Interview with illustrator José Luis Merino

Posted by Nate Williams


José Luis Merino was born in Barcelona, Spain. 

He studied at Eina Art School in Barcelona.

In 1985 he began working as a graphic designer in several advertising agencies and design studios until 1998 when he established his present graphic design and illustration studio.

Since 2004 he has been teaching illustration in the Superior Graduate on Design at Elisava School, in the postgraduate in Creative illustration at Eina School and in the Master on Art Direction at Ramon Llull university, and BAU school, all in Barcelona.

His clients include BMW, Elle Germany, Elle Decor UK, Fast Company, Food Illustrated, Food & Wine, Forbes, Freixenet, Gourmet, GQ UK, Harper Collins, Harper’s Bazaar USA, London Sunday Telegraph, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Madame Figaro, Madame Figaro Japan, Neiman Marcus, Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy USA, Ritz-Carlton, The Guardian, The Mail on Sunday, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, Taste Magazine, The Washington Post Magazine, The World Financial Center, Town & Country, Travel & Leisure, W.



His works have been selected and published in several annual competition books, such as The AOI, American Illutration, Lürzer’s Archive, Communication Arts, D&AD, Premis Junceda, Premis Laus, The Art Directors Club of Europe and SND. His illustrations have also been published in the books Illustration Now from Taschen publishers and 200 Best Illustrators from Lürzer’s Archive.

More about JOSE LUIS MERINO at: Profile / Website / Facebook / Flickr

Represented by Kate Larkworthy Artist Representation


How did you get into illustration?

When I was 20 I started working at an advertising agency where I used to do the sketches, once they were approved, the artwork was commissioned to external illustrators. I learned a lot practicing different styles. In the 90s I began to publish in some Spanish and French newspapers and magazines. But when I really started feeling as an illustrator was after a trip to NYC where I met Kate Larkworthy and she started to represent me. I started to work for clients and countries I’d never dreamed before.


What other types of jobs have you had?

I do graphic design as well and two years ago I started learning to do bespoke shoes. I hope to be a good shoemaker in the future.


© Beatriz Schulze

Did you like working in advertising agencies? Why/Why Not?

I started working in advertising agencies and I liked it. It’s a good exercise, works are always different and you have to make decisions so quickly.


What do you teach? What are the pros and cons of teaching?

I teach illustration in some High Schools, and I love it because sometimes you can learn a lot from your students, but teaching is so intense, I can’t do it many months in a year.


As we move from print to digital how do you think illustration will evolve?

In the economic sense I’m not sure yet, but I think editorial industry needs to change its mind. In electronic devices we have to forget the tracitional paper print limitations. The idea of double page spread doesn’t make sense in digital, as well as the static illustrations. Illustration now could be something closer to animation or something interactive.


What is your favorite type of commercial project and why?

Any project that makes me feel stimulated in any way. If the art direction and design is so good, If it’s for a publication or a client I love, if it’s a project that forces me to find any good idea…


How would you like your work to be used in the future?

I’d love to do more magazine or newspaper covers, and more advertising.

Is your work more conceptual or decorative?

Maybe it’s half and half. It depends on the client. Some clients don’t need a conceptual work, but when I do something more conceptual I love to be decorative as well.


Why did you choose to have an art rep?

Yes, it is the better way for me to find more interesting clients, and I’m not good calculating budgets and negotiating.

Please describe a typical day?

I start a day going to a gym, I arrive to my studio not very early, check the e-mail and Facebook and start working slowly. I’ve been always more productive in the afternoon. I usually work until late.


What is your working environment like?

I’ve had several studios and I’m so sensitive about the environment. I need to feel as if I were at home. A lot of books, wood, warm light, good music…

Do you meet up with other illustrators in person? Who?

Barcelona is not a big city and I’m working for almost 30 years, everybody knows each other here. And I also know some of my mates in Kate Larkworthy Artist Representation.

Who are some of your favorite illustrators and why?

I love 50s illustrators in general, but specially Ben Shahn, David Stone Martin, the first Warhol illustration works, Jim Flora, René Gruau, the U.P.A. cartoonists, Miroslav Sasek…

Describe your creative process?

After reading the text or listening the client I start doing quick roughs with pencil on paper looking for the idea. Sometime just knowing the subjet, the idea comes instantly, sometimes not. After I do a very precise sketch by pencil to send to the client and once it’s approved I start the illustration with black ink and brush. The rest of the proccess is digital.

What is something new you have noticed or learned recently?

The most stimulating has been to start learning to do bespoke shoes two years ago. Handicraft work again, use tools…

What was the best advice given to you as an illustrator?

Don’t start drawing if you don’t have an idea.

Top 5 favorite things in life.

Peace in all senses, music, the beach, nonstop weekend films sessions or good TV serials or books lying on the sofa, love and be loved,

Top 5 bands/singers.

Only 5? Not easy because I love music a lot, but I’ll try. Bowie, New Order, and new ones as Apparat, Hot Chip, Junior Boys, The XX… oops, I said 6.

Can you suggest 3 artists or illustrators we should check out?

I’ll suggest 3 friends, Arnal Ballester, Flavio Morais and Patrick Thomas.