As part of Fotolia’s ‘Unstock’ series we spoke to Contributor Darién Sánchez about his foray into the stock industry to uncover more about his unique illustrations and graphics.
FO: Can you introduce yourself, where you’re based and explain a bit your journey into how you started selling your photos on Fotolia?
DS: My name is Darién Sánchez. I was born and raised in Havana, Cuba. I studied Graphic Design at the Superior Institute of Design (ISDI) in Havana. I have made posters, advertising, editorial design, graffiti and TV spots. Under the pseudonym of Juan Darién I have illustrated over twenty books for children and wrote 5 of them.
Since 2007 I live in León, Spain. I teach Illustration and Motion Graphics in IDDECO, an Academy of design for a few months a year.
A few years ago, a friend, and Fotolia contributor, talked to me about the microstock business, and in that moment I was captivated by its dynamics. Right away I started uploading images.
FO: How would you describe your style? What has influenced and shaped it?
DS: I can answer with three keywords: cartoon, icon, concept. My portfolio is composed by illustrations, with a personal style very far from realistic representation but more iconic. They tend to be clear, popular and synthetic, mostly with a simple background or isolated. They usually reflect an idea, like a visual metaphor. I try to transmit concepts that are simple and universal and sometimes with a touch of humor. Their messages can be used anywhere, regardless of local culture or formation.
I don`t use usually filters, gradients, blended colors, transparencies or any effect in general. The shape rules over the chromatic aspect. Spot colors are often delimited by a contour line thick and black. The basic shade and light both placed in an elementary mode.
I work with a Wacom Cintiq to make my line fresh, handmade and casual; instead of the hardness and perfection that has the straight lines and symmetry of the digital environment.
My influences are mainly based on cartoons, folklore, video games, comics, internet, family and friends; summarizing, visual culture. My creations become more fluent, while I'm seeing and learning new things, traveling and meeting new people.
FO: What is it about your photos do you think that has made them so popular?
DS: I try to cover a wide range of themes, rather than be specialised in one in particular. Many images have a relation, like short series, therefore, sometimes a download flows into two or three subsequent downloads. By the way, a very important characteristic in my illustrations is that they can be used in a diverse group of media, in addition to the digital environment or offset printing, like punches, dies, screen printing, embroidery, or making a stencil template. I think this variety of themes and the possibility of reproduction in different media, match with different customer profiles.
DO: Has your photographic style developed since you started in the stock industry? If so, in what way?
DS: Undoubtedly, trying to generate periodically new ideas and then represent them, keeping a standard of quality and also teaching your hands to work fast and finally have the will to be sitting hours. It is like a workout.
FO: Have your origins and the culture of your country influenced you in any way? If so, how?
DS: The most remarkable influence of my culture is reflected in my immediacy illustrating. The sketches are very basic, just the approach of the idea. That allows a space for improvisation. My images are usually performed in a single session. I cannot spend three days tweaking an image. My color palette is warm and high contrasted. My father was also an important influence. My facility synthesising shapes and appreciating the advantages of freelance work comes from him.
FO: Are they any common messages, emotions or ideas you try to convey through your images.
DS: The messages are usually clear, positive emotions. You can get within the portfolio some headless, naked people, nailed swords, blood and guts, but always represented in a gentle way.
FO: What, in your view, are the key ingredients to creating a fantastic photograph?
I could say the visual impact and the meaning of them. An image will be considered fantastic if many people at the same time believe that it is unique. You must capture customers with the visual part, while the conceptual side is clear, original. There are no recipes. Good ideas, executed flawlessly.
FO: Your photos may not be considered typical ‘stock’ photos in that they portray some unique themes/characteristics. How do you come up with these and to whom do you think they relate to the most in terms of clients.
DS: A theme, situation or a peculiar character, has fewer searches than other "typical" subjects, but on the other hand, if a customer has a specific necessity, you have less competition. One of the main reasons for collaborating with the stock is the freedom that this gives me choosing topics and styles. So my illustrations are what I want to draw in any moment.
FO: Are there any photos in your Fotolia portfolio that surprised you because of their popularity? Or some you thought would sell better than others but didn’t?
DS: It happens all the time. There are images that you know that they guarantee certain volume of sales, due to its content, but there are always surprises. An accurate prediction is never so exact.
FO: What are the global trends you see for 2014 and do you think it is important to follow them in order to succeed in the stock industry?
DS: The first one is the specialisation. Stock agencies are saturated with themes and subjects considered “commons”. Other is the quality. Trends come and go, but an image with these features should bring profits for several years.
FO: What are you favorite photos from your Fotolia portfolio and why?
DS: I have not a great favorite. I like almost all of my images. I rather hate some, for example, one of a man with a vacuum cleaner. But amazingly, lots of customers download this image. So he has earned the right to be in my portfolio for a little more :).