You may not know Ricardo Cavolo by name, but chances are you’ve seen the Barcelona-based artist’s vibrant iconographic symbols in some form. His done album artwork for Kanye, illustrations for Alexander McQueen garments, and his painted vibrant murals can be found all around the world. So what’s the next step? How about a bold shoe collaboration with Spanish shoe brand Muroexe and W Barcelona that’s inspired by the electric imagery of his city.
We visited Cavolo in his studio for an exclusive look into the influences, creativity and step by step process behind creating this limited-edition collab, talking passion, paint and out-of-this-world collaborations that have put his artwork on the map.
Can you describe this collaboration in 3 words?
Ricardo Cavolo: Barcelona, Mediterranean Sea, fun.
What was your process to make this collaboration?
RC: It’s a really complex process since we have to design a product that people will eventually use. The first thing was choosing what type of sneakers are we using and what are we putting on that sneaker. W Barcelona chose Muroexe sneakers which are a perfect mix between comfortable and elegant shoes. I had to be respectful of the sneaker’s initial design when coming up with my artwork.
The main concept was Barcelona and the sea. I always like to use hearts because I work with passion and to me, that means hearts. Plus, Barcelona is a city where you can really feel that passion. The heart and the waves were my initial idea, but when developing the project day by day, I decided to add palm trees, stars and birds.
What was it like to have to transfer your art into a wearable project? Were there any challenges on working in this?
RC: I have transferred my art into clothing in the past, and I love fashion so it was a relatively easy process for me. It’s just about understanding the product and being sincere, as well as changing the materials to fit the project. I try to always keep the style consistent but improving the techniques depending on the product we want to create.
What´s your shoe style? Did you design this collaboration as something you would want to wear?
RC: I wear sneakers because I travel a lot. Also, being a guy from the 80’s when the sneaker fever started, sneakers have always been my favorite shoe style. Doing this project I needed to feel that it was something I was attached to, and now that it’s done I want a pair for me!
How is the spirit of Barcelona incorporated into the design of the sneakers?
RC: The spirit of Barcelona had to be shown in the shoes. I decided to use a few symbols and icons of particular things that I really love about Barcelona. First of all we needed a blue background, demonstrating the sea of Barcelona. I also added the element of fire which for me is something fun and is one of the symbols I use the most. We have some hearts with the palm tree, which practically is Barcelona. Seeing all these palm trees is like a dream.
Of course I had to add the sun on the shoe, since Barcelona is synonymous to sun. There are also some birds, which represent the people flying all over the city. On the birds I put eyes on the wings, which I like as an exclamation mark. They make us pay attention and open our eyes to enjoy all the views of the city.
We also have some stars on the shoe, showing the magic of Barcelona. Last, but definitely not least: the colored dots. They are like confetti I added in order to show the party spirit of the city.
As an artist what inspires you the most when traveling?
RC: When traveling, I find inspiration everywhere but I’m definitely drawn to the people. Just finding different people from different countries with different ways of thinking and doing things is the best way to be inspired.
How did you know you wanted to be an artist?
RC: It has always been a really easy path for me. My father was an artist and I was always surrounded by paint, brushes, water colors, and pencils. He was also my teacher at home and gave me lessons – always in a cool way – so it became a very natural path for me. Being an artist never felt like a job. For me it was, and still is, just having fun.
How do you get in the mood when you are making the art?
RC: I need to be working in the morning because I am a morning and sun person. I never have inspiration problems or feel like my brain is blocked in the morning. Every day, after finishing my breakfast, I spend a few minutes on Pinterest. It’s the perfect tool to find inspiration.
As an artist you have already done many collaborations on various forms. What have you learned from collaborating on projects?
RC: Being an artist you always have two ways to work. You have your own way, painting something on your own for your own exhibition. Or collaborating with someone else. When working with others you have to adapt to their interests. As artists, we all have egos, but the ego needs to be put aside in order to adapt that personal style. We must understand that at the end of the day, the final outcome is not your art but the product of the collaboration.
At the beginning of my career it was difficult for me to understand this and I thought I wasn’t going to be able to mix my passion with others. Then, I realized that I need this collaborative spirit to help me understand each project: that it’s for someone else and not just for me. My advice as an artist would be to embrace the projects that others give to you as if they were your own.