3 Degrees of Inspiration: Edel Rodriguez, Javier Jaén & Pablo Delcan

Editor’s Note: This is part 53 in Emily Potts’ series on design inspiration. Every other week, she features three artists whose work offers fresh, fun, and stimulating creative inspiration. Each artist picks the next link—someone who personally inspires him/her. Check out the fifty-second part in the series, featuring Till Gathmann, Lina Grumm & Annete Lux.

We’re starting anew this week with one of my new favorite artists:

Edel Rodriguez

He’s had a lot to say in recent months in politics with his famous “portraits” of No. 45. The genius of these images is how little detail is needed to portray, what is essentially, a one-dimensional guy. In fact, color and ambiguous shapes are all that’s needed. Yellow for the hair, orange for the skin, and a black circle for the always open mouth.

Recently, Edel has done several cover illustrations for the German weekly, Der Spiegel. His portrayals of Trump, sans eyes, are so simple yet so easily interpreted, depending on the newscycle. Trump and Kim Jong Un wearing diapers and riding a missile is both funny and scary, because of how accurate it is.

As a child, Edel and his family emigrated to America from Cuba to escape Castro’s fascist regime. He said in an interview last November, “The difference between my work and the political propaganda of countries like Cuba, is that my work comes from the point of view of an individual, whereas Cuba’s political art is made and promoted by the state. I’m commenting on this election as an American that is concerned for what may happen to this country under a Trump presidency. I’ve lived under a dictatorship in Cuba and have friends that have lived under Chavez in Venezuela. Populism can easily get out of hand and become a threat to democracy, freedom of the press, and many other aspects of living in a free country that we take for granted.” Right on, Edel.

Edel Rodriguez is inspired by …

Javier Jaén

His work stands out for me because I am always surprised by what he is able to pull off. Above all, I love ideas, and ideas are what mostly drive his work. On first glance, his work looks very simple and direct, but the longer you look at it, the more you realize how difficult it must have been to pull off. It’s that attention to detail and follow through on an image that makes his work memorable.

I love this image for its concept as well as execution. I stare at it wondering if the pencil is an actual object or a digital fantasy. Javier uses all the tools at his disposal, from sculpture, to photography, to create images that leave you asking many questions, which is inspirational to me.

This typographic poster was created using a quote by Louis CK. On first glance, what I enjoy is the graphic and colorful blast of the image. The conceptual angle of combining the words “nobody is happy” with children’s balloons is also wonderful. But then I stare at it and I’m amazed by its discipline, lighting of the photograph, and structure of the typography.

Javier Jaén is inspired by …

Pablo Delcan

One of the best ways to judge someone else’s work is by envy, and how many of his works I’d like to have in my portfolio. In the case of Pablo Delcan, I’m not ashamed to say that about most of his work. It’s fresh, conceptual, contemporary, elegant, raw, experimental, and funny. His style isn’t based on tools or colors. I recognize his work by the ideas, and that’s something you don’t see every day. And he breaks the limits between disciplines—graphic design, illustration, photography, animation. He goes there! The most important aspect in a finished work is that is stimulating, graphically or conceptually (ideally both), and Pablo’s work succeeds on that regularly. He is also breaking the barrier between personal and commercial work, retaining his voice on every project.

In his practice, there is an open door to collaborators, as his studio name alludes—Delcan & Company. This is an excellent example of a collaboration with the one and only Brian Rea, called “California Inspires Me.”

Or this incredible effort to reinvent the wheel (literally) in collaboration with Pink Sparrow Scenic on this cover of The New York Times Magazine. Sometimes the longest way is the most interesting one. I wish him many successes and that he keeps tickling our eyes.