Cof is one of the most talented and recognisable street artists working in Buenos Aires. His humorous, colourful and brilliant cartoon characters have lit up the city, capturing the mood and bringing a smile to people’s faces. Exclusive interview by Buenos Aires Street Art.
Brought up in Santa Fe and the first of eight brothers and sisters, the influences on Cof’s art are somewhat different. They come from the world of cartoons and comics and Cof himself also creates animated designs for Cartoon Network and Disney. “My main influences are from animated drawing and European comics like Asterix and Lucky Luke, and in the 1980s there were also a lot of Argentine comics around,” Cof told Buenos Aires Street Art. “I started to become interested in drawing at a young age because of my mum. After me, my fourth brother Santi, my sister Pepa and the last twins José and Pedro also started to paint.”
One magazine and comic that made a big impression on Cof’ when he was growing up was the Argentine publication “Fierro”. He explained: “It was a magazine that came out in the ’80s with short stories by Argentine artists that were all put together in the same edition. Later the magazine disappeared but it reappeared a few years ago. One day my uncle gave me loads of these magazines and I would spend hours reading them and looking at all the amazing drawings and illustrations.”
Even the name ‘Cof’ derives from comic book exclamations. “In secondary school I started to sign my drawings with the name ‘Cof’, he revealed. “It’s linked with the onamatopoeic words in comics such as crash, bang, boom and pow. I don’t know why I chose the name but it came from comics and I then started using the name and it stuck.”
Cof first started painting in the street in 2000 and has the honour of being one of the first street artists in Santa Fe. “I don’t really know how I got into graffiti,” ponders Cof. “At the time I was into roller-skating and hanging out with a small group of guys who rode BMXs and skateboards. Once I started getting involved with these alternative sports I told myself I’ve got to try graffiti. At first I was painting really small walls and later I was handling larger artworks.” He added: “When I started there was a guy called Genesio who was painting letters but another street artist who was an important motivation for me at the time was Tinkio Alvarez. He was painting small characters in aerosol that he used to call ‘mirklos’, and he painted in 2000 and 2001 all over the city of Santa Fe. If I had to choose one of these two artists as an inspiration, I would choose Tinkio.”
Unlike many street artists in Buenos Aires, Cof didn’t go to art college or university. “I didn’t study at all, I’m a student of life,” Cof jokes. “I came to Buenos Aires in 1997 to study cinema. I wanted to study film production but I got hooked by animated drawing so I took a course instead and I absolutely loved it. I took several more courses in animated drawing and animation is another facet that I now work with as well.”
A three-month trip to Barcelona in 2007 had a huge impact on Cof personally, his style and his dedication to street art. “In those three months, I met a lot of graffiti artists from all over Europe. Paint is also a lot cheaper in Spain and I was spending a lot of time with Ares, an Italian graffiti artist, who had been painting for more than ten years with his crew in Italy and we’d buy a lot of aerosols and go out and paint together,” Cof recalls. “I’m from a small city so when I first came to Buenos Aires it was very different but when I was in Barcelona it was really eye-opening with so many walls painted in different styles. I was discovering new information all the time and realised there are not just two or three different styles there are thousands. When I came back to Argentina, I realised I had to be honest with myself and sincere with what I do because I love doing it. The style that I generate is a part of me and who I am.”
With his creative talents, Cof briefly flirted with the world of graphic design and that experience helped him develop a simplicity in his art. “I could never stop drawing and would grab a pencil and draw and I carried on trying to perfect my style when I entered the field of graphic design,” he says. “I noted that the style that many graphic designers use is clear and beautiful but often they don’t know how to draw so they keep things simple. I started to use this language but then I realised I was actually more really interested in working in illustration and doing more complex things. Then I was using these two languages (graphic design and illustration) and wanted to do something colourful, simple, concrete and at the same time I wanted to give more importance to the gestures, to the details and faces with more realism.”
Cof added: “The truth is I didn’t really like the atmosphere in graphic design. I think the art of graffiti is far more interesting and is more sincere. So I followed this path and in the last few years I have been painting a lot particularly in the Province of Buenos Aires where there are many more possibilities and there is a great vibe.” Cof also revealed he painted graffiti letters when he first started experimenting in the street. “I don’t paint letters or tags,” he says. “In the beginning I did it a couple of times but it wasn’t something I liked, I prefer to paint characters. The real reason I paint is because I like drawing and I like to do it in a place where it looks good.”
Cof now balances his work for Cartoon Network and Disney with his own projects and explained that the two areas aren’t really that closely related. “I work with different aesthetics and create characters for the Cartoon Network animated series such as Dexter or the Powerpuff Girls using a style guide,” Cof explains. “I apply my knowledge and expertise in the style that they need. My personal projects are very much in my own style and they are distinct, and at the moment I am also trying to focus on working a bit more on my own creations.”
Cof has collaborated with many different street artists but one he has been working with most in 2012 is Animalito Land. And Cof explained how their partnership came about. “It’s crazy because at first I didn’t meet her, I saw her artworks and thought with our styles, we are really compatible. We then we started to talk on the internet and we got on really well and decided to go out and paint together.”
The first mural they painted in the street together was a collaboration in Saavedra (above). While also working on individual projects, the pair have started painting more and more together. “She (Animalito Land) works in the same way as me,” explains Cof. “She is an illustrator and does a lot of work for advertising and also paints really well. Another thing in common is that we both combine digital art and graffiti.”
With the cold temperatures in Buenos Aires, Cof and Animalito Land painted this great piece a few weeks ago with a winter feel (above).
Check out more brilliant artworks by Cof at www.cofvive.net
All photos & interview © Buenos Aires Street Art