Born in a “warm little city” in the north of Chile, Cristóbal Schmal grew up away from the hostile political environment of the time. Under threat of Pinochet’s dictatorship, his parents settled close to the Peruvian border in order to have a better future. “I grew up in this oasis surrounded on one side by the Andes Mountains and on the other side, the Pacific Ocean,” Cristóbal remembers.
Following his passion for drawing, he moved to Valparaiso to study graphic design. After staying in the city for a short while following his studies, he decided on a whim to book a one-way flight to Barcelona. Cristóbal then hopped between jobs and continents for many years, but finally decided to settle in Berlin with his partner. Although shocked by the cold weather and foreign tongue, it was in Berlin that he gained the confidence to become an illustrator and is where he now lives with his family.
Working between commissioned and personal work, Cristóbal switches between digital and analogue processes. For his artistic practice, he creates textural collages inspired by traditions and folk narratives from South America. Explaining his process, Cristóbal says: “I make a lot of sketches to plan characters and forms, then I paint papers with pigments, watercolour and gouache. After that I draw and cut out the figures on paper. Once I define the scene I glue the pieces and finally add details with brushes or pencils.”
Inspired by the flatness of Persian miniatures and the folk quality of sacred art, Cristóbal creates symmetrical illustrations that reconnect humans with creatures and nature. His collage series, Palo Santo, was inspired by his exploration into pre-Columbian civilisations and their cultures, exploring mummification, funeral rites and battle scenes. “I put myself in the role of a new world explorer who is confronted by new cultures through rituals, new concepts of the universe, religion and their relationship with nature,” he tells It’s Nice That.
In his next project, Cristóbal plans to tackle the story surrounding his father’s side of the family in a graphic novel. His grandparents escaped Europe after persecution by the Nazi’s, and arrived in Uruguay. As youngsters, his father and uncle were separated and grew up many countries apart. On the book, Cristóbal admits: “it’s quite a dramatic story and a great challenge to work," and he’s currently in the process of collecting material.
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