see and enjoy. If you like it or hate it, whatever the feeling and impression you get from seeing that painting, will be more than okay, even if it’s different to mine.  


Click here to view more work by Borja