Inverting the theatrics of “gym bro” culture: Guille Carmona’s characters are strong, sexy and sensitive
The London-based illustrator discusses gender-fluidity, the importance of sensitivity and completing his first ever cover for the upcoming issue of Buffalo Zine.
- Olivia Hingley
- 4 May 2022
Bulging, glowing biceps, devil horns, cute cats and flowing tears: Guille Carmona’s illustrations are intentionally contradictory. Whilst his works to have a “hyper-sexual” element to them, he tells It’s Nice That that ultimately “I like to create characters that are expected to be touchy or scary, showing some vulnerability”. This approach is rooted in two distinct cultures, Guille explains, both that of “gym bro culture” and “gay culture”. “I’m really interested in the gym bro culture and the theatrics of it”, he details. This influence is particularly apparent in his piece Self Love. One of his unearthly characters holds his phone in a mirror-selfie position, his thumb hooked in his jeans, parading a well sculpted v-line. On top of this, however, Guille’s work offers a more serious critique. “I guess it’s also a comment on the ‘masc for masc’ toxicity so prevalent in gay culture today and how performative it is”.
This paradoxical approach is rooted in the Spanish-born illustrator’s youth, where he found inspiration just about everywhere he looked. “Growing up reading manga and watching anime was clearly how I got into illustration”, but it was also factors such as his dad being a massive “sci-fi geek” that also piqued his interests. Being obsessed with Giger-like books and covers of sci-fi sagas, Guille found himself trying to replicate their very specific atmosphere. “I also remember seeing comics from Moebius, Richard Corben and Milo Manara and being so excited by these sexy characters… that definitely gave me the drive to (at least try) and draw something similar.”
Alongside their sensitive eroticism, Guille’s illustrations also have a forward-thinking element to them and his goal has always been to “create characters and images that have no resemblance to reality”. With his characters having a certain alien, otherworldly feel, Guille explains that “my characters are sometimes a projection of my idea of what future humans may look like”. Creating strong, seemingly physically enhanced characters that morph into different species, Guille is also keen for his characters to have “no specific gender”, proving the potential for a much more gender-fluid society.
This gender-fluidity is something that also influenced Guille’s cover for the upcoming edition of Buffalo Zine. His first cover, and a piece of work he’s particularly proud of, Guille was given total freedom to create what he envisioned. Working around the zine’s theme of “pink”, the cover shows a lounging hot-pink figure, clad in nothing but pants, shiny elbow-length gloves and a Prada bag. Accompanied by a fluffy cat, a bed of roses and luminescent love-hearts, the piece screams Y2K candy-kitsch. But, Guille explains, he focused on purposefully depicting “a different body type, not normative in gender terms, a branch of his earlier themes, this time with a softer focus”. Not only does the cover fit the brief perfectly, Guille also sees it as one demonstrating a clear indication of an improvement in his technical skills since he first started his practice.
Currently practising airbrushing and enjoying the process of exploring and discovering new tools, Guille is also keen to start producing, “a more tangible type of art”, and so has his sights set on getting into 3D animation. And certainly, with Guille’s characters already so realised, it certainly seems like a natural progression to get them moving.
Guille Carmona: Sad Boy Big ears (Copyright © Guille Carmona, 2021)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.