Sirmano: Aussie illustrator

Having gazed at sirmano’s gangly, melancholic creatures, I was intrigued to meet the girl behind these eerie but awesome creations. I found her to be surprisingly sweet; her charming nature concealing an extraordinary imagination in which her characters reign unhindered in a world of feathers, top hats and spindly-legs. Originally Aussie but now fully-fledged Barcelonian, sirmano was last year named illustrator of the month by BCN Week and has a multitude of tantalizing murals, exhibitions and beautifully designed web sites already under her belt. Following her successful exhibition ‘Float’ in bar Elephanta, we sat down and talked about surreal ideas, letting things flow and irritating pavement hoggers….

When did you first start drawing?

My first memory of drawing would be when I was really young. My mum gave me some pens for Christmas, and that was so exciting to me that instead of colouring in I started to draw things and create things. I’ve had a lot of encouragement from my family as well, just leaving me to go in my own world, draw and come back!

You use many mediums; pen, paint, computer. Which is your favourite?

At the moment pen, because it’s really clean and usually I’m really messy when I paint. So pen at the moment is really therapeutic and neat.

I’ve seen videos of you drawing in pen; how do you manage not to make a mistake?

If I make a mistake I just continue on from the mistake, because I don’t plan what I draw, so it’s kind of an exciting thing for me  – I just go for it. Its like, “Oh I made a mistake…but that kind of looks like a head…” So I just flow with what’s coming, what’s spewing out of my mind.

So you haven’t designed it first in your head?

No, never.

 What or who inspires you?

Usually, it’s people. I like to travel a lot, even small travels on the metro or on my bike. And the characters that I see around the city, even if it’s just someone’s eyes that I glance at, or the way someone walks, I always find that really interesting and it comes back to me when I draw. Inspiring as well are different cultures, it sounds lame but Spain is completely different to Australia. Subconsciously I’m so inspired by it; you can see that my work has completely changed from when I used to draw in Australia.

Tell me about your characters. How did you come up with these strange, fantastical creatures?

I could never get someone’s face or posture right, it would always frustrate me and so I just kind of let it go and these crazy creatures came out with big eyes, small lips and crazy shoulders. I just explored that more and more and kind of got obsessed. They are kind of weird!

Is there an alternate world in your head where you imagine them co-existing?

Oh yeah, all the time! Yeah and they’ve got little trees that they live in, some of them hang out, some of them don’t hang out, because they’re different.  Some wear hats, you know…

A lot wear hats with feathers or leaves…

Yes, I really like going back in time, because I did this fashion course and my teacher told us about fashion through the ages when they had these big, ruffled necks. I get a lot of inspiration from thinking how people used to dress. Because my characters, some of them are very elegant in their own way…they’ve got a bit of class to them, they look a bit strange but they don’t care.

A lot of your drawings feature birds; do they represent something significant for you?

Birds came to me because strangely, I loved the elongated legs that birds have. I just started to elongate birds and found that drawing feathers is really fun; you can do so much with them. And then adding little other people inside the bird feathers, there was so much to do with them that – aaargh! – my brain was just going crazy with all the ideas. I just couldn’t move from birds, they’re still sirmano’s friend at the moment.

Do the ideas for your illustrations tend to stem from personal feelings, or more from your imagination?

Personal feelings I guess; the way that I’m feeling one day will totally change the way that my illustrations look. I tried this thing where I drew the same picture everyday for 3 or 4 days. I realised that my style would completely change due to the way I was feeling, if I was having a really happy day or if I was outside, or if I was friends. The way it flowed would completely change. Some days I can be so non-creative that I won’t draw for 3 weeks, other days I won’t be able to do anything else.

Which artists have influenced you?

Growing up I was really into surrealism, so René Magritte – a Belgian artist from the 1930s and 40s. I love his work. But at the moment I’m really into a lot of street art like Skiff, a street-artist from Valencia. I love all the artists around the city that use walls as their medium and create some really cool stuff.

Have you ever tried any Surrealist techniques yourself?

I have! In my last project for high-school I did a lot of surrealism, I worked a lot with the usual rain drops and checks. I use surrealism in a different kind of way now – not so much literally; it’s more in a way of thinking. My mind is skewed rather than my painting being skewed! It’s more open, for example, I’ve given myself the confidence to draw a person with 3 big eyes. Because it takes a lot to be happy in your own work, I’m sure everyone is the same; you’ve got to be happy with what you put out there.

What would you like to be doing in 10 years time?

I’ll be 37…I’d love to still have the feeling that I have now of being really free. To have the freedom in my mind and myself to do whatever I want to be doing.

Do you have any pet hates?

If there’s a lane on the street and a group of people take up the whole lane. You move and they move and you just can’t get past them – that’s my pet hate. Pavement hoggers! And people who push in line too, pusher-inners. Basically people who don’t respect the “social rules” of walking and being in the street! There are unwritten street laws that we all must try to live by.

What’s your favourite film?

The Science of Sleep by Michel Gondry. It’s about this guy and his dreams; the way that he films it is very child-like, cotton-woolly.

What makes you feel satisfied?

Two things: writing a list and crossing off at least two things. Also, after I’ve hung out with my friends and family, I feel really content and at peace.

What is the best thing about living in Barcelona?

Living in Barcelona compared to visiting Barcelona is a completely different feeling – there’s a magic feeling to the city when you live here. And the free furniture you can find in the street!

Check out sirmano´s webpage here

This article also appeared on Relevant BCN

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