Drawing Life, Javier Mariscal (Phaidon) $69.95
Javier Mariscal is and has been Spain’s leading artistic everyman since he gained international notoriety in 1992, when he created Barcelona’s beloved Olympic mascot, Cobi. It’s a simple, happy, stumpy, dog-like creature who, according to Mariscal’s new hardbound collection of work from Phaidon, seemed able to express the happiness and cultural pride of Spain and its people. He appears to fit right into Spain’s sporadic lineage of artistic geniuses, with his UPA animation-style characters and cheerful color combinations. His furniture designs are equally as chipper.
Normally, artists who use minimalism as the cornerstone of their aesthetic tend to do so because they’re technically stifled. At best, they are limited to elementary visuals with mild wit and no sense of control. The difference between that general group and Mariscal shows not only in Mariscal’s versatility of media (he’s well respected as an illustrator and designer, both graphic and of furniture), but also in the consistent feeling one gets from looking at his work and his ability to spread his style over many directions. The paintings are consistent and pleasing to the eye, and there’s something totally new and interesting on each page. Then, every so often, he’s able to display something technical, showcasing his versatility. He’s one of the rare apparently happy artists, and he doles out his joy by the shovelful with his work, as only one who’s been gleefully doodling his entire life can.
Drawing Life is a crowded, retrospective collage of Mariscal’s collected works over the decades, along with interviews and articles about his thought process and influences. The writing is incredibly indulgent in its meta-talk about art and the childlike nature of the artistic process that Europeans—especially the French—can’t seem to get enough of. Thankfully, if you’re not into that sort of talk, you can easily flip through the book and ignore the text, still ending on a note of satisfaction. Reading through Drawing Life you realize that Mariscal has talent, as well as brilliant, genuine vision and a prolific nature that goes for miles, enough to give even a moderately successful artist (as reader) a massive inferiority complex.