If you’ve traveled down the east coast anywhere between Worcester Massachusetts and the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami, Florida, chances are you’ve seen the signature work of Ramiro Davaro-Comas. His kinetic characters skate, leap, and strut across massive walls, inviting viewers to inspect their free form and familiarity. On a smaller scale too, Davaro-Comas’s pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations invite close inspection and appreciation. Using his distinct line, he portrays friendly animals, archetypes of the subcultures he’s moved through all this life, and, with a bit more vitriol, the neo-fascist politicians he reviles.
Born in Argentina and now living and working in New York City, Davaro-Comas also co-founded and manages a unique mobile artist residency “Dipped on the Road”, where a select group of illustrators travel in an RV to different cities, making small works on paper and collaborate on larger pieces with local artists along the way.
I caught up with Ramiro while he was at home in Brooklyn preparing for his 30 piece solo show that’s now on view for the next five months at Grand Central Tech in Manhattan.
John Arvanitis: Your work feels very kinetic and your characters are often in motion: riding bikes, skating, running, or just jumping around. Do you consider yourself an active person?
Ramiro Davaro-Comas: Yes I am extremely active! My mind itself is very active and I need different creative outlets during the day that aren’t always painting. When I am in the studio there is always a guitar available, and I skateboard as well. All three of these creative activities keep my mind flowing with ideas and thoughts. I may be in the studio painting, take a break to play some guitar, go back to painting, make some lunch, go skateboarding, come back, and continue painting. This is a typical day if I don’t have any meetings or installs scheduled.
What’s your favorite medium to work with?
That is a tough question. I LOVE my sketchbooks. It's where my ideas are formed and where I feel like I have the most freedom to create. I always carry a sketchbook, always, and I find that their intimacy and small size make it really personal for me. I freak out if I lose one of those….which I haven’t yet. This medium is pretty selfish, and basically serves as a reference.
The public work with spray paint and acrylics is also a favorite, but in a different sense. It's something that I can't carry around with me, and is left at the location that I painted it in. It's larger than me physically and metaphorically, and its impact is much wider than a small personal sketchbook.
What’s something challenging about painting a large mural alone or with group of people?
Whether painting alone or with a group, finding the right image to put on the wall remains a challenging aspect. That is always the most challenging part. Sometimes there's a theme to the wall, sometimes there isn't.
On a themed wall, I believe that a good muralist must take into account the area they are in, the colors, the history, and the building itself. This is sometimes challenging if you’re not familiar with the area, but it is our duty to explore and produce a image that the neighborhood is proud of and will accept.
Communication is key. And when working with a group, everyone's voice needs to be heard, and the wall must be split up so that the image is the strongest, not necessarily so that every painter gets the equal amount of wall.
When did you come up with the idea for the mobile artist residency Dripped on The Road? Should we expect another round this year?
Well I've been traveling for a large part of my life, so something like that was always in my head. Also, about 11 years ago, a few friends and I had acquired a big yellow school bus, and invited 20 random people to join us in a cross country trip. Needless to say it was a wild adventure AND the bus died in California (we were coming form Massachusetts.) We spent a day in a parking lot and scrounged up enough money to rent two minivans and drive to Las Vegas. It was awesome. That experience stayed with me, and the freedom of the road was something I really wanted back.
With my artwork, I had traveled to Europe and participated in residencies in Berlin, Amsterdam, and Barcelona, as well as some in the US. And then, in 2014, I became one of the directors at an artist residency program that was run by The Art Students League of New York.
Both of those experiences led me to create this project. I approached two other producers to launch it and go on our first trip in November of 2016. Dripped On The Road has had 4 programs so far, travelled 10,000 miles with 10 resident/participating artists, and painted 22 murals.
We have three more trips planned this year - but we are keeping them quiet!! Lets just say maybe we will be driving to LA, and maybe through the American Heartland.
You’ve done so much! Traveled & painted around the world, started your own artist residency, created hundreds of unique pieces that people love...what’s next for you?
Whoa thanks! I’m launching a book called Hell in a Bucket, with wild character illustrations about the 2016 presidential election, showing all 40 illustrations that went into the book. I also just installed a 30 piece show at Grand Central Tech (a tech HUB in NYC) that will be available for public viewing, then I have a Viking Book for kids coming out this year...and many more travels with Dripped On The Road!!
Be sure to follow Ramiro on Instagram to keep up with his travels, new projects and prolific artmaking.
Interview by John Arvanitis