Cigarettes, bums, stone heads and lavender sticking out of poo take centre stage in the work of graphic designer and illustrator Diego Sanchez Barcelo. Humorous and playful, his 3D designs and animations can be seen going viral on MTV.uk’s social channels, music videos for bands, as well as starring in commercial work for HSBC, Chloé and The Arc.
Although having always drawn since childhood, Diego in fact came from a more academic background in graphic design, branding and illustration. After school, he pursued an arts degree with a masters in art direction and communication – “I think this gave me an overview of the different ways I could develop a creative career out of skills that came naturally to me,” he tells It’s Nice That. “It instilled an attitude in me of not being afraid to have a voice and a hand in multiple different disciplines.” Later, he followed a path into illustration and graphic design, steered by the prospect of making a living, then moved from Barcelona to London in order to improve his English and gain some experience at studios and agencies – and that’s where it all started to kick off.
“It’s funny because one of my first big opportunities in London was for MTV,” he says. “I remember going in for the interview and showing them my CV, portfolio and website only to have them say something like ‘oh sorry, we actually aren’t interested in any of this, we were just wondering about the weird graphics you put on Instagram and how long it takes you to make them.’” At this time, Diego hadn’t even touched 3D software. Instead, he lent his hands to “strange collages” and “creepy illustrations” created in Illustrator and Photoshop. “It wasn’t until freelancing at MTV and meeting Jack Sachs that I started thinking about 3D animation and how I could turn everything I made into some kind of weird imaginary world.”
This imaginary world pulls from many references, such as materials, light, buildings, landscapes, archaeology, fine art, architecture and design. “But overall,” says Diego, “the thing that consistently inspires me is nature. I grew up on an island and recently moved back from Mallorca, so I still get very excited by the sea and all the weird shit I find in it.” Evidently a prominent reference throughout his work, nature takes multiple forms and appears throughout the designs that he creates. This can be seen in his recent Sandstone boy – a stone head sitting statuesque in a desert landscape – or various rocky creatures galavanting under the sun and dancing on the sand. Rather than turning to big names in the industry for inspiration, Diego uses these references as his formula and instead looks to an artist’s creative process and skill level – includes the likes of Kevin Bray, Sara Ludy, Jack Sach and, to him, “Braulio Amado’s process is mind blowing”.
While creating his work, Diego starts with a rough sketch, looks at photographs, jots down whatever catches his eye and then uses “good old” Cinema 4D. “A lot of my process is experimentation and mucking around,” he explains. “Sometimes I finish a piece because I just can’t look at it anymore, so I think ‘off you go, you’ll stay like this’.” Recently, he completed a music video for a band called Mr Twin Sister. “Andrea Stella, the lead singer, wanted a character or entity that could have their faces on it,” he says. “They recorded themselves with this app and I integrated it onto one of my digital sculptures. They even got fans to record themselves so that they could participate across the video.”
The result is a completely encapsulating, surrealist and dreamy narrative that follows the singer lip syncing through a sandy setting with her band and fellow fans – a mere example of Diego’s ludicrously creative imagination and digital skill set.