Let´s talk art | How my personal work helped shape me as an artist with Ruiz Burgos

January 25, 2018

Welcome to the next episode of the Let’s Talk Art interview series. This time we talk with Spanish illustrator and comic artist Ruiz Burgos about his personal work, influences, formal studying, client management, and more.
Ruiz resides in Granada, Spain and has a beautiful, captivating and vivid illustration style. It was great to have a closer look into his daily life as an illustrator.

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Ruiz Burgos

The best advice I can give anyone is to work hard and keep practicing.” – Ruiz Burgos
So, let´s talk art.

How long have you been an illustrator?

Well, I’m an illustrator from Granada, Spain. I have been working exclusively as an illustrator for the last five years. Before that, I was working as a Graphic Designer for a few years, but I was never comfortable with that job.
I was always interested in design work, but once I worked as a designer for some time I realized that it’s not for me. So I turned my hobby into my work, and I have been pretty lucky with that. Now I’m working for the comic book industry making covers, and recently I have discovered the alternative poster world and I’m focusing in this area.
I’m really enjoying making illustrated movie posters, but I still trying to combine this work with covers for comics, books, and magazines.

You teach on IHMAN 3D School and PIXELODEON 3D School. What do you enjoy most about it?

I love teaching. It’s something that has always interested me.
A couple of years ago in a comic convention in Spain, the people of IHMAN 3D School contacted me asking if I would be interested in teaching a course and it’s sounded like a great opportunity to me. After that, I worked with PIXELODEON 3D SCHOOL running a new course of Digital Illustration and character design.
The experience was great, and I’ll continue working with them in the future. They are doing great. I love seeing the students’ work improve during the classes. It makes me feel very proud. The meetings with the students are great, and I learn many things from them. In the end, teaching is something where both the teacher and the student learn. That’s the best part.

Why did you become an illustrator and comic artist?

Art has always been part of my life, starting in childhood. My father used to make drawings with pencils and inks, and he was pretty good. My brother used to draw too. I was always watching movies and cartoons and drawing everything I saw… because they did the same.
As my father was very interested in art, so I knew a lot of artists at a very young age. At the same time, he was very passionate about cinema, and he used to collect old painted movie posters which I loved. Besides, he bought me my first comic books as a child… So, you could say I am an artist because of him.


Ghost in the Shell © Ruiz Burgos

Growing up and even now, which artists inspire you the most?

I have a huge amount of references. Not only artists. But I think my first inspiration as an artist is Drew Struzan’s work. Having grown up as a big fan of Indiana Jones and Star Wars it was impossible not to be in love with his posters (or Bob Peak, Richard Amsel, John Alvin, etc).
As art student, I loved Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo or DaVinci (his fabric studies are truly inspiring) or the American illustrators of the nineteenth century like Leyendecker and especially Norman Rockwell.
Nowadays, there’re a lot of great comic artists that I love: Alex Ross, Adam Hughes, James Jean, Lee Bermejo, Paolo Rivera, Sean Murphy… the list would be endless.
The work of these artists pushes me to make things different and try new styles. Recently I’m studying movie poster artworks from modern artists like Gabz, Rory Kurtz, Martin Ansin, Ken Taylor (that’s another list without end).

For the Crackdown 3 launch, you created a poster with actor Terry Crews for Xbox to give to fans at San Diego Comic Con. How did it feel seeing Crews with your work?

Oh! That was amazing! The Crackdown poster for San Diego Comic Con was my second work with Hero Complex Gallery. When they contacted me to work on this for Xbox, I was pretty excited but I didn’t know that Terry Crews was going to sign posters at the panel until the piece was finished and delivered.
When I saw the picture of Terry Crews holding my work and posing just like the portrait I painted I couldn’t believe it, hehe. Later, he wrote to me via Instagram saying that he loved it and it was really cool. He was very nice.


Terry Crews showing off Ruiz´ Crakdown 3 Poster for San Diego Comic Con

How much of an influence has your Spanish environment and culture been to your work?

I’m not sure. Spain is a region with a great and rich artistic history, and I live in Granada, which is a city with a big tradition of artists (painters, musicians, composers, etc).
Most of my influences came from pop culture and cinema. So, I don’t know if my own Spanish culture has influenced my work too much.
I think that the biggest influence I get from my region is because of the people who live here. The weather, the people, the colours and the food here invites you to see the world in a positive way. And I always try to bring these colours and rich environment into my work. Besides, I have the Alhambra palace close to me. Looking at this beautiful castle and walking through its rooms and courtyards is the best inspiration possible for any artist.

What other particular things influence your work?

I think movies, mostly. I’m a big fan of all the big movie sagas (Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, Alien, Back to the Future, The Godfather, etc). I have always loved cinema and I was lucky to be born in the 80s and to grow up during this decade and the beginning of the 90s. That totally marked me.
I have always been interested in the process behind the movie scenes, particularly in the production design. The pre-production phase and the visual part of a movie is something that’s always fascinated me. My work probably would be very different without Spielberg and George Lucas.

During your career, you’ve often created personal work that has become very popular like your poster for HBO’s Westworld. How has your time spent on personal projects helped shape you?

I always try to do personal pieces between jobs. I need to because that’s the only way to keep enjoying my favourite hobby. Most of my most successful works are personal works, or at least they start that way. That’s really amazing.
When I work for someone and they like the final art, it’s great. But when you paint something for yourself, it’s just for fun. Then when it becomes something that a lot of people love, it’s a wonderful thing. Because the personal work is 100% yours, without client feedback or anyone else’s opinion.
Sometimes personal work ends up getting printed, like the Westworld poster. This case was really cool because HBO contacted me to ask for a print of the poster. They sent it to the series creator, and that was a huge compliment to my work.
Personal work is where you normally create your personal favourite pieces, and you can spend all the time you want making things as good as possible and enjoy the making.

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Westworld poster © Ruiz Burgos

As we’re talking about your Westworld poster, how would you usually approach a project like this from start to finish?

That Westworld poster was something I painted pretty fast, in about a week or so. It started just like an Evan Rachel Wood portrait because I really loved her character Dolores. Then I added a couple of elements more and I started playing with the idea of making a poster composition.
I usually start with a sketch of the whole composition. I spend a lot of time doing that because I need to get the whole thing in my head before start painting.
Once I have the design clear, I do some research to find all the references that I’m going to need. I look for pictures on the internet, I take screenshots from videos and I even take my own photos.
Once I have all the resources that I will need, I start to draw the piece. And when I have the lines finished I start with colours. My process with colour is similar to a traditional painting but digital.

Your work has a very realistic, yet comic vibe. What steps do you take to achieve this look?

My style is a mix of influences between more classic realistic illustrators and all kinds of comic book artists. I really don’t think about it. It’s something that came with years of practice.
Nowadays I usually try not to be too realistic. I love when I see a photo-realistic artwork and I admire the hard work behind those kinds of pieces.
I like to see the brush strokes when I look closely at a piece. That’s why I always try to get a piece that seems realistic from a distance, but when you look closer you can see the process. And I probably always use bright colours because of my comic influence.
So, in the end it just a mix of preferences and influences. I paint “realistic” pieces following comic process steps (sketch, inks, flat colours, painting).

How do you typically start your work? Do you sketch on paper first or work digitally from the beginning?

I usually work directly in digital from the beginning. It does depend on the case. As the final piece is going to be digital, I normally start working that way in most cases.
I have a few screens in my studio, so I can put a lot of references near the tablet and this is more practical. Besides this, nowadays it’s really easy to find tools to make digital sketches very fast and with lots of different styles.
Sometimes I miss working on paper and I sketch something with pencils just for fun. But for me, working in digital is very similar to working in a traditional way. It’s just a different tool, but the movement you need to make with your hand is basically the same.

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Illustration for The Game Magazine © Ruiz Burgos

You’ve created some incredible cover illustrations for The Game Magazine. These pieces contain a lot of detail. How long do these usually take to complete?

I love working with The Game Magazine. They are really kind and I always enjoy making covers for them. They have a lot of respect for the artist’s opinion and always make the process easier for me. I started working with them in 2014 making a cover for the issue dedicated to “Uncharted 4” (which is a game I loved), and after that, I painted four covers more.
The art for “Star Wars Battlefront” is one of my favourites. I painted it in 2015, and I took a whole week to finish that piece, from the preliminary sketch to the final art. I normally need a few more days for something like that. But in this case ,we didn’t have more time and I had to work a lot of hours during some days to finish all the details.
I’m a great fan of Star Wars and painting these characters and vehicles was an amazing opportunity. I think that when you really have fun working on a piece, people really can see it when they look at the final work.

Tell us a little about how you typically approach a piece like the above. Do you create a lot of concepts? How do you decide on a final composition?

Well, it depends on the work. In this particular case with the cover for The Game Magazine, I did just one sketch. And they approved it from the beginning. I think I always do only one sketch for them. They usually send me a pretty accurate description of what they want on the cover (characters, elements, background, poses), so it’s easy for me to make something really close to what they want to see.
With other clients ,I need to send them a couple of sketches with some variants. I really don’t like to have a lot of sketches and different compositions for the same piece. When you have a bunch of designs you can easily get lost… and the client even more so. That’s why I prefer to have a good description of the client’s vision, and then get as close as possible to that.

Out of all your pieces, is there one that was particularly time-consuming or difficult and how did you overcome it?

That’s a tough question, hehe. The pieces I spend more time on are always personal works, because I have no deadline and I’m very demanding with myself.
I think the illustrations which I spend more time on are the pieces of my “The Superhero Evening Post” series because I always put a lot of small details everywhere.
I can’t name one particularly. Another piece that took a long time to finish is my “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” poster. Indy is my all-time favourite character (along with Batman), and I painted this piece as a tribute to Drew Struzan. So, I basically tried to do my best imitating his style and this required a lot of time and extra effort. I don’t think the final art is a good imitation of Drew, but I’m happy with this piece because it has a mix of his style and my own style and technique.


Batwoman © Ruiz Burgos

Every artist has their fair share of nightmare clients. Are there any memorable experiences that you can tell us about? How did you deal with them?

Yes, of course. Everyone has those kind of clients from time to time. For me, most of these cases were with projects that demanded a lot of different approval steps.
A couple of years ago I worked on a project that involved a famous actress and a well-known movie saga. My work needed to be approved for the client, the licensor and the actress herself… I needed to do a bunch of revisions and I ended repainting most of the piece twice.
And last year I had a case which involved two big movie studios. When one of them approved the piece, the other one asked for revisions and vice versa.
It’s never easy when you have to make many people happy. But it’s part of the work. I consider myself very lucky because I’ve only had a few cases of this kind, and it has always ended well for everyone. Most of the time the client’s feedback helps you to improve the final art.

What advice would you give to artists looking to avoid any problems with potential clients?

Patience. A lot of patience. And you need to put your ego aside. Because when you have a client, the final art is not yours, it’s theirs. At the end ,you always need to make them happy if you want to be paid. Besides, sometimes they’re right! You are so close to your own work that you can’t see it.
A client knows what they want, and most of the time what they want is the correct choice.
When I receive a rude feedback or I don’t agree with a client opinion, I always try to not get into an argument with them. I think that’s the worst thing you can do.
So, my advice is to be patient and take the necessary time to answer controversial feedback in the right tone. Anyway, fortunately, it’s not something that usually happens. Most clients are great and very polite.

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Indiana Jones © Ruiz Burgos

You studied illustration at the Granada School of Arts. How do you feel your time there influenced you as an artist?

Yes, I studied there, but I actually learned more from the students than from teachers.
My time as a student was very important for my career because I met someone there that pushed me (literally) into the comic book industry and professional illustration. I owe my job to this friend I met in a classroom. I learned a lot more by painting with her at home than in class during that time.
Now I think that things changed, but in my time as a student, teachers weren’t interested in the comic book or digital art. So, I learned a lot about traditional techniques that are very cool (like etching) but they’re not practical at all in the modern professional illustration world. At least not for me.

Would you recommend that aspiring artists study formally?

Sure, totally. But my advice is to research about teachers and the content of the course beforehand. You can learn a lot from the correct people. And they could help you to find your own style, to improve your skills, or to find the perfect place for you inside the industry.
It’s very important to have some help when you are still growing as an artist. And it’s not easy at all to start working on this.
Especially for digital art, it’s good to have someone to teach you how to use the tools and some techniques and process in order to create pieces with a professional look.

For artists who can’t study formally, what would be your advice to help them to progress in their careers?

The best way to improve your illustration skills is keep drawing or painting every day.
I still consider myself a student. I’ve never stopped learning. No matter how long you are working on this, you always have something to learn or something to improve. So you just keep working and learning from your own failures.
My advice to them is to try to realize what they are good at (concept, composition, characters, vehicles, landscapes, etc), and then study the work of other artists who do that. You can learn a lot by studying the work of people you admire. And work hard every day.

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Ruiz Burgos´ studio

What is your current work set-up in your studio?

My work studio has changed a lot with years. I started with an old PC and a Wacom Graphire 4, and I had a Wacom Cintiq 12wx later. Now I have two iMac 27” and a Wacom Cintiq 24 HD. And I’m very happy with this configuration.
I love to work on digital, but I need to feel it as traditional as possible. When you work on a Wacom Cintiq dispaly, it’s almost like working on paper, and I really enjoy it.
The colours are great and the resolution is really good as well. Besides, this bigger tablet has a great stand which means that you can work in different positions. I’ve been working on this Wacom tablet for the last three years and I’m very happy with it.

When you’re not working, what kind of things do you like to do in your spare time?

The usual, I suppose. I spend time with friends. I try to travel to visit those who live far away. I play video games. I see a lot of movies and TV series. I read (comics mainly). I’m always listening to music (I love listening to soundtracks while drawing). I play with my cat. I have two amazing nephews that I adore and I love to hang out with them whenever I can.
But my favourite hobby is still drawing. So when I’m not drawing for work, I’m probably drawing just for fun.

How do you often organize your time? Do you work a typical 9-5 day?

I totally burn the midnight oil hahaha.
I’m a total disaster when it comes to organizing my time. Most of the time I’m still working at 2:00 am. I love to work at night. Everything is quieter and I can focus better on what I’m doing without interruptions. But my sight suffers more. I should try to work more during dthe ay.
I honestly don’t know how many hours a day I spend working. Sometimes it’s a lot, sometimes not so many. Probably too much, but as I mentioned before, I love my work.

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Ruiz Burgos in his studio working on his Wacom Cintiq 24HD

You collect a lot of figurines, statues and memorabilia which you display in your studio. How important is your work environment for you?

My studio is the biggest room in my house by far, not kidding. I need a lot of space to work because I need to be comfortable.
I’ve been collecting figures since childhood. It’s something that’s probably not going to change in the future. The only difference is that now I collect bigger, more expensive figures, comics, art books, video games, vinyls, etc.
I have six Hot Toys figures and a few others of this kind. In fact, sometimes I use these figures as ra eference for illustrations. I have a lot of small figures and some statues too.
I do try not to buy too much of this stuff because I’m a bit of a maniac in terms of order and organisation. I need a neat, clear and organized room to work at home.
My work is based on pop culture mostly. So I consider myself a part of it in some way. This kind of stuff is truly inspirational.

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Ruiz Burgos collection

Your work has steadily gained a lot of interest online. How does it feel knowing so many people follow your art on social media?

It’s amazing. I’m truly honoured by all these people who follow my work on social media and who write nice comments in my posts.
I always try to keep my feet on the ground. Followers don’t define you. Some people get crazy about this kind of thing and they spend a lot of time trying to get more followers. I just keep working, learning and improving my work.
Anyway, 7,000 Instagram followers is a lot of people and I’m very grateful. It’s something a bit weird to me.
I live and work in a small city in Spain, and suddenly there are people all around the world that follow my work and tell me that my pieces inspired them, or that they want to buy my art and hang it in their houses in another continent. That never ceases to amaze me.

Out of all the online platforms you have, is there a particular platform you think is best to promote your work and why?

I have a lot of platforms, but Instagram has become the best way to get followers by far in the last years. It’s a platform based on images, and I think that’s why a lot of artists are using it. People check it on their smartphones. So, everyone can watch your posts anytime and anywhere.
I actually think Facebook has been a better platform to promote my work professionally because of the dedicated groups. I have been using it for years, and although I have less followers there than on Instagram, I think I have obtained more jobs thanks to this social network.
Twitter is great too. I’ve received some awesome notes there from famous artists or celebrities, and that’s really cool. As a professional, you need to be everywhere. You never know where people will find you.

What do you think you’d be doing instead if you were not an illustrator? Was there ever a time you wanted a different career?

I’ve never wanted to be an illustrator. I’ve passed a lot of time trying to find other things to do. Because painting and drawing was my hobby, and I thought that doing that for living would make me hate it.
Luckily or sadly I’m not good at anything else. I love my work, but I would have loved to work in movies. Making concepts, building sets, creating props or serving coffees.
As I love figures and statues, it’s something that has always attracted me too. I tried to learn 3D. I think the illustration and drawing base helps me a lot, but learning how to use the programs and tools requires a lot of time that I haven’t got. Someday, maybe.

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Imperator Furisoa © Ruiz Burgos day.

Finally, what would be one key piece of advice you would give aspiring and emerging artists who want a successful career?

I don’t know if I’m the right one to answer that question, hahaha.
I think that all you need is to make good work. If your work is good, success will find you. The best advice I can give anyone is to work hard and keep practicing.

Thank you for reading!

It’s been wonderful chatting to Ruiz and understanding his workflow, mindset, and inspirations. We hope this article inspired you too.
You can follow Ruiz and his work on a variety of social networks:
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to share #LetsTalkArt with your friends! And follow Wacom across the social platforms so you don’t miss the next episode!
This interview series is produced by Jack Woodhams, the founder of showcase platform PosterSpy. We would like to thank everyone who has responded positively to this series so far and hope you enjoy what´s to come

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