The Q&A: Raul Soria

By Peggy Roalf   Monday April 4, 2016

Q: Originally from Zaragoza, Spain, what are some of your favorite things about living and working in Berlin?

A: Berlin has a great cultural and leisure offer, just like any other big city, and a particularly boiling art scene. What used to make it different here was the fact that one didn’t need to be well off to enjoy all that, mostly because rents were affordable, so it was relatively easy for almost everyone to enjoy a pretty decent living. This has changed for the worse in the last few years. It’s still better than in cities like London or Paris, but conditions are successfully being pushed in that direction and this is really sad.

Anyway, this city still has a special open-mindedness and a very laid-back and cool character. Here’s an example: one of the parks next to my home is full of rather impressive African weed dealers. If you cross the park on an average day, you’ll count maybe 40 or 50 of them. There are some problems with the police now and then and their commercial tactics can sometimes be annoying, but their presence hasn’t turned the park into a dangerous ghetto or anything like that. Go there on a spring afternoon and you’ll find middle-class families walking around, kids playing frisbee, plenty of young people chilling on the grass. And in the background you have all these guys doing their dealing in peace. It might sound sort of bizarre but I find it quite lovely. I doubt you can find such a scene anywhere else.

Q: Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between the art you create on paper versus in the computer?

A. I’ve tried to keep a personal sketchbook thousands of times in the past, but I always ended up hating them after having filled the first four or five pages, tearing them off and throwing them in the bin. It was getting quite frustrating, so at some point I just stopped trying. But on my desk there’s always a sketchbook or a notebook where I make rough drafts of my first ideas when I start something new. That’s the first step of my creative process. I switch to Photoshop as soon as I feel I have come up with something worthwhile and continue developing the idea there. I’d say around 10% of the work happens on paper and around 90% on the screen.

Q: What is the most important item in your workspace?

A. My computer, of course.

Q: What do you like best about your workspace? 

Do you think it needs improvement, if so, what would you change?

A. I work from home and I must say I really like it, but my studio and my living room are the same space and this is something I’m not always totally happy about. It’s a cozy room. My desk is surrounded by plants and I have a bunch of second-hand furniture and lamps, stuff I’ve found in flea markets and so on. I’ve somehow managed to create a space where I can both work very comfortably and chill without having the feeling that I’m in a place set up exclusively for working. But I just spend too much time in here. Two separated rooms or just a larger one would sure make a difference. Also, bigger windows would make me a lot happier.   

Q: How do you know when the art is finished?

A: It’s finished when neither adding or removing details, nor changing colors would improve it, especially if the deadline is dangerously approaching.

Q: What was your favorite book as a child? What is the best book you’ve recently read?

A: When I was little I only read comic books. My favorites were Asterix and Mort & Phil. I loved Marvel stuff too. I’ve always loved superheroes. The last book I really enjoyed was I Love Dick by Chris Kraus. I think it's one of the most thought-provoking and least cheesy love stories I've ever read.

Q: If you had to choose one medium to work in for an entire year, eliminating all others, what medium would you choose? I

A:  I suppose I’d just keep drawing like I always do, but renouncing the first stage of sketching on paper.

Q: If you could time travel to any era, any place, where would you go?

A: Assuming we’re talking about a safe time trip where dying is not an option, I’d go to Barcelona in the summer of 1936, right before Franco’s failed coup which started the Spanish Civil War. When the uprising was repressed, the people started a social revolution that lasted many months, collectivizing factories and lands and just democratizing everything. Actually, this is the part of the story I’d be most interested in witnessing. I’d stay for the next four or five months and leave before things start getting ugly.

Q: What was the worst assignment you have ever taken? What did you take away from the experience?

A: The worst one was designing the complete corporate identity for the restaurant of a good friend of mine some years ago. It was quite a challenge and even included some packaging and interior design, but he made it sound super easy and I believed him. Classic. It was supposed to be a two-month job but it took me almost an entire year to finish it, getting sick a couple of times and suffering terrible backaches in-between because of the stress it all caused me. At least the results were good and I somehow managed to save the friendship.

The lessons I took from the experience were that I must be much more careful when friends ask me to work for them, especially if they have big plans, a low budget and little understanding of design and creative work. Also, that there are jobs I’m just not meant to do and I should therefore reject.

Q: What are some of your favorite places/books/blogs/websites for inspiration?

I usually check It’s Nice That and No Culture Icons, but my main sources of inspiration are Tumblr and Instagram.

Q: What was the painting or drawing or film or otherwise that most affected your approach to art? 

A: That’s a difficult question because my tastes are very eclectic. If I think about films that really impressed me I could tell you fifty or sixty titles, going from directors like Bergman or Pasolini to Wes Anderson or even John Waters, but I wouldn't know which ones were the most important or if any of them changed something in the way I see or do things. Probably many of them did.

What I can do is name two people whose work did have a big influence on my development as an illustrator. The first one would be Polish poster designer Lex Drewinski, who was my professor at the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences. I would definitely pinpoint having attended his courses as one of the reasons why I tend to prefer making conceptual to decorative stuff. 

The second one is German illustrator Martin Haake. He was my first serious professional crush. Before discovering his work in my second or third semester, I used to draw things rather randomly with a fine-liner, trying hard to make them look somehow realistic in their proportions and so on, and then added some color digitally. After seeing what he was doing, I quit using outlines, started being more interested in the abstract, learnt how to add textures with Photoshop and spent hundreds of hours trying to imitate his red-cheeked faces, his funny way of building up figures, his plants. I guess this is where I first set foot on the path that has led me to my current style.

Q: What would be your last supper?

A: Spanish potato omelet (with onion, always), a simple tomato salad with olive oil, salt and garlic, Serrano ham on freshly baked bread and some good red wine. And for dessert two or three large watermelon slices and maybe a large tub of Häagen-Dazs strawberry cheesecake ice cream.

Raúl Soria is a Berlin-based Spanish illustrator. He graduated in Visual Communication at the Berlin University of the Arts in 2013 and has since then been freelancing, working for publications such as La Directaneues deutschland and La Maleta de Portbou, among others.







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