The Miami-based illustrator Gabriel Alcala is a master of many mediums, the process being dependent on the project. For instance, he tells us that “sometimes I'm working on woodcuts, paintings or prints from my home studio and other times I'm working on editorial illustrations from my neighbourhood coffee shop,” swiftly adding “boy, do I miss that.” But, despite the style of a project, the outcome or the press, Gabriel makes it clear “I spend most of my time sketching.” With a somewhat unconventional creative mindset of efficiency and clarity, Gabriel comprehensively works out ideas until he feels they’re strong enough to commit to.
“I draw as a way to learn about myself and the world around me,” Gabriel explains further. Ingrained with an ongoing interest in“the visual language of things”, the illustrator is specifically fascinated in “how one image, combined with another image, can alter the meanings of both or create a totally new, unexpected narrative.” His illustrations are successful in achieving this; work dressed in traditional narratives that become slightly derailed through surprising, subtle elements. “Being an illustrator is a way for me to constantly look at things with a fresh pair of eyes,” he tells us, “so I tend to find inspiration in almost everything...if I'm really looking.”
A trademark colour palette of Gabriel's is maintained throughout his practice, alongside the “clean lines and simplicity” that he values so highly. “Conceptually,” the illustrator clarifies, “I'm trying to find the humour in life, the beauty in the ugliness, the magic in the mundane.” This is demonstrated by Gabriel across a great breadth of worldly scenes; from a worm in an apple to a spider pinching your nipple. But the conceptual beauty of Gabriel’s scenes is then paired with dark, bizarre and raw affections. The resulting collusion, between the beautiful and the bizarre, is images that are authentic, funny and uplifting – a striking style that is as crude and it is thoughtful and colourful.
The most rewarding part of Gabriel’s dynamic practice is enjoyment, felt from both sides as he tells us: “The most rewarding thing, besides enjoying the process of creating, is having work resonate with people.” Utilising the power of Instagram, he notes that “it still blows my mind that I can work on an illustration at home and be able to instantly share it with people all around the world,” giving Gabriel the chance to foster a genuine community that provides a relatable and resonating audience. “I'm extremely grateful that people dig what I do, the idea that prints I've made are hung up in people's houses, acting as backdrops to their lives, is so cool to me."
More recently Gabriel has been drawing the world around him, meaning his current work has been “understandably, about the pandemic,” he says. “I've tried to bring a little humour amidst all the doom and gloom.” Dutiful to cheer people up during these trying times, he adds “if I made a few people laugh in this tough situation we find ourselves in, I did my job.” Continuing to take one day at a time, he is determined to keep making and creating. “I'm actually working on some ambient synth music for The Smudge's “Guided Meditation” flexi-disk series at the moment,” Gabriel explains, in discussing what lies ahead. He continues by saying “I'm also starting to work on a new illustrated poetry book, in which I take artificial intelligence-generated poems and I illustrate them,” in a “man and machine collaboration,” that we’re certain Gabriel can bring a rich liveliness to.
About the Author
Hailing from the West Midlands, and having originally joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in March 2020, Harry is a freelance writer and designer – running his own independent practice, as well as being one-half of the Studio Ground Floor.