Coke Navarro: Artist Interview

14 March 2024


As with so many of our artists it all starts with sketching for Coke. His notebook is always within arm’s reach and he draws in it almost every day. No that arm's reach is that much of a stretch in his small but perfectly formed home studio overlooking the enchanting streets of Valencia. "Due to gentrification my colleagues and I were kicked out of the studio three years ago and I've been working at home since then” It really doesn’t sound too bad to us although he sometimes years for a break from city, “somewhere quiet and cold”.

Creativity for the young Coke was a form of therapy. "My father was a physicist, but he also liked comics and painting, and introduced me to science fiction. We had a very intense situation at home because of my little sister's health problems, and I think art was a way for me to evade, or to fit sense into all the chaos. He went on to study art and early on his work was very "graffiti-ish" but it was entering the industry that really opened his eyes to the reality of commercial illustration.

"I learned a lot from some teachers during university, but it was after that, the first two or three years of sharing a studio with other colleagues, when we all really learned a LOT about illustration. Both the technique and the business. I always recommend to my art students to try to be surrounded by people who is at least as interested as they are in art. They have a lot to learn from each other."

Coke’s enjoyed considerable and entirely deserved success, in spite of the pursuit of dream projects not being the predominant driver for his work. "To be honest, I don't think in those terms. I try to keep finding things that interest me at a personal level and to keep developing my personal work, then apply that to my work for clients. To me, the hardest part in illustration is to be honest with yourself about what you really want to do. I really believe that if you can find that the rest will be fine.”

That said, dream projects have materialised regardless…  "I had the opportunity of doing some concept art for great director Nicolas Winding Refn. We have a very similar approach on light and color, so it was very easy for me to get in the mood of what he wanted. I basically got to do my own thing, which is not that easy when working to a commercial brief.”

One recent personal exercise has been a series of seriously atmospheric Samurai inspired drawings for Inktober. If the spirit of Inktober began as a way to hone one’s inking skills, Coke’s work is a masterclass.

The common thread in Coke’s narrative is honesty. Not reaching for the projects you’re yet to receive, but focussing on your own authorial practice to inform the professional commissions that follow. "Until I came to Valencia to study arts, I grew up in small towns, either in my town in the south or in the north where my mother's from. I think what I learned from there is not to be worried about fitting into certain scopes, or about doing what certain people expect you to do."

Coke's folio can be viewed here.

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