Teenage heartbreak and raw rebellion: Illustrator Juan Vallecillos on how “I feel myself reflected in the female characters I create”
The Murcia-based illustrator, who’s starting to get noticed by major press publications, discusses his creative journey so far.
- Jyni Ong
- 16 November 2021
Just as Juan Vallecillos was gearing himself up to enter the big, bad world that can be the creative industry, the pandemic hit. Having studied illustration at the Murcia School of Art where Juan crafted a fascinating practice filled with pink-popping comic panels and expression filled characters, he started off his career with a bit of a rough patch, finding himself in the depths of a pandemic as a new graduate. “It was difficult to break into the field,” the Murcia-based Juan tells us, but little by little, more and more art directors started to find then commission Juan’s unique talents and before he knew it, he had his first briefs from national press publications such as El País, GQ and El Santo.
It wasn’t always his plan to work in editorial illustration, but as the assignments started to come in, Juan adjusted to the one-off briefs where he was tasked to tell a whole story in one static image, and with time, began to love it. What first pulled him into the medium of illustration, however, was the possibility of creating his own universes, just like the artists he looked up to. “I feel that through graphic expression, it is possible to reach the intangible,” he explains. And looking at Juan’s bold portfolio of works, he certainly achieves that delicate balance of astounding visual punchiness mixed with an unfolding story told through the contemporary compositions which straddle spheres of figuration and abstraction.
“My illustrations are always based on the communication of concepts,” says Juan. “That the first thing, I need to have a clear idea of something before I start to draw.” When he’s working on a commission specifically, he tries to soak up as much information as quickly as possible in order to meet the deadline. Though the subject matter of an article may be entirely new to Juan, he sees it as an opportunity to learn something new, and dives into research head first. In turn, bringing a fresh dimension of understanding to the work at hand.
When it comes to his personal work however, Juan takes on a different approach. “It is very influenced by the mood I’m in,” he admits. “I feel myself reflected in the female characters I create and I also draw on my feelings of teenage heartbreak and rebelliousness.” He also draws from moment of pop culture, and if you scour through Juan’s Instagram page, you’ll see a few familiar faces in the form of Rosalia, Billie Eilish or Bad Bunny cropping up with the Juan artistic treatment. “I’ll watch a video over and over again until I can distill the main parts into a panel,” he describes. And regarding the visual language, the more characteristic elements unique to Juan’s signature style is made up of panels, ligne claire, composition and pastel colours.
Recently, Juan is very proud to have completed his first international gig in the form of a brief for The Washington Post, a job that gave him a taste of working with art directors from a different kind of creative scene – “I found it to be very different”. Elsewhere, he points out his work for the Gabinete Pop section of GQ magazine which stands out for the research part of the gig which allowed Juan to uncover lots of unknown facts about famous people.
And as for the future, there are more exciting editorial commissions in sight, with Juan continuing to stretch his creative wings with The Los Angeles Times to come. But it’s not all about expanding his creative horizons with commissions, Juan is also working on a script for a new fanzine which will take viewers on a tour of the many mysteries of his hometown, Mazarrón.
GalleryJuan Vallecillos (Copyright © Juan Vallecillos, 2021)
Juan Vallecillos: Berlin U5 (Copyright © Juan Vallecillos, 2021)
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.