Looking for a crazy story to illustrate?
Try a Greek myth. That’s what Francisco Galarraga did when it came time to produce a thesis project for his MFA Illustration As Visual Essay course at the School of Visual Arts in New York.
“My thesis project was simple, in a way,” says Galaragga. “I decided to illustrate two books, approaching the project as I would have if a client had called me in to do it. One of these was The Penguin Book of Classical Myths, written by Jennifer R. March, and I got intrigued by the story of the mad Erysichthon.”
The tale provided Galarago abundant material to work with: Erysichthon, the arrogant king of Thessaly, had a particularly bad idea one day, thinking it would be interesting to chop down a tree in the sacred grove of Demeter, the goddess of harvest and agriculture. In doing so, he killed a dryad nymph. He was subsequently cursed with unending hunger — the more he ate, the hungrier he got. Eventually he sold all his possessions to buy food and finally had to sell his daughter Mestra into slavery. Long myth short: Erysichthon ended up eating himself.
“I wanted to give the project a ‘weird’ and colorful visual style, hence the final result,” says Galarrago. “I would say my main difficulty was finding a suitable reference for the figure of Erysichthon. I finally just had my buddy Andrew Craft, who was also in the MFA program, strike a couple of poses in one of the late nights in the studio.”
The illustration was later named a winner of the Latin American Ilustracion 4 competition. Below are other illustrations from the series, “Ares, the War God, With His Sons Phobos & Deimos" (at top) and “The Birth of Athena.”
Galaragga, who grew up in Arizona and Ecuador and is now based in Quito, says he developed an interest in drawing and painting at an early age. “I was really into concept art in the early 2000s, while I was in high school,” he says. “At first, I thought I wanted to be in 3D animation. But after one semester in college I quickly changed my mind and pursued graphic design, where I had the chance to take a lot of drawing and painting courses.”
After graduating in 2007, he worked at an advertising agency for nine months, a job he hated. “After quitting, I became a freelancer, which gave me lots of opportunities to make illustrations for all sorts of clients and projects,” he says. “My interest in illustration is currently in a ‘peak’ phase, especially after having had the chance in 2013 to go New York and study at SVA. New York City is the Mecca for illustrators, and I am still really inspired by what I saw and got to experience in my nearly two years of studies.”
He has resumed his freelance career and is currently an etching and silkscreen professor at the Universidad de las Américas in Quito. He also helps manage the Ecuadorian collective Ilustradores Ecuatorianos, which promotes illustration and other graphic arts in his native country.