Creative Spotlight: Q&A with Illustrator & Drag Star Adrián Martin

In the latest profile for our Creative Spotlight series, we are championing a local artist in the form of the immensely talented Adrián Martin, a Newcastle-based graphic designer/ illustrator by-day and drag queen by-night.

Adrián Martin is a Valencia-born, Newcastle-based creative whose work we have been a big fan of for a while now – we first came across Adrián’s colourful and vibrant riso prints. With a passion for drag culture, Adrián has more recently gone beyond illustrating stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race to performing as Choriza May, the Queen taking over the North East’s drag scene. We couldn’t wait to find out more!

1. Firstly Adrián, how have things been for you during these difficult lockdown months of 2020?

Things have been good actually. The whole world stopping for a minute has actually helped me to put things in perspective and re-evaluate what is important in my life and most importantly, what isn’t. It has been weird having so much free time, as I was furloughed from the studio I work at, but at the same time it has been the perfect opportunity to finally have more time to work on my own projects that I had been pushing for so long.

2. You’re an illustrator by day, a drag artist by night, how do you find the time to fit it all in?

As you can imagine my life is a bit manic. Combining a job in a studio from 9 to 5, plus being a freelance illustrator and drag queen is absolutely crazy but I love it (most of the time). I guess the quick answer to this question would be: by not sleeping much. Performing as Choriza May at night and during the weekends is actually not hard, I love doing it, the tricky part is to do all the preparation that every new show requires: costumes, rehearsals, new tracks, hair etc.

Getting all that done in time is the real challenge but I am surrounded by amazing people that are always there to give me a hand and also JUMP has adapted very well with flexi-time so I can fulfil all my passions.

3. What first inspired you to get into illustration and graphic design?

It might sound very cliché but when I was a kid, I loved drawing and I entered every drawing or poster competition that I could find. When I discovered that designing and drawing was a job it was pretty clear for me that I’d be doing that for the rest of my days.

4. For the last couple of years you’ve produced prints of the contestants of RuPaul’s Drag Race, but more recently that has developed further to producing artwork that appeared on HBO’s “We’re Here” show, how did that collaboration come about?

Social media has made the world a very small place. All I have done is share my art online and tag the people who inspired me in my pieces. My content is easy to access from anywhere in the world, and that’s how I got the job! Someone who works very often on TV saw my work online and started commissioning me for some projects. Then, he started working for the show WE’RE HERE by HBO, and when they needed an illustrator to work on some promotional materials they contacted me through him. It sounds so simple, and it actually was!

They always say you have to be in the right place at the right time, and there is this misconception with this saying that everything is down to luck, that you don’t really have much control of this moment actually happening, but you do. The “right place” right now is really anywhere, you can produce work from any place, so what is really crucial is the “right moment”. You control how many “moments” you have. Every time you put your creations out, there is a new opportunity for someone to see it. So, the harder you work, the more chances you will have to be seen by the right person. Also, this experience will prepare you to actually take the challenge when it arrives.

5. With the rise in popularity of shows like Drag Race, and the more recent UK introduction of it, what are your thoughts on the future of drag culture and it becoming more popular in the mainstream?

I think the general public has a big role in what Drag can become in the future. Drag Race has already given it a much bigger platform and since the show had its UK version, we have experienced an increase in jobs and attention. Obviously, with the current situation, everything is in a stand-by, but there are lots of shows and projects brewing at the moment. I think the main thing that is changing is that Drag is becoming (and has become) more accessible. It’s not a man’s job anymore, there are plenty of sources of information and a whole new economy that provides everything you need at very accessible prices. Hopefully, with it becoming more mainstream, people will start to understand it more, to respect it and consume it, and hopefully, more people will be able to make a decent living from it.

6. Who are your favourite drag artists?

Finally, a super easy question! My ultimate favourite drag artists are the ones that are also graphic artists because you can tell their work has a deeper dimension, it’s like an extension in real life of their ideas. Sasha Velour is my ultimate favourite drag queen. She is also a graphic designer and illustrator, and their performances and concepts are just mind-blowing, super hard to define and so innovative. I also adore Juno Birch, an illustrator and sculptor, who basically has brought to life a character that she has been working on for years, I honestly can’t explain how much I love her.

7. Do you have a particular favourite illustration you have done or a project that you have worked on?

The packaging I design for Wigs & Grace are loads of fun to do and my relationship with the client is fantastic. Wigs & Grace is a company that sells wigs for drag artists and also style wigs for the biggest drag artists in the world. Their work is featured on every season of Drag Race and pretty much every show with drag involved. They are an amazing company, super creative and with amazing values and that translates in everything they do, including their design, it is one of these projects that is a gift to be involved with.

8. What advice would you give for aspiring creatives and artists, and those who are graduating this year?

This whole Corona madness has changed how the world works, don’t put yourself in boundaries. You can work for anyone in this world and you can do it from any place in the world. Find a balance between what you love doing and the life you want to live, and go for it. Ignore what you think people might be thinking of you for not following the conventional career path, there is no such thing! Do what’s good for you and try to enjoy life, that will reflect in your work.

9. All creatives have different approaches to receiving a brief or starting on a piece of artwork, do you have a typical process for when creating your illustrations?

When it comes to my illustrations and the projects I get commissioned to do, I don’t really have a very specific process, the reality is that my brain never stops thinking of new ideas and new projects I could do, and right now, because I am so busy, I only take on projects that excite me and I can’t get out of my head. So, by the time I sit down to start working, I already have a pretty clear idea of what I will be doing. My phone is full of very unorganised notes that I take when I come up with new ideas.

10. What are you currently working on? Any projects in the pipeline?

I am currently working on a children’s book called FABULOUS. It is the story about a young cat and a young squirrel who want to do drag! No, I’m not joking haha! It is a dream come true to work on such a cool project. The book has been written by John Jeffords and Lynzle Rogers, who are also the creators of Rupaws Drag Race on Instagram.

11. What would your dream project be?

I have this weird obsession with fruit stickers, the ones you can find when you buy bananas, apples, mangos etc. I collect them, photograph them, I think they are such lovely little pieces of art and people quite often just ignore them. I would absolutely love to be able to design a whole set of stickers for a fruit and veg company and make them so beautiful they’d be impossible to ignore.

12. This series is all about putting the spotlight on different creatives, are there any creatives who you have recently come across that you would recommend?

Mul Draws and Alex Sickling are my two ultimate favourite local artists, they are just brilliant!

Thanks, Adrián

Some really interesting insights there. We’ll look forward to seeing the release of FABULOUS!

And we’ll be back soon with another creative spotlight on one of our favourite creatives. Keep an eye out!

In the meantime, we share some of the cool and creative stuff we spot over on our Twitter. Give us a follow here.