Nano Barbero, in my view one of the great rockabilly artwork artists there is. Hardly anyone has not come across his work somewhere. And his style and work are simply inspiring. Reason enough to ask him a few questions about himself and his work.
rockin‘ and rollin‘: Nano, how did you get into drawing?
Nano Barbero: Well, my mother was Belgian and was very fond of art in general. I grew up surrounded by Tintin, Asterix, Lucky Luke comics, etc. Since I was a child I always liked drawing. I don’t have a memory of a beginning, I would say always and thanks to my mother.
rockin‘ and rollin‘: In my opinion you are one of the best rockabilly artwork artists worldwide, how do you see your work yourself?
Nano Barbero: It is difficult to make an analysis of one’s own work, but I don’t consider myself a great artist, but it is true that experience has given me fluency and technique, and I continue practising and learning every day. I think that perseverance and hard work have made me make a place for myself in the Rockabilly and Custom art culture, it is always an honour and a responsibility to become a reference.
rockin‘ and rollin‘: From the illustrator’s point of view, how do you imagine the process from receiving the order to the finished realisation of a design and where are the very special and personal challenges?
Nano Barbero: Fundamental part is the previous conversation with the client, understanding what he is looking for and making a previous work in the mind. I take a good time to mature the idea in the head before making a previous sketch, normally this first step takes between one and three days. Once the client accepted the pencil sketch with the idea, I make the ink, normally in digital format. It allows me to make originals in big sizes without needing a big work table, I prepare the colour and at the end the text. Although I already have in my mind the final composition, I usually make a very simple pencil sketch for me with the composition, the work of the typographies consumes a lot of time to make a correct use of them.
rockin‘ and rollin‘: You are very fast in the realisation of your work. Do you have the final product in mind so quickly or what is your strategy?
Nano Barbero: I come from the world of design and advertising, this has helped me to make a good analysis and planning of the work. I work quite fast in general, because when I’m talking to the client most of the time my mind is already working. Especially when the client has a clear idea of what he wants, that speeds up the work. I also like to realize the ideas that others have in mind is something that feeds creativity. All ideas are good, you just have to know how to interpret them.
rockin‘ and rollin‘: Did the Corona period have an influence on your work and has anything changed for you since then?
Nano Barbero: Well, the Corona period. I think it changed everyone in some aspect of life. At work level for me it changed very little, I was lucky not to lose the rhythm of work and I also tried to help friends as much as I could. For me the hardest thing was the loss of my mother, while I was living on another island and not being able to see her, but the refuge in my work, the drawing and the training sessions helped me to cope as well as possible.
rockin‘ and rollin‘: What is very important for you as an artist in a project?
Nano Barbero: The most important thing for me is that it transmits me emotions, that I can develop my work calmly. If I don’t like the work or it doesn’t transmit me anything, I throw it away. I don’t accept any work that I don’t want to do. Sometimes I make mistakes of course, but the next time I reject it without hesitation. The most important thing is to learn to say no to enjoy what I do always.
rockin‘ and rollin‘: What has been the biggest challenge for you as an artist so far and why?
Nano Barbero: My biggest challenge was to make my own videogame by myself. I failed, was not able to finish it. Time and technological advances beat me in the race. You have to assume the failures as great lessons, assimilate and enjoy everything learned. You never lose if you appreciate what you learned and make a good analysis of everything that did not go well and led you to not finish.
rockin‘ and rollin‘: How important is variety in projects and new challenges to you as an artist?
Nano Barbero: For me it is very important to always have new challenges that make me grow as an artist. I am very demanding and hard on myself and I always ask myself for more, more, more, more. I am never happy with the result of my work 100%. I analyse it, I analyse it again, I see everything I don’t like, what I could have done better, also the good things, and I try to improve for the next time.
rockin‘ and rollin‘: You know a „Barbero“ when you see one. How important is this artistic identity to you?
Nano Barbero: I think people recognise my work more than I do myself. I like to experiment a lot and I’m not a person with a very specific style. I think I’m more the stroke of the lines than the style. I’m always fooling around with different styles. I like to change and be in constant evolution, that’s why I often repeat designs from the past giving them a new approach.
rockin‘ and rollin‘: What has been your favourite project so far and why?
Nano Barbero: I don’t have a favourite project. I always get excited when there is a new project, for me every project is a new adventure to enjoy. The happiness of the client when you deliver his work and it was what he was looking for, is what makes the projects special.
rockin‘ and rollin‘: On your Facebook page, one can always see your exercises, in which you take other artists as a model for yourself and you make transformations in their style. How difficult is it to put yourself in the shoes of another artist?
Nano Barbero: I like very much to make studies of the classic cartoonists. I learn a lot, I have fun, it generates me memories of when I was reading comics for the first time, when I discovered this artist or the other. One has always copied drawings as a child, but doing it now as an adult and as a professional, the way of seeing the strokes and the analysis of their techniques make me acquire new knowledge and also enjoy the process. Now I am more focused on only the classics of the 30s, 40s and 50s and analyse their styles. It’s very difficult to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, especially with great artists like Moebius, Will Eisner, etc. True geniuses, it’s always a challenge, and always done with great respect and admiration.
rockin‘ and rollin‘: If someone is thinking about becoming a rock’n’roll illustrator, what advice would you give them based on your experience?
Nano Barbero: Very difficult question, I think there are not many of us interested in the graphic culture of Rock and Roll, especially to give it a graphic artistic quality. We live in the era of mediocrity and now artificial intelligence appears, generating a new generation based on the minimum effort. I would tell him to study well the classics and the referents like Vince Ray, Oscar Hertín, Coop, etc., to listen to a lot of Rock and Roll and to treat with respect and dedication the drawing, it is not an easy way, nothing is easy if you want to do a good job.
rockin‘ and rollin‘: What was your path to rock’n’roll and the scene?
Nano Barbero: I started my way in the Rock and Roll culture around 86, I was 16 years old and I fell in love with the whole Rock and Roll and Rockabilly culture, I think like many others, I used to go to a Rock and Roll bar a lot, I even worked as a waiter and playing vinyl… and here we are still here.
rockin‘ and rollin‘: What do you love about rock’n’roll music?
Nano Barbero: I always say that when I was little the first vinyl I remember was the song Twistin‘ Patricia by Jerry Williams and the Violents, also in my mother’s collection there was Elvis, Gene Vincent, Johnny Kidd and some compilation. Since I was a child it was a rhythm that made me vibrate, as a teenager it turned me into a rebel and now as an adult I am proud to belong to this great family of the Rock and Roll culture.
rockin‘ and rollin‘: In your free time you go on the mat and do martial arts. I’ve done Judo and JuJutsu half my life and loved to get off the mat after training exhausted but with a clear head. How did you get into martial arts and what does it mean to you?
Nano Barbero: I started Judo when I was 4 years old, then I did Wing Chun and now I’ve been practising Muay Thai for a few years. I have always liked it, discipline, coordination, learning. Right now I can’t live without practicing Muay Thai. I enjoy learning and practicing and it is fundamental in my life. I am just writing this after training.
rockin‘ and rollin‘: Your biggest wish for the future?
Nano Barbero: My greatest wish for the future is for the world to be a little better. Everything is very very complicated, a lot of poverty, a world political class that is not doing its job well, wars. Giving more importance to what we really need, more research for cancer and other diseases that are taking away friends and family… culture, art, music, drawing, painting, etc… are the best weapons to fight against all this. On a personal level, I hope to be able to continue growing as an artist and that life gives me the health to continue drawing for many years to come.
rockin‘ and rollin‘: Nano, thank you very much for the interview!
Nano Barbero: Thank you very much for your interest in my work and for putting your grain of sand in the culture with your magazine, something that I think is very important nowadays. A big hug and thanks also to my friends and followers for their support and affection.