Upon entering Sebastian's (old) studio I was immediately struck by a positive, upbeat and very colorful energy. Sebastian hails from Argentina originally but is constantly traveling and drawing inspiration from his 'weird experiences' that are reflected in his big, bold and colorful characters. Sharing a studio with his wife, Macarena, a self taught textile designer, the two of them are tapping into each others mediums and producing some simply wonderful work. It's great to have them in Los Angeles if only for the time being!
MW Tell me about growing up in Argentina?
SC My parents moved quite a lot during my childhood. They are both working class people from the south side of Buenos Aires. When they got married my dad had this crazy idea of living in the countryside, and so they did, with a couple bucks on the pocket. That started a time in our lives of traveling and looking for better opportunities, that lasted around ten or fifteen years. First they went to a really tiny town called San Carlos de Bolivar, where truck drivers stop to eat and sleep and you can hear cows from your patio. That’s where me and one of my siblings came into the picture. After that, the four of us moved to Mar Del Plata, a resort city south of the capital and my younger brother was born. Mar del Plata used to be the place where upper class people would vacation, but in the 50s everything changed and became a very popular place with crowded beaches where people from all parts of the country visited for vacation. But it seems jobs were hard to get there too so my parents decided to move back to Buenos Aires. By that time I was already nine or ten years old. We moved close to my grandma to a neighborhood called Dock Sud where some public housing was going on since the 70s. It was cool because we would live in a building really close to my grandma and we would visit her quite often. This particular neighborhood is now very dangerous, and I’m not sure if it was already like that when we were living there. Maybe because I was so young that I didn’t even pay attention. To this day this place scares me and it seems a bit surrealist that I lived there.
Family life in the outskirts of Buenos Aires is pretty simple and I remember it being quite happy. I would play with my brothers a lot and we would come up with games, go out, explore and eat a ton. The three of us were a bit chubby and I think my mom would cook way more than enough for us. So between big meals, school and games I got until my adolescence.
I have to say I don’t remember my childhood being specifically poor or sacrificed but I think there is a sense of hardworking people that I got and still remains with me until this day. Money for me was always something to pursue. I just knew from an early age that working was going to be very present in my life, and it was going to be a ton of that, so I always tried to articulate that with something fun or at least as fun as I could afford. Growing up I didn't understand how these poor neighborhoods and my parents changing jobs would make a big impact on me. I’m fine with traveling and moving every couple of months and my ways are very simple. I can’t help to think there is a link there.
“I WOULD ORGANIZE CONCERTS AND DRAW FLYERS FOR MY HARDCORE/PUNK CONCERTS”
What were you into during your teenage years? Was art & design something that you connected with from an early age?
I’ve always been a very active and curious person. I started playing guitar in bands when I was 16 and I was really into martial arts, so much that I became a teacher. So between school and my martial arts classes, I would organize concerts and draw flyers for my hardcore/punk concerts. I was doing everything at the same time and I was having a great time. I like being busy and I love when projects become a real thing. The weekends were full of small concerts with 4-5 bands playing and in the middle, I got into graphic design even without knowing.
When I finished high school I wanted to become a journalist. I suppose at that age I didn’t consider that music or graphic design as something realistic to pursue seriously as a career. Arts in Latin America seem to be for people that have financial aspects of their lives resolved so I thought becoming a journalist would be a nice mix of something interesting/creative and something that would pay me a living wage. I’ve always been a huge nerd so I would spend hours in the library just reading. The thing is that reading and writing are two very different things and after a year I left university feeling really frustrated. That changed everything. Playing music took a bigger part of my life and I decided to study something around that. The bass player who I was playing with was studying Post Production in Video and Audio and was really excited about it. So I read a bit about that and decided to study that myself. That took me kind of where I am today. After three years of studying, I got a job in television as an assistant editor and I discovered motion graphics.
Year after year I dove more into the creative stuff and the technical side got pushed aside by things like animation, 3D, art direction and whatever would give me the space to improvise a bit. I changed jobs a ton during those years but in the end I got a position at a really talented motion graphic studio in Buenos Aires called Plenty.
MW When did you decide to move to the US and what was your ambition at the time?
SC At that time I was back in university. I started studying graphic design and got really into this festival called TMDG in Mar Del Plata. They invite prestigious designers and talented people from the design world. I remember seeing Eike Hort and Alex Trochut and thinking how cool it would be to build a portfolio like that. But they were European and I was in Buenos Aires so in my mind that meant they lived in a different world.
At some point I went freelance as an animation director and I was sharing a space with some friends. Everyone was doing their own thing and we would split the rent, share lunch, talk about life and work. Freelance felt great and working with studios around the world seemed like a dream come true. One day I got this email from a really prestigious studio in Los Angeles called Buck. They didn’t want to work with me as a freelancer but instead they would hire me as an animator to work in their offices in the US.
That week was a bit crazy. My wife and I talked a lot, and tried to think how we could make this work. Moving to a different country is a very disruptive thing to do. It is a transformative experience and it changes you in a way that you can’t even imagine. After some thought we asked Buck for six months to prepare everything for the move and we just went for it.
My expectation at that time was to keep growing. Freelancing is nice but it is also very lonely and one learns most of their skills from other people. Working with people that are better than you is amazing and going into one of the best studios in the world for me sounded like an amazing plan.
How was your time in Vancouver? You were primarily working as an animator, correct?
So I worked two years at Buck. Started as a regular animator and ended directing and leading some projects. Every studio is unique and my expectations just clashed with the world of advertising in the US. I’m a very simple person and I enjoy crafting beautiful things. Somehow along the way the corporate side of the job took over and I felt disconnected from the things I love the most. So my wife and I decided to move to a different part of the world.
We really love to travel. We didn’t know before but we discovered it when we came to LA. We are a bit like explorers. We are very curious and just going out and grabbing a coffee in a new place seems like the best way to spend a day. We had visited Vancouver a year before when we went to the Blend Festival and we had the best time. Vancouver during summer is dreamy and I can’t recommend it enough. It is truly a special and unique place.
On top of that I knew of a place that had great credentials, it looked like a family owned company and they were small and passionate about design and animation so I asked for a job there. At the beginning they weren’t interested but after some months I got an email saying that they were open to having me as an animator. I was happy with the news and we talked about visas and how the logistics of all would work.
Changing jobs is always something intense and moving is one of the most stressful things you can do. I did both on the pan of two years, two times. So it makes sense to me when I understand why I got burned out really really badly.
Before moving to Vancouver I already was having some headaches and weird tingling sensations on my face and arms but when I got there this was insane and I would have dizziness and tinnitus on top of that. It took me almost two years to get to a place where I can lead my life with normality again but my stay in Vancouver was mainly me struggling with my health and my frustration around my work.
Sometimes you have expectations and plans and your body just says “not today bud”. So I quit my job, I changed my diet, started exercising on a daily basis and went to a ton of doctors to check it was all stress related and not anything else.
“I’M DOING ILLUSTRATION, ANIMATION AND DESIGN AND SHE IS THE ONE WITH THE COOL AUTOMATIC DRILL SPITTING WOOL”
MW Did your move to LA coincide with your career shift from a full-time animator to an independent illustrator running your own studio?
SC I think all this moving around and changing jobs changed me dramatically. The exposure to a new country, different culture, different language, my co-workers being from all over the world and so insanely talented made me think that I could try something different. After some months working in LA I already knew I didn’t have my heart on my work. And I’m a very passionate guy when it comes to my work. I love what I do and I spend hours and hours thinking how to do it better.
Almost as a reaction to all these, I started to draw in the mornings. I didn’t draw as a kid and till this day drawing for me is something new and fresh. I wanted to feel happy when working and the ownership you get when you create something for your own is amazing. These weird drawings became a thing and I would share them on instagram once a day. Just silly things that would make me smile.
I started to get more and more into illustration and this hobby became a side job almost by accident. I bought a ton of books about illustration and art and it got me really excited. Especially “Art is Work” by Milton Glaser. When I got to Vancouver I felt my work life was split in two. One during the day as a recognized animator and another one during the night and over weekends as a Jr illustrator. Somehow I got bigger projects and when I quit Giant Ant for health reasons my illustration career became something really tangible.
MW And tell me about your current work…. These wonderful characters, colors, movement and naturally everything seems to animate perfectly. Where does it all come from?!
SC Thanks for the kind words Andrew. It’s been 4 years since I started working as an illustrator and I love all of it. The ownership and freedom I get from illustration I couldn’t get from anything else. I think all these years of working in studios and doing things for other people put things on my mind that now I can explore. Since my days studying video to what I do today, I’ve always tried to keep it fun and put my heart in the right place. It sounds cliche but I learnt that I am a bit naive and that naiveness works great for me. I try to protect what I do and try to be honest with both myself and my clients.
I like to think that all this is just a conversation with the people that resonate with my work and my peers that create stuff. We are all trying to make something nice and meaningful for us to share. And my work is just that. A weird mix of my experiences and my all-over-the-place career/life.
MW Now you share your studio with your wife and clearly have a strong influence over each other's practice. I’m seeing sculptures, rugs and a wide array of projects all arising from this fantastic creative dynamic. Is this process purely organic so you both just contribute as necessary on projects?
SC Sharing a studio is one the best changes we did over the last years. We always do things together but working together is something that became a real thing just some years ago. We have a very similar taste and we enjoy each other a lot. So when I went freelance, Macarena was exploring textiles. And because our house in Vancouver was really small we rented an attic a couple of blocks from our house. This accidental thing changed our lives all together. We’ve always been very close and sharing a studio seems very natural to us. We always chat about projects and our works are very similar and coexist together, we just found different mediums to explore. I’m doing illustration, animation and design and she is the one with the cool automatic drill spitting wool.
MW What’s one of your favorite commissions to date?
SC Lately I’ve been changing the way I think about my work and commissions. At the beginning I would produce work for a client and from that body of work we would choose favorites. But as time passes I prefer to keep a routine around drawings. I draw almost every day and every project is informed by those drawings. Every collaboration that I have with a client or another artist is an extension of this body of work. And in that way I'm able to find things that are interesting to me. Good ideas are hard to get and it is really stressful to deliver something amazing in a couple of days. But if I can tap into things that I’ve been working on for years then every project is informed by that work and the dynamic completely changes. Suddenly my presentations are way more diverse, more rich and I can continuously push the style forward.
On the other hand, I just finished a big collaboration with Adobe and I’m amazed how this project touches a fiber in me. I’m not sure if this is because I used their software since I was a teenager or because of how open the brief was and the space they gave me to create visual ideas for them but I’m really happy with all of the experience. Hope to see it out there soon.
“GOOD IDEAS ARE HARD TO GET AND IT IS REALLY STRESSFUL TO DELIVER SOMETHING AMAZING IN A COUPLE OF DAYS”
MW And any personal projects you’re excited about?
SC I have a solo exhibition coming up and I’m very proud to take that step. I started working in commercial art because I needed to feel better with my work. To feel the ownership of what I do. Creating a public exhibition where people can go in and have a peek into what's in my head feels very intimate and I was scared to make the jump. The world of fine arts is very different from where I come from and I’m just too curious about it. I hope I can keep producing works that fit that frame and keep filling spaces with more and more work.
MW What’s looming in the near future? Is Barcelona calling?
SC Well… I’m writing this interview with some boxes around me because we just moved to a new studio in Chinatown,Los Angeles. We’ve been growing this space for years and the new studio tries to be the excuse to make bigger rugs for Macarena and to take me out of the computer so I can paint or design objects or make more prints. I worked my whole life in front of a computer and I feel the need to explore options outside that.
We lived in Barcelona for a couple of months in 2019 and it felt amazing. Argentina is very European and Barcelona seems like a place that is both home and new to us. We hope to keep traveling in the near future and maybe Barcelona is the next destination. We also have learned to plan just a few years ahead and try to be flexible and enjoy the process. Right now we are really excited about being part of the community in Chinatown. It feels like a dream to have a space in such a special neighborhood.
MW Best book purchase this year?
SC I can’t decide between these two:
“Don’t take these drawings seriously” by Nathalie Du Pasquier. I always felt that art shouldn’t be elegant or complex to be perceived as valuable and she explains it in such an eloquent way.
And “Two Lines Align” by Ed Fella and Geoff McFetridge. It is an old book but I just discovered it recently. It is really nice to read about how they transitioned their career and how they think about work. Especially Geoff and how he produces both personal and commercial work in a seamless way.
MW Any albums on rotation in the studio?
SC “Drama” from Rodrigo Amarante and “Jaime” from Brittany Howard.
MW Five top tips in LA?
SC Endorphine coffee in Chinatown.
I love how the owner puts so much love into his craft. It resonates with me on a deep level.
Woon in FilipinoTown for some amazing beef noodles.
And the vibe feels just right.
Arcana Books in Culver City.
Their selection is incredible and I always come back for inspiration. They also have a collection of posters that is great.
LA River Bike Path in Frogtown.
I moved to Frogtown a year ago because of this bike path and I’m so happy to be close to a place that connects Griffith Park and Chinatown.
The Framing House in Chinatown
If you love custom framing like me but you suffer the prices go to this shop.
Also, they are super friendly and like contemporary art so you get some interesting chat for free.
Los Angeles is a complex city. It is hard to understand and it encompasses many different ways of living. It’s not one thing and I think if you come with an open mind you are going to be surprised by it. Not walkable but definitely worth exploring.