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Latin American Ilustracion: Luis Cisneros

By David Schonauer   Wednesday January 13, 2016


Born and raised in Mexico, Luis Cisneros  found a home in Canada.

“I feel that Toronto is my home and it is the place where I have lived the longest, but I don't forget my roots. I now consider myself Mexican-Canadian,” he says. His illustration “La Imagen de La Virgen de Guadalupe,” a tribute to the venerated image the Virgin of Guadalupe enshrined within the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in México City,” was inspired by his heritage.

“I come from a typical conservative Mexican Catholic family,” he says. “I was raised Catholic and studied in a Catholic school, but my beliefs changed when I traveled to and lived in different cities and countries. I still consider myself a spiritual person.”

Cisneros says his 19 x 24-inch color-pencil illustration, a winner of the Latin American Ilustracion 4  competition, is also a tribute to his own mother, who passed away when he was 14. “Since then, I have tried to keep her memory alive with different projects,” he says. “I have wonderful memories of my mom and I praying to la Virgen de Guadalupe. Also I believe most Mexican families have a matriarchal system, which contributes to building a strong connection to the Mother of Jesus.”

He was determined to come up with a version of the image that expressed his own beliefs, while not offending those of others.

“I did extensive research about the image, about different theories behind it, its symbolism and composition,” he says. “My interpretation of the virgin's face was inspired by photos of native Mexican women, the original image that is in México City, and also my mother. I based the angel's face on photographs of native Mexican babies and toddlers. Also, I wanted the piece to be colorful and have an eye-catching effect.”

Cisneros recalls starting to draw avidly when he was 10 years old and stuck in bed with chicken pox. “My mom bought me a sketchbook and some pencil crayons to do something other than watch TV. After that, I never stopped drawing,” he says.

Cisneros grew up wanting to be an artist, but his father preferred that he focus on a subject that would give him a better chance of making a living. He ended up studying visual communication in the UAM-Xochimilco University in Mexico City and began his career doing graphic design and illustration for a number of companies. In 2005 moved to Toronto and began volunteering as a graphic designer for non-profit organizations. That led to work as a freelance illustrator.

He continues to work with organizations like Supporting Our Youth, whose projects promote diversity and inclusion, as well as personal projects that, like his Virgin of Guadalupe, explore and explain his own heritage.

“I always wanted to do something meaningful with my art — something that could help others or that would mean something to someone,” he says.

Cisneros’s artwork is also part of the traveling Los Diez exhibition of work from the Latin American Fotografia 4 and Latin American Ilustracion 4 competitions, sponsored by Epson.

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Dispatches from Latin America