In the googly-eyed character world created by Barcelona-based graphic artist Antonio Ladrillo, you might see shades of Cartman, or maybe the Lowly Worm from Richard Scarry’s Busytown books. But though the 36-year-old Alicante-born artist counts among his influences graffiti, contemporary art, and illustrators like Olle Eksell, David Shrigley, and Bruno Munari, the one thing he returns to over and over again is Super Mario Brothers, the NES videogame created in 1985 by Japanese artist Shigeru Miyamoto. “It’s fascinated me for years, but I only started to value it as something artistic when I was older,” says Ladrillo. “It perfectly combines my main interests: rhythm, color, shape, and space. I often go to it as a way to find some aesthetic pleasure.” It should come as no surprise then to anyone familiar with Ladrillo’s drawings that, like a videogame artist, he can’t help but constantly imagine his characters in motion. “So much so, that for a time I couldn’t draw anything that wasn’t moving because it looked unfinished to me,” he says. It was a phase that begat a wonderfully odd array of animated gifs, like this one.
Ladrillo’s characters are often rendered as simple, colorful marker drawings, with globular heads and gangly legs, but each has a personality and a liveliness all its own, whether it’s a packet of McDonald’s French fries captured in mid-sprint or a family of Christmas trees outfitted in winter gear like scarves and ice skates. Though much of his graphic-design work comes by commission — Ladrillo worked for three years developing an identity for Hoss, an electronic music club in Valencia — his drawings are usually self-generated, which is perhaps what gives them the giddy weirdness of someone working with absolute freedom. “I feel the need to do something that no one has asked of me and probably never will,” he says. “It’s important to keep the balance. Besides, a lot of times, my drawings are merely process. I could be following one idea and another absolutely different one comes without my having planned it.”
And so absolute freedom is exactly what we offered Ladrillo when we asked him to create a series of original drawings for Sight Unseen, depicting one day in his life. The results reveal as much about his process and his personality as they do about his everyday routines.