Sergio Diaz (sergiodiaz.com.ar) is a mostly-autodidact digital painter based in Buenos Aires. Already a jack of all digital arts at the tender age of thirty-two, his career has spanned architectonic visualization, 3D modeling and texturing, character design and concept art, matte painting, and television commercial work. He currently works as an illustrator, concept artist, and character designer for commercials, movies, and video games for clients such as Coca-Cola, Ford, Nestlé, Nissan, and Honda. His passion remains the science fiction and fantasy imagery of his childhood.
First, can you tell us about the Argentinian attitude toward horror? It seems to me that many other countries have a better cultural integration of horror than the U.S. Are you considered bizarre by family or friends for your focus on it?
I don’t think there is a prevailing “Argentinian attitude” toward horror in art. I know some who are drawn to it (like me), some who are indifferent to it, some who are repulsed by it. At least that’s all I can tell you based on my personal experience. In Argentina there are exceptional artists whose work is based in horror and they’ve earned public acceptance.
Many Argentinians like my work, but I also get lots of attention from other countries. I don’t think there is a greater interest in horror in Argentina than in other places. Perhaps in the U.S. it’s, as you say, not as appreciated as it should be, but many of my favorite artists come from there.
My family and friends know me so they’re used to my tastes. But sometimes they ask me why I choose certain themes for my illustrations, what it is that I find interesting or beautiful in these images. I believe beauty exists equally in the image of a nude woman or enchanted fairy-tale forest and of a child with hydrocephaly or radiation-borne deformity. Of course I’m not referring to the suffering tied to these things, but strictly the visual aspect. I guess I could be considered bizarre for this, I don’t know.
You have said that, as a child, science fiction and fantasy inspired you to create. What were some of your biggest influences?
Science fiction, fantasy, and horror have always been my fountain of inspiration, since I was a child and still today. But really it’s a mix of many things. My biggest influences are other artists, films, and video games. Above all, the internet has allowed me to discover and learn so much about the craft from people I never would have otherwise met.
Do you still draw ideas from fiction?
Without a doubt. However, the majority of the time, this is not a conscious process. That is to say, there is a great deposit of ideas that has formed throughout the years—film imagery, video games, things I’ve read—all of that was steadily forming a bounty of ideas that appear mixed and transformed when I draw them. Additionally, there are a great many artists I admire and who have directly influenced me: Ashley Wood, Jeremy Enecio, Jon Foster, Michael Hussar, Simon Bisley, Jim Murray, Brom, Oscar Chichoni, and João Ruas, to name just a few.
Do you have a particular attraction to body horror in cinema (Cronenberg, Bottin)?
Yes, it’s my favorite horror genre. It probably has most to do with a moment when I was a boy, maybe six or seven years old, watching TV with my parents. A horror movie came on about people in a spaceship who, without realizing it, were traveling with an extraterrestrial. I didn’t know it yet, but I was watching Alien. I vividly remember the dinner scene—just as we were eating dinner—in which the chestburster comes out of Kane’s chest, destroying it. I felt a terror like I had never known. I remember raising my feet onto my chair for fear that the monster would attack me from below. I don’t think I ever again felt such a sensation of horror and desperation as in that moment. When I got older, I sought out more horror films. I found them terrifying but also fascinating. As an adolescent, I loved the Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and Hellraiser movies.
While our interest here is in your horror-themed art, you are actually extremely versatile in both style and medium, with works ranging from matte painting to 3D modeling, pop surrealism to erotic. Do you have a preference for what type of work to do?
I go through phases. There are periods in which I’m more focused on illustration of a particular theme. In others I’m more interested in 3D modeling. That it works this way helps me to not spend too much time doing the same thing—I get bored by that. Of everything I do, I most enjoy drawing—horror and erotic illustrations most of all.
The works we see in your selected gallery here are so fine and yet so grotesque, it’s hard to imagine what sort of commercial venture would have commissioned them. Are they all personal works?
Thank you. Yes, except for two or three, the illustrations are all personal work. The 3D modeling, on the other hand, is almost exclusively professional.
Are they strictly digital paintings, or do you also work physically?
Everything on my website and blog was done digitally in Photoshop or Painter, except for some pencil sketches. I try for a certain traditional air with my digital paintings, emulating the look of oils or acrylics. I keep a sketchbook and use it occasionally, but I don’t show that work. I worked more traditionally as an adolescent. When I finally obtained a Wacom Tablet, I was able to unite my love of computers and drawing into a single endeavor, and since then the vast majority of my drawings have come to life digitally, from the initial sketch to the finished illustration.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I find myself doing lead character modeling & shading for the 3D animated feature Foosball, directed by Juan José Campanella. I believe this will be the best Argentinian cartoon made to date. It’s international grade. In my spare time I like to draw, study, watch tutorials, that sort of thing.
What’s your dream illustration job?
Maybe cover art for a comic book that has girls, zombies, monsters, and so on.