Interview with Lisandro Pena

Evolution Great Gray Owl by Lisandro Pena

Lisandro Pena will be showcasing his work at the FUTURES showcase put on by RAW in Toronto on 2016 January 15th at the Mod Club, from 8pm to 02am. During this epic evening of art, 40+ talented artists will be involved. Lisandro Pena is a Toronto based artist, member of RAW Artists, who has chosen wildlife as his main subject matter and made graphite pencil his medium of choice.

He kindly accepted to answer my questions.


Lisandro Pena Interview


Please tell us a bit about yourself and your universe?

My Name is Lisandro Pena and I’m a self-taught artist.  I live in Toronto, but I was born in El Salvador. I’m your typical nerd, I love science, computers, art, music, food and all that good stuff. Most of all I love to draw! It’s my biggest passion and i love sharing it with people.


When did Art become a part of your life, how have you been influenced? Who are some of your favorite Artists?

I’ve been drawing ever since i can remember, it’s always been a big part of my life. I remember as a kid coming up with my own comic book characters, sketching with crayolas, making sculptures with play-doh.  But drawing has always been my biggest passion, with wildlife being my second. Growing up i would always being outside, exploring, fascinated with animals.  My love for art has a huge influence, but it has been my love for wildlife that i consider my biggest reason for what i love to do.

Picasso has always been a huge favorite of mine. Leonardo Da Vinci, has always fascinated me, especially his sketches.  A big influence for my drawings are black and white photographs, especially work by Ansel Adams. I love his work and the sheer emotion that is felt through his photographs is amazing.  I strive to add that kind of emotion in my drawings.  When it comes to pencil artists, my biggest inspiration is work by Armin Mersmann. He’s such a master with a pencil and his work is so beautiful.


What’s the meaning behind your artwork?

Apart from my love for animals and sharing my artwork with the world; i want to show what can be done with just a pencil.  It’s such a beautiful medium that takes dedication and patience to use. I love how with just a single tip of a pencil, an animal can be brought to life on paper. I want to show that a pencil drawing can have the same impact on a viewer that a traditional oil painting can.  Each drawing is an interpretation of how i view the nature, the world.


How did you come to “pencil”? Do you like other mediums?

I have tried and love using other mediums but i always return to pencil. I just love its qualities and the way it looks when a drawing is complete.  I enjoy the technical challenge of taking something so fine and bringing an animal to life line by line on paper.  In a pencil drawing, the subject is the main focus, there are no colors.  The viewer completes the drawing by filling in the colors in their minds and with each person it will be a different experience.  It’s such an amazing medium and i want to show why.


What is your secret to get your drawings so photo-realistic?

The secret to photo-realism are the small details and for that reason, before i start any drawing, i first study whatever animal i will be working on. It is a routine that i have been doing for a very long time now.  I always give this example. If i were to ask someone to draw me an eye, most likely they’ll be able to draw it for me. They will include the iris, pupil, eyelashes, etc, details that they know.  Now if i give them a picture of an eye and ask them to study it and look at all the small details, textures, reflections, shadows, those kind of things.  If after a while i then ask them to draw me an eye again, the results will be completely different. That bit of extra information that was absorbed can now become part of that drawing, in turn adding more realism. These small details come together and bring a drawing to life.  A drawing may take longer because of these details but in the end it will be worth it. It’s that understanding of what I’m drawing and how everything interacts and behaves together that allows me to make my drawing much more realistic. I’m very detail obsessed, i love adding as much detail as possible when i can. I have been asked countless times, why not just take a picture?  For me it’s not about copying or reproducing an image. Each drawing is my interpretation of what that animals looks to me.  Every animal i draw is unique and i try to add detail that not even a camera would be able to capture plus more.  It’s my world, my vision, i can add what i want and make it my own creation bringing these animals to life on paper.


When you are drawing—how much of it is instinctual versus planned?

There is quite a bit of planning with my drawings, especially with my larger scale drawings.  For my larger drawings I spend lots of time thinking, planning. I imagine how I want it to look and how I want to present it. Most of the preparation goes on in my head.  When i finally start to draw, i imagine the finished drawing being under the paper, I can see it and I progress following that as a guideline.  Even though I use reference material, the finished drawing never looks like the reference. This is because I use many references for a single drawing.  I use regular house cat pictures to add details to tigers, lions and other big cats.  I take bits and pieces from different references and stitch them together with additional information that I have learned over the years to complete a drawing.



What are you currently working on?

Currently I’m working on a life size drawing of a cheetah.  Lately, I’ve been focusing on large scale drawings and want to continue in this direction.  They may take longer but the impact is much more powerful when they are larger.  I want to go as large as possible, still keeping the same amount of details as my smaller pieces.


What do you want your viewers to take away from this collection?

I want my viewers to see what a simple pencil can create.  Even though pencil drawings lack color, there can still be emotion, life and a connection that the viewer can share with it.  This is what i love to do and it’s my biggest passion and i want to share that same passion with my viewers.


How is this different from past projects?

Apart from the size increase, I’ve been experimenting more with adding inks to my drawings.  The darks give the drawings much more contrast and they look more dramatic. This new project i will be using quite a bit and it will be my first drawing at this size that I’ll be using ink. I’m excited but nervous because accidents can happen with ink and at this size it can get dangerous.  It will be a fun project for sure!!!


What do you think the most appealing aspect of this collection is?

I have always considered my style of drawing being unique, not only because of the details but because of the techniques that i use. It’s a unique style that i have been using for many years now and it’s something that can only be experienced in person and if you look close you will notice it. This showcase will be the perfect opportunity not only to share my artwork but also share ideas with other talented artists. I cannot wait for the show!!


Thank you Lisandro Pena for this interview.

For tickets and further information visit:

Friday Janruary 15th, 2016 at the Virgin Mobile Mod Club (722 College St.)
8pm-12am (Performances, Runways, Art Displays, etc.)
12am-2am (After Party with music by Nicodemus the evilrobo)

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