Alejandro Okif was born in the city of Rosario Province o Santa Fe, Argentine Republic on the year 1959. Studied in the Humanities and Arts College on that city. He now lives in Buenos Aires with his creative family, his wife Monica (illustrator), son Sebastian (musician) and daughter, Simona (illustrator and tattoo artist). As a young boy, his father who worked in advertising introduced him to the arts. As a result, he was totally hooked and started drawing immediately. When he was at Facultad de Humanidades y Artes de Rosario, he was drawn to Egon Schiele, Rembrandt, Goya, and Lautrec. As he started working in publishing, he discovered the talented work of some amazing illustrators such as Andre Francois, Quentin Blake, Ronald Searle, and Tomi Ungerer. Alejandro works with different mediums, from acrylics, watercolors, inks, and Photoshop. When not illustrating, he enjoys watching movies, going to concerts, and playing bass guitar with his son Sebastian(though he claims that he is not a good musician).Alejandro O´Keeffe Did several drawing, watercolor (Guillermo Roux) and engravings workshops and clinics (with personnel of the engravings museum of the city of Puebla, Mexico).
Started publishing in 1985, and works in Buenos Aires for several magazines and newspapers: Humor, SexHumor, Fierro, El Pendulo, El Periodista de Buenos Aires, Diario Clarín, Revista Billiken, Revista Genios y Jardín de Genios, since then works in his workshop with Monica Gutierrez (MG) who is in charge of the colour part of the majority of his illustrations. With scripts from Carlos Trillo, Guillermo Saccomano and Pablo De Sanctis has realized comics that have been edited abroad (Eura, Comic Art, Animal Comic editorials, etc).
Among his works for childrens books there are; Natacha, Chat, Natacha, Chat, Bituín, bituín Natacha, History of Mrs Moc and Poc, The octopus is raw, little Red Ridinghoood as told to Jorge, Do not make waves, Disparatario. An elephant occupies a lot of space, Nonsense poems, We are not unbreakable and Presentiments for Editorial Alfaguara. A travel in balloon, the moving stone legend, Pahicaplapa. A live acordeon, CaptainCroissante for Editorial Sudamericana. The longest travel of the world and Papelito for SM Editotial. He colaborates with other Editorials as: Puerto de Palos, Sigmar, Estrada, Norma, Aike, Guadal, Edebe, Schalastic, Mc Graw Hill and Franklyn Watts.
Here is Alajandro discussing his process:
Step 1: After read the text, work with what he trigger me it (emotionally). So, I find the image of some characters or situations.
Step 2: Over a layout I place all the image in way of rough.
Step 3: I pass this Sketch to special paper and paint with watercolor.
Some times, I make some little adjust in Photoshop.
How long have you been illustrating?
Professionally since 1983, that is, thirty-three years.
I live in a little city called Francisco Alvarez, very close of Buenos Aires city. This is in Argentina, south américa.
What was the first thing you painted where someone paid you for your work?
I started to work being very young in an advertising agency, but my first job payment like illustrator was in a humoristic magazine.
What made you chose to attend the Humanities and Arts College in Rosario?
Only my vocation. I went two years to school of económics. I remember this time like very heavy years for me. In this moment I though that with this career (economist) I would have a future without economics hassles. Well, this two heavy years, served me to understand that I should study art and devote myself to drawing. And I did.
What did you study there?
There I studied painting, drawing and etching.
Did college help develop your style?
I´m not sure. I think college (at least where I studied) teaches you to be disciplined. Really, I think that the style is a aftermath of a lot of work with the “free-hand”. I try to say that the personal style come after to draw days, months, maybe years. I think that someone who is forming to be an illustrator don´t must worry for the personal style, this come without help.
What type of work did you do after you got out of school?
Well, I worked some years in a Newspaper illustrating cultural and politics notes, and after in 1985, I was in staff of the most important humor and political magazine of Argentina.
Did College help you get work after you graduated?
Personally not. When I was studying, I was already working on a newspaper as a free lance.
Have you seen your work change since you graduated?
The university is always present, it is a mark in my personal history, but academic studies of art (I consider them very important) to bear results, each one must try to unlearn them, this way you can leave free the hand and find out what we can do over the paper. I want to say that what one learns is incorporated forever and I feel that what is necessary at the moment of illustration is to play without many bonds, like a child.
When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?
As I said before, I worked for a long time illustrating political articles. I had to relate very serious things with images. I did it sometimes acidly. At that time, Argentina was living a military government, a dictatorship. Then, what I had to say was quite heavy. When I had the opportunity to show my work in a children’s magazine, I did it and I did not leave it anymore.
I feel that to draw stories for children is to play again, to feel yourself like a child for a few hours.
What was the title of your first picturebook?
My first picture book was a story of a Duck called “PatoCuá” (pato: duck and Cuá: cuack) is a game of words. I did it in 1984.
How did that contract come about?
Some friends of mine had an editorial project and I was offered to make that story. It was not a great book, but it was my first book. I was young and I always remember.
How many books have you illustrated?
I do not keep an accurate record, but they are a little over fifty.
Is Jazz en las nubes your latest book?
No, it’s not the last book. Just recently came out a new book called “Little Teardrops of Dragon” and I’m in the middle of the process, working on a new book.
Have you illustrated any books with a US publisher?
Yes I have. I did books for Mc Graw Hill, Oxford University Press, Scholastics, Disney and others houses publisher in U.S.A.
Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own books?
Well, I like to draw, to make books is great. I fell good illustrating stories of different writers, but I don´t rule out this possibility in a future.
What do you think is your biggest success?
That is very difficult give you an answer about this. I think that I draw because this is a way of communication very simple for me. I don´t good expressing myself with the words (by write or by talk), with a pencil and a paper I can express myself very easy. So, I can say that my biggest-success is to reach to the children with my drawings,. Sometime, make appear a smile in a child is all.
Have you ever tried to do a wordless picture book?
Yes, in fact I have four books published in South America without text. They are books where the reader must look for and find different things and stories. This is the game.
How did you connect with Mela at MB Artists? How long has she represented you?
Well, my wife is illustrator and she was working with Mela, I´m looking for a agent in New York City, and Mela fulfilled with all requirements that I was looking for. In 2014 I travel with my family to NYC and I meet to Mela personally, some time later, I started working in MB Artists, and I´m very happy.
Do you illustrate full time?
Yes, is my job. I have a schedule . I start at 08.00 hours to 19.00 hours, No matter if I have some job to do or not, I’m in my studio every day from Monday to Friday at that time.
Do you have a favorite medium you use?
Yes the watercolor is my favorite.
Do you take research pictures before you start a project?
I usually resort to my visual memory. Sometimes I take photos with my cell, but with internet I can reach to a world of images like documentation. Is really easy.
Have you worked with any educational publishers? If yes, is there any difference working with them?
Yes, in terms of patterns or guidelines there are differences, and if they are from different parts of the world, sometimes there are traditional differences too.
With the no- educational books, the illustrator is a bit free, they are not this patterns.
Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?
Yes I do.
Do you have and use a graphic tablet?
Yes, I use a Wacom.
Has any of your work appeared in magazines or newspapers?
Yes, a lot of them. I had here, in Buenos Aires, during some time a comic strip in a newspaper that published every days. And actually, I publish each week illustrations in a children´s magazine here in Argentina.
Do you have a studio in your house?
Yes. I live in a house with a nice park, my studio have a big window overlooking to this park. From here I see many trees that change color each season, and many birds that make a story every day.
Is there anything in your studio you couldn’t live without?
I have not one specially.
All stuff that are in my study are important for me. I have my papers, my brushes, my pencils, my books and little things with a emotional value. (stuff that refer to my children, my father or to my childhood) and of course: the music.
Do you follow any type of routine to attain your career goals?
I believe in the work of every days. If you drawing every days, surely will appear new projects, new way of build a communication with your images, and surely you will improve any result. this is my way for to reach the goals.
Any exciting projects on the horizon?
Yes. I would like to see some of my works animated.
I have thought to do something with the musician mice of the book Jazz en las nubes, but that needs a lot of time.
Do you think the Internet has opened any doors for you?
Yes. I have not doubts. From a place far away you can in contact with the work of any artist that interests you, and with the artist if he/she is contemporary.
In the same way, you can show your work to the world instantly. Is wonderful.
What are your career goals?
I think I got a lot of things already. I don´t know if it’s a goal, it’s maybe a dream, but I would love to create characters for a movie.
What are you working on now?
I m now working on two side projects, two books for children that require a lot of commitment.
One about the differences and imperfections and the other about the death.
Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?
For example I could tell you something about the watercolor. It is a beautiful technique to illustrate. Whenever working with watercolors they should know that the medium is water and must let the water do its work. Do not scrub the watercolor with the brush because they will lose the essence. They must remove their fear and paint without prejudice.
Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?
I can say that during more than thirty years of work in the illustration I learned that everything one does is seen in the final result of each illustration. If you were sad, that looks. If you were happy, that is, if you enjoyed illustrating, that is. Is impossible to lie to the reader.
Then have fun, guys! Enjoy it to the fullest! This work is wonderful.