Beatriz Gutierrez (@beatriz_beatriz_beatriz) is an emerging artist who works as a freelance illustrator and animator. She is currently based in Brooklyn, New York. She was born and raised in Guadalajara, a city in western Mexico. Beatriz has been working mostly on publishing, but she has also done some editorial illustration, branding, and animation.
I came across with Beatriz’s art after her work called “Hermandad” became popular in some of the feminist circles in Turkey. This work resonated with the story of Şule Çet, a 23-year-old woman who had been thrown from a 20th floor by two men after being sexually assaulted. Beatriz’s art amazed me with its magical style and I contacted Beatriz for an interview.
You are both an illustrator and animator. Have you always dreamt of being an artist? How did your artistic journey start?
Since I was a kid, I always took art classes outside of school. I loved drawing, painting, and creating all sorts of crafts; would make miniature dog sets made out of clay. I would also write and draw in little booklets stories about different animal characters, and paint murals on my room’s walls. Even though art was significant in all of my life, I never thought of it as a career.
When I had to choose a major, I decided on a theoretical perspective. So I decided to get into Pratt’s art history program. It required me to take a bunch of intensive studio classes the first year. So I ended up reconnecting with my joy for creating things. I then found out my school had an illustration major. It made me think that illustration fitted perfectly with what I loved to do.
From illustration to animation, your mediums are also changing. How is the experience different for you? Does animation require more teamwork than illustrating?
I have found fewer differences than similarities while working within both disciplines. Besides applying the same style, where I mix both handmade and digital techniques, there’s also a very similar approach when it comes to process: researching, developing concepts, sketching, or storyboarding.
However, I’m a self-taught animator, so I’ve never had the traditional work experience with a team. Since I started learning, I’ve been doing every step on my own. It is very time-consuming because the animation process usually involves a ton of collaboration. I enjoy this meditative state that I get in while working frame by frame. But, it is something that I don’t quite obtain from illustrating.
You also work on children’s books. Which books were your favorites? Did they affect you to become the person you are today? Do you think they influenced your artistic style? How do you define your style?
Every night, my mom, who is a writer, would read my sister and me a book before bedtime. One of my favorite books was Beatrix Potter’s Treasury. It is a compilation of her most popular stories, which featured countryside animals as the main characters. This fantasy world captivated me! I found the little animals endearing, which then inspired me to create my own animal tales.
Beatrix’s actual story is fascinating: she lived on a farm surrounded by nature and animals, throughout her career, she acquired farms and lands and dedicated herself to the conservation of the region.
I also enjoyed Anthony Browne’s Willy series, and other of his books: “Voices in the Park”, “The Tunnel”, and “Changes”. His books had this surrealistic touch that made me feel very drawn to them. “The Elephant’s Child” written by Kipling and illustrated by Jan Mogensen, and also “The Story of Babar” by Jean de Brunhoff were also some of my favorites.
In general, I think the fantasy and surrealistic motifs of Potter’s and Browne’s work were something that stood out to me– I’m very intrigued by the notion of otherworldly elements living within our reality. I feel like I have absorbed that into my work, and I can somehow see this dreamlike atmosphere in it.
How is creating illustrations for a child book different from other commissions?
Some time ago, I read this interview with a children’s book illustrator and author that I admire, Jon Klassen. He mentioned that children’s books were like places that you visit, like a house that you lived in. I love the idea of that, rather than thinking of it as just a story with a moral. I also think that while you’re creating a book there’s a similar effect, you feel like you immerse yourself into this world of your own.
It has also become a way of reconnecting with my child self and remembering what were the simple things that brought me joy. In other areas of illustration there’s plenty of problem-solving and critical thinking, and coming up with solutions brings me a lot of satisfaction. But working on children’s books gives me this mix of feelings that I can’t find anywhere else.
[su_vimeo url=”https://vimeo.com/218719660″ title=”Stranger Visions”]
Beatriz’s Video Art
You also published your works through Vimeo. In “Monsters of Uncertainty,” you have a poetic perspective. I believe this work tells us a story without any words. Do you think that storytelling is essential for your art? How do you capture those stories?
“Monsters of Uncertainty” indeed tells a story, about heartbreak, and the indefinite wait for the return of lost love. From the beginning, I visualized this project as a sequence of different stages, which conveyed the journey of emotions this broken heart goes through.
It is a project that is still very dear to me since it can be symbolic of many experiences. It doesn’t just tell the story of heartbreak, but in a broader sense, it talks about the feeling of anguish that the state of uncertainty entails.
I consider storytelling to be crucial in my work, it’s how viewers can connect with it. There’s something about a narrative that echoes with them, and that’s how they’re drawn into the work because they somehow see themselves reflected on it. Every now and then, the original premise of a piece might change. I like to see how people interpret their meanings and relate to them in different ways, sometimes their own take is so much more relevant.
How do you combine music with your animation in your video art? How did you decide on it? Do you think that music, voice, or sound adds another layer to work?
I have loved working on animation along with a non-visual medium. In some ways, it’s easier, since both things can support each other, and the responsibility of communicating a story or an idea doesn’t rely solely on the image. But I try to be careful and stay away from redundancy: rather than repeating what the music or voice is expressing, the art should add something new.
The few times that I have worked with music, I’ve had the luck to collaborate with an artist whose music resonates with me. Further ahead, I would love to work more in music videos. And if I ever get to that point where I get regular gigs in this field, I think the only criteria to decide on a job would be if the work truly speaks to me, and if I can picture it living within the same world as mine.
Political Meanings in Beatriz’s Works
Your work, called “Hermandad,” has an important story. Could you please tell us about your creative process when working on this piece? Did you want to convey a message behind your imagery?
This piece’s story is so impactful. It is an instance of how the message of a work can change completely depending on the context, and how it doesn’t have to stick to its original purpose.
I first did this piece for a class during college, and it didn’t have any deep or thoughtful meaning. It was a very simple assignment where we had to illustrate something that could go wrong but somehow would be avoided.
Years later, I was contacted by a woman who worked for the ministry of treasury and finance in Ankara, an advocate for women’s rights. She told me the tragic story of Şule Çet, a 23-year-old woman who had been thrown from the 20th floor by two men after being sexually assaulted, how her case had been unjustly handled by the authorities and prosecutors, and how she had become an important symbol for the movement against the increasing femicides in Turkey. She explained that my piece, previously called “Mistakes”, was being used in support of Şule’s cause.
After hearing it, this story resonated so much with me. Mexico has a turbulent history of violence against women, coming from the 1990s massive killings in Ciudad Juarez to more recent years, where hundreds are violently and increasingly murdered each year. I found it so heartbreaking, but also really touching, to see how the image adopted this new message.
Later on, it just seemed natural to have this illustration repurposed: to bring light to violence against women and to show support and strength within women. I decided to change the illustration’s title to “Hermandad”, which means “Sisterhood” in Spanish.
Your illustrations have their world; some of them also have dreamy imageries. How do you combine such serious and sometimes traumatizing themes, as in “Hermandad,” into your art?
Trying to translate these difficult topics into a more approachable language has been challenging. Many of the assignments that I have been commissioned with revolve around immigration, colonization, violence, and discrimination.
There’s one particular project that I worked on that touched on the immigration crisis on the Mexico-US border. The assignment focused on the children held at the border’s detention centers, who were kept in deplorable conditions. Facing these facts was tough, but there are always means to portray reality in an alternative form.
In this case, focusing on the children’s imaginative perspective as a way to deal with the monotony. I look for magical, or odd elements and merge them with real-life so these issues can be assimilated from another point of view.
You also worked on a book with the author, Margarita Engle, called “Dreams from Many Rivers.” Could you please tell us about it? How did you decide to work on this project? Does it speak to you personally? How was it working with a literary work and transforming it into a visual medium?
“Dreams from Many Rivers” was a very special project for me. A former classmate who was working as a designer at the publisher contacted me and put me in touch with the team. They told me more about the assignment, a middle-grade history book told in poems and sent me the manuscript.
I instantly connected with the text. At a time of rising xenophobia and hate towards immigrants, a book centered on Hispanic history in the US felt very necessary. In terms of process, research was essential, since there was so much about the periods and the historical events that I didn’t know about. Being fully immersed in the context made it easier to visualize the text, so then I would start sketching loose drawings as I read through.
Even though the book is made up of different stories and accounts, there’s an ongoing sense of hope and freedom. To tie everything together, I depicted certain elements throughout the book that referenced these concepts, such as birds and flying motifs, in allusion to liberty.
Any last words you want to add are also welcomed! Thanks for your answers ☺
Thank you so much for this interview! It’s been really fun and interesting to dive deep into my inspiration and process, and to be able to share that with you 🙂
For more check out her website here: click!