Tell us about yourself.
I’m Javier Ramirez, and I work under my brand Sr. Reny in Vigo, a city in the northwest of Spain. I’ve worked as a full-time freelance illustrator for some time now, but before that, I worked in advertising agencies as a graphic designer.
What’s the story behind your brand name Sr. Reny?
When I was younger, every year in my city, there was an event where a lot of people met to paint graffiti to create a mural that stretched for almost a kilometre. I must have been ten years old when I first attended the event, and I was shocked by all the shapes, colours, and textures that people depicted on the walls. It was from that moment I knew that I want to try to do graffiti to experiment with what I felt. From then on, I started to paint with my friends and became interested in art.
I needed a name to paint graffiti and Reny was the one I chose; it didn’t mean anything, but I liked how it sounded. Over the years, I became educated in illustration and graphic design, my goal was always to work as a freelance illustrator and what better than to use the name that started it all.
How would you describe your approach to design?
The main focus is the challenge that you’re posed with when you receive a commission. I love the satisfaction of overcoming each challenge; even in the smallest ones, I try to give the best of me to turn it into something big. I think it is the base of design, to transform something small into something big and recognised and it is very gratifying when you achieve it.
Talk us through your cat piece commissioned during our 100 Days. 100 Commissions campaign.
At first, I thought to send in a project that I was working on that had been cancelled as a consequence of the pandemic, but I decided I wanted to do something more personal.
I wanted to create a piece in which the idea and the composition didn’t limit me; it must flow. Many times, the needs of each commission and project can limit your creativity, so every so often I enjoy working on personal projects which bring me the opportunity to try new things and give me a mental refresh. What I like the most in this work is when you start with an idea or composition, and you finish it with a different and unexpected result which surprises you because it isn’t where you started.
In this illustration, I tried to highlight that everyone has good things in their personality and conscience, however small they are, but many times we put on a mask to seem harder and bigger than others to defend ourselves from the unknown or what we don’t understand.
What do you hope people take away from your work?
I love to create a reaction, to make the viewer capture a message or wake up their curiosity or interest in what they are seeing. I know it is difficult to get, but it’s what makes me strive to improve every day.
“I love to create a reaction, to make the viewer capture a message or wake up their curiosity or interest in what they are seeing. I know it is difficult to get, but it’s what makes me strive to improve every day.”
Which of your projects would you say has been most important in developing your personal style?
I think that personal style is something that develops continuously throughout your professional career. Each project I do, some often very different from others, have something that lasts and that I apply unconsciously in the following ones. The result of all of these little things allows your personal style to appear.
To be honest, it is hard for me to choose just one, but I think that the illustrations I did for a public institution which organised circus events for kids helped me to develop my style more because they gave me the freedom to create a world full of fantasy and magic.
What criteria do you use to critique your work?
The main rule that I use to judge my work is the emotion that’s created with the idea. If I have the feeling that it isn’t good enough, then I won’t stop until I resolve it. From there, it happens in the same way with technical resources such as composition, colour, typography…I guess the most important thing is to feel at ease with your own work.
“The main rule that I use to judge my work is the emotion that’s created with the idea. If I have the feeling that it isn’t good enough, then I won’t stop until I resolve it.”
How would you say your work has changed over the past five years?
I believe that in the last few years, my work has naturally evolved. In the past, I was very much influenced by the design and used more geometric shapes, which in my opinion, removed naturalness and made my works more rigid and cold.
Over time, my work has evolved to be more expressive and little-by-little I’m adopting a more imperfect technique. I think it is the direction my work is taking.
How do you boost your creativity when uninspired?
Lack of inspiration can hit many times along the creative process, often various times on a single project at different points of the project. Creativity and inspiration are tests of self-knowledge; when you are frustrated it is important to know how to disconnect, lose yourself, renew your mind, and relax. When lack of inspiration appears, practising sport, leaving the studio to have a walk, going for a coffee, or simply setting the project aside for a few days helps me see everything differently. Each person is different and all of us should be able to identify what is our best way to overcome these blocks.
What do you enjoy doing outside of designing and illustrating?
I love cooking; I always say that if I weren’t an illustrator, I would be a cook. I’m lucky because, in Galicia, the region where I live, there is incredible gastronomy and products available from fish, shellfish, meat and vegetables, a luxury of which I am very proud.
When did you first start using Affinity and how have you found the software?
I found it by chance surfing social media, and I decided to try it out because I like to experiment with new software, tools, and ways of working. I was surprised by Affinity Designer’s fluency, how vectors are integrated, and the mask options available in Affinity Photo. It allows me to create an easy and fast workflow; it really surprised me.
Are there any artists or illustrators working today that you particularly admire?
I think that my list would be endless because there are a lot of illustrators who inspire me each day. If I have to name some of them, I love the world’s that McBess creates, the musicality in Mason London illustrations, the incredible forms of Iain Macarthur, La Boca’s, and Andrés Lozano’s colours, Rafael Mayani, Dave Arcade…the list grows as every week passes.
Do you have a favourite project you’ve worked on and why?
I can’t choose just one, but I recently worked with two local music groups designing their album covers, and I really enjoyed the experience of meeting the band and capturing the essence they wanted to communicate. Besides, I had never designed music albums, and it was music very different from what I usually listen to, so I liked the idea of doing something different, and I enjoyed the design process a lot.
What advice would you give to a creative first starting out?
The most important thing is to have patience and be prepared to invest many hours of work. I believe that these are key to the creative process because it is still a handcrafted work even though the tools we use are digital. For this, we need to continuously learn, and above all have the time to work on developing the potential that we all have inside.