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We talk w/ Torre Pentel: the illustrator who fuses comics and rap like no one else

When we heard that Torre Pentel had designed the imagery for Metro Boomin’s second album, we didn’t hesitate to interview him.

When we found out that a Spanish illustrator had been commissioned to design the imagery for Metro Boomin’s second studio album “Heroes & Villains”, we didn’t hesitate to interview him. This is Torre Pentel, an artist who has captivated us with his work combining the codes of comics and rap. On this occasion, we talked to him about his beginnings, the relationship between comics and rap, his dream collaboration and much more.

HIGHXTAR (H) – For those who don’t know you yet, who is Torre Pentel and what is your job?

Torre Pentel (T) – Torre Pentel is an art worker with a passion for comics, rap, illustration and 90’s movies.

(H) – How would you define your style?

(T) – My style is mainly based on the American underground comics of Robert Crumb and the superheroes of the golden age of DC and Marvel. Above all, I work with the colour and tonal registers of old comics.

(H) – What was your first contact with the world of illustration like?

(T) – The most present memory I have of illustration was the vinyls my brother had in his collection. Also the comics my father had from magazines like El Víbora, Totem, Cimoc, etc.

(H) – What comics and cartoonists did you use as a reference?

(T) – Above all Robert Crumb and Moebius, I love the way they use the drawing plot, a lot of line, a lot of shadow, very dirty.

(H) – When did you start making a living from your passion?

(T) – When I did my first job for Cookin Soul, I started getting commissions on Instagram that gave me enough money to live on. But I still keep my salaried job working with people with disabilities.

(H) – What creative process do you follow when you are commissioned for a project?

(T) – If it has to do with music, I listen first and let ideas flow in my sketchbook while listening to the music. From there, I look for references, read comics, to get more ideas flowing. Once I have the mental work channelled, it’s just drawing.

(H) – With what work did you achieve international recognition?

(T) – I would say that Cookin Soul was when I started to get offers from countries outside Spain. As a result of the Good Job, I got work from the USA (especially hip hop), Germany (BSTN X ADIDAS), UK… 

(H) – Last year you did the roll out of ‘Heroes & Villains’, Metro Boomin.’s latest album. How did this opportunity arise?

(T) – Metro asked on IG for one of my illustrations, asking to contact the artist. So I wrote him a private message on Instagram, he told me about the ideas and the project and we got to work.

(H) – So what role would you say social media plays in your work?

(T) – Right now it’s what gets me in touch with people, with the weekly posts I upload, I expose my work so they can connect with me and show what we can do together.

(H) – Can you tell us what was the common thread to create the whole imaginary of ‘Heroes & Villains’?

(T) – Basically Metro let me do whatever I wanted, he gave me the tracklist and a set of phrases that were to appear in the covers and I soaked up the featurings that appeared in the Heroes & Villains songs, showing them as a villain or a hero so that the audience could decide if they were evil or good.

(H) – What do you think is the relationship between rap and comics?

(T) – I think all the rappers of the 90s 2000s have grown up with comics, that whole rap generation has grown up reading Spiderman, Batman, Xmen… it’s a generational thing, plus some have taken that “anonymity of the hero (or villain) to their own character as an artist, e.g. MF DOOM, Ghostface Killah, Czarface.

(H) – From drawing by hand you switched to the Wacom, which technique do you prefer?

(T) – Always by hand, because it allows you to make the “mistake” an improvisation, you can control the ink stroke better, you can use dry brush techniques, you can play with water. The Wacom or digital can emulate it almost perfectly but its operation is born of an unlimited set of options that overwhelms me.

(H) – What does one of your illustrations have to have for you to be satisfied with the result?

(T) – Good lettering and a nice inking. I don’t care about colour, but if black and white doesn’t work… it doesn’t work for me.

(H) – What would be your ideal project?

(T) – A double vinyl for Freddie Gibbs, Madlib or Raekwon. I’d also love to illustrate a book, do a cover for the New Yorker or something to do with basketball and the NBA.

(H) – And what other artist would you like to collaborate with?

(T) – I already collaborate with the best artist I know who is my father, he supports me in a lot of illustrations, he draws much better than me.

(H) – How do you see the illustration scene in our country?

(T) – Like everything else in our country, it’s underdeveloped, there are few resources, it’s undervalued and the way to earn a living independently is becoming more and more difficult. Even so, in our country, art and music are not valued very highly, we are not used to paying for culture and I think there is less and less incentive to do so.

(H) – Future plans.

(T) – Improve my drawing, learn more, discover more music, make comics and enjoy seeing them in print.

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