• February 2014

"No Man Is a Desert Island," Insists Our Fine Artist of the Month: Felipe Galindo

Interview by Michael Gibbs
Illustrator and designer, michaelgibbs.com
Art director, The Inkandescent Group, LLC

Humorous art is the trademark of Mexican-born artist Felipe Galindo (aka Feggo), whose cartoons, illustrations, animations, and public art have received international acclaim.

Born in Cuernavaca, he studied Visual Arts at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and since 1983 has lived and worked from his home in New York City with his wife, fellow fine artist Andrea Arroyo.

Odds are good you’ve seen Feggo’s artwork. His drawings have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, Time for Kids, and Mad magazine, as well as on Nickelodeon.

Or maybe you’ve seen his permanent public art at the 231 St. Station, #1 line, on the New York City subway. Commissioned by MTA Arts for Transit, his “Magic Realism in Kingsbridge” consists of four large faceted glass panels based on his humorous drawings.

New York has long been a theme in his work, including the award-winning “Manhatitlan” project, which consists of a series of works on paper, three short animation films, and a book.

“The project intertwines Mexican and American cultures in New York,” explains the man who has recently won awards from prestigious groups, including the Porto Cartoon Festival in Portugal, the United Nations Correspondents Association, and People’s Prize Knokke-Heist Humorfest in Belgium.

So it was our pleasure to interview Feggo for the February 2014 Fine Art column on Be Inkandescent magazine. Scroll down for our Q&A.

10 Questions for our Inkandescent Fine Artist of the Month: Felipe Galindo

Michael Gibbs: Tell us about how you got into the art business. Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?

Feggo: I have liked to draw since I was a kid, but I didn’t know if I would study art until after high school. Art as a career was not an easy choice, but my family supported my decision. I studied visual arts at the National University in Mexico, where I got a great education on art theory and studio arts. When I was still in college I began to sell my cartoons and drawings to various publications (using a pen name, Feggo, a combination of my three names, something used in cartooning in Latin America) and I also worked as an assistant to a well-known artist. Soon after, I began to publish my work in many publications in Mexico, while also working as an illustrator and an art researcher at various cultural institutions.

Michael Gibbs: Your style is incredibly humorous and unique. How would you describe it?

Feggo: I’d describe it as a simple, subtle style. I merge the languages of art and humor, presenting a sophisticated concept with a simple image, and creating visual comments that range from the subtle to the direct. My works tend to present images that invite the viewer to look carefully and reflect, to find the unexpected among the familiar.

Michael Gibbs: Who were your early influences?

Feggo: For my drawings, I got inspired by the work of Lyonel Feininger, Magritte, Topor, and French cartoonists Bosc and Chaval, the Argentinian Quino. Mexico has a great tradition of political cartooning, which also influenced me. As a youngster I was an avid reader of the American magazines Mad and National Lampoon. The irreverence in those pages was mind-blowing. I have another body of work, in which I use a looser line that was inspired by the early work of Stuart Davis and George Grosz. After I moved to New York, I “re-discovered” my cultural heritage and began to study pre-Columbian cultures; I am particularly fascinated by Aztec art. Art and history are a constant source of inspiration. I enjoy art from all different periods, styles, and traditions, from cave paintings to Picasso, Diego Rivera, Matthew Barney.

Michael Gibbs: How has your style evolved over the years?

Feggo: My drawing style developed over a few years after college. In school I used to paint minimal art on large-scale canvases mostly featuring geometric forms. I liked the work of German-American Joseph Albers and the sculpture of Tony Smith. After I transitioned to drawing figures, I liked the simplicity of line by Modigliani and I studied him for a while. Those artists informed the simple lines I use in my drawings. Even after so many years as a professional, I keep evolving and learning. Believe it or not, it is not easy for me to draw. But I love to do it.

Michael Gibbs: What do you think is the most important lesson you learned about being a professional artist?

Feggo: That being a professional requires a commitment to create high-quality work for every assignment, from a small editorial illustration to a large-scale public art project. There are no shortcuts; the effort you devote to a project reflects in the final work.

Michael Gibbs: What was the most fantastic moment of your career?

Feggo: One fantastic moment was when I was commissioned by the MTA Arts for Transit to create a series of permanent public art works. They are 16 panels in faceted glass installed on the subway platforms at the 231 St. station of the #1 line. The series is titled “Magic Realism in Kingsbridge” and features humorous vignettes inspired by the neighborhood and the community. I studied public art in college and to have created public art in New York City was very rewarding. I love watching the public “discover” the different elements and point out the humorous concepts (and, as a nice omen, the works were installed on the anniversary of the day I arrived in the city 25 years earlier.)

Michael Gibbs: Which award that you have won do you cherish most?

Feggo: I appreciate all of them, but 2012 was a good year in which I won three awards—one from the New York Foundation for the Arts, another in Porto, Portugal (where I was invited for a series of celebrations that even included a dinner cruise with the president,) and an award from the United Nations.

Michael Gibbs: What is on the horizon for you?

Feggo: I have several projects in mind but at the same time I have others in progress that I want to finish, like the “Frida’s New York” animation, and I want to turn a couple of projects into books (“Washington Returns to Gotham” and “Manhatitlan Codex.”) I also would like to have my project “Manhatitlan” become a traveling exhibition that will be shown around the United States and internationally.

Michael Gibbs: What haven’t you yet done that you still want to do? And what are you most excited about doing in the years to come?

Feggo: I have been fortunate in doing a lot of what I wanted to do, and being able to take my work into different arenas, including editorial drawing, cartooning, animation, fine art, and public art. Lately I have become interested in teaching and lecturing, so that I can share my experience with new generations of artists. I also would love to create more public art; I think is a great way to share your work and make a contribution to the community.

Michael Gibbs: What do you hope your legacy will be?

Feggo: I hope my work will inspire young artists to pursue their dream. We all learn from previous generations, and if my work can inspire someone to become an artist it would be an honor.

For more information, visit www.felipegalindo.com.

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