Ricardo Cavolo is a highly acclaimed illustrator of Spanish origin who currently resides in Toronto. From huge murals for Urban Outfitters to iconic cover art for artists such as Kaytranada and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Cavolo adapts his colorful and intricate work for brands and other creatives while still maintaining his signature style. Recently, Spain Arts & Culture, the creative arm of the Spanish Embassy here in the U.S., sponsored an exhibition of young Spanish illustrators, and invited Cavolo to create a mural on the spot for display.
After the mural was finished, I had a few moments to chat with Cavolo about the custom mural, his work and why he learned his best lessons at home.
Q: How did you come up with the piece that you did?
CAVOLO: I always like to create something during a traveling exhibition. I wanted to create something that shows Spanish culture and U.S. culture together. The bridge between the two cultures is strong. I choose a white background with red and blue because it’s a strong combination and it’s easy to work with in a short amount of time.
How much time do you spend on a project like one of your murals or designs?
CAVOLO: It depends on the project. Sometimes it can take hours, so I can get it done easily and on to the next one. Bigger projects and take three or four days.
“I was surrounded by colors, canvases, brushes, everything. I never thought about doing something else”
Q: Did you ever get any formal training in art?
CAVOLO: My father was a teacher in high school; he taught drawing. At home he was a painter. I was surrounded by colors, canvases, brushes, everything. I never thought about doing something else. It was a natural path. I studied drawing and Fine Art [in college], but I have to say, most of my learning came at home from my father.
Q: Did your formal training ever clash with your lessons at home?
CAVOLO: Usually with the professors in fine arts most of the professors pretended to be artists but they weren’t able. They just wanted you to paint what they paint, and they’re not teaching you to paint in general. I feel lucky because I had my father helping me with that.
“To create something that you would wear your whole life is courageous and brilliant”
Q: You’re covered in tattoos. Are these all are your own drawings?
CAVOLO: Yes! They are all mine, and I used to draw tattoos a lot. I stopped doing it because I just don’t have the time with other projects. But to create something that you would wear your whole life is courageous and brilliant. It’s very inspiring.
Visual art as a means of resistance came up in the panel discussion today, specifically with design, collage and photography. Can illustration do that in the same way?
CAVOLO: I think so. People think that illustration can only speak about current events, but it’s not just that. With illustration, you can re-imagine a painting, dramatize a portrait. I can add different things to a work and set a mood. Illustration works that way in the same way music does.
Where will you be in 5 days, 5 months and 5 years?
CAVOLO: In five days, I will be painting in Barcelona. In five months, I don’t know. I’ve been traveling a lot for th last three years, but I should be at home. In five years, I don’t want to think about it, but I hope to be Barcelona, in the country.