Flirting with Design with Álvaro Peñalta

Kirsten McCreaINTERVIEWS

Portrait of Alvaro Penalta

Álvaro Peñalta brings his Barcelona-flavoured retro-futuristic images to Papirmass next month. We love his unusual combination of vector shapes, photography where he works as a freelance art director. His highly stylized, technicolor installations are carefully made by hand and then photographed in studio. As a lover of neon lights, the 1980’s, and Pink Panther, Peñalta consistently produces retro-futuristic images that channel a unique blend of Pop Art, nostalgia, and the synthetic.

Subscribers will receive Álvaro’s artwork in the mail in May 2017. Subscribe by April 30.


Art Director Alvaro Penalta is the May artist for the Papirmass Art Subscription.
Hi Alvaro! Tell us about these colourful shapes.
After flirting with the 3D trend in design, I wanted to translate that into a real environment. Point was a personal project of handmade geometric compositions inspired by the playful illusions of op-art, the forms of the Bauhaus, the colour scheme of the Olympic rings, and the energy of Oskar Schlemmer’s avant-garde Triadisches Ballett (Triadic Ballett).

The design process began with sketching. Then we transformed the pieces into physical models. First, we had the word “Point” in mind a composition. From there we generated a whole series using the same geometric components.

Alvaro Penalta, the next Papirmass artist, in his studio with one of his retro-futurist photographs.

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What is your creative process?
Once a concept comes to my mind, I build a mood board full of references from film, fashion, music, etc., which I can use to make associations. After defining the concept and visual style, I make sketches and test colours to start giving physical form to this first idea.

Where do you do you work?
I have no fixed workplace, so I work in different locations. At home, my workspace is a bit chaotic; I am very messy. My table is full of notes, pencils… I’m a night person. I love working at night; it’s when my creative mind is most active.

Art Director Alvaro Penalta is the May artist for the Papirmass Art Subscription.

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What is the most important thing in your studio?
Good music, a notebook to sketch in, and a nice cup of coffee.

How has your practice changed over time?
It has changed a lot. When I look at my first jobs, I can see a real evolution. I see neglected parts in those early works. Now I have become more of a perfectionist and I try to take care of every detail.

Art Director Alvaro Penalta is the May artist for the Papirmass Art Subscription.

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What do you love about Barcelona?
It’s impossible to get bored in Barcelona. There is so much great culture on offer: major exhibitions and events. Every day is different!

What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
If you are a freelancer, you have to get noticed. Keep making personal projects and stay consistent within social networks. This will increase your chances of being contacted for projects.

Can you describe your creative rituals?
To enter the creative zone, you must leave your comfort zone. So I travel, see exhibitions, hang out with friends, read books, listen to new music, or discover classic films. That mixture of new data can drive you to big ideas.

I love blogs about art, advertising, interior design, film, and fashion. An art director has to have a multidisciplinary mind and catch all trends in all fields.

Alvaro Penalta is the May artist for the Papirmass Art Subscription.

What does it take to make visionary work today?
Try to think outside the box. Flee trends. Because it feels like everything has already been made, the key is to mix unconnected references to generate new visual universes.

What’s the best thing about being an artist?
Every project is a new challenge. Every client is different. Boredom is impossible.


Álvaro Peñalta is our May 2017 artist.
See more at alvaropenalta.com