meet rubén

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I was born in Palma de Mallorca, in 1984, and I grew up in Madrid. My parents are from Madrid, and my brothers and sisters are from Valencia. So my parents, they are little nomads moving to Spain, and all over the Mediterranean coast. And it was nice because I was grown in Madrid, so I feel ‘madrileña’ and at the same time, I feel that I’m part of the Raval district also, because I’m here from six years ago. And my project, Drag is Burning began here.

My whole life from childhood, I remember to paint cartoon characters and like stop the VHS or click and then try to copy. And sometimes put the paper on the TV, and copy the lines and the stuff and color it. I remember the 80s and 90s animes, and Dragon Ball was a very classic hero.

Drag is Burning was the beginning of a history because I just separated from my partner in 2017. And I began to discover my own style of portraits. And I remember the point, when I decided to do how can I find my perfect drawing style? So I was like, okay, let’s try to do autorretrato, like a portrait of me. And different styles like pixelart, or cubista. So I began to try different styles, and I felt the portraits were super nice in vector because I’m very geometric and my mind is very mathematical also. It’s strange because usually an artist don’t used to be mathematical the same time, but my parents are super mathematical, so yeah, it’s like, I have grandfathers and part of the family that were painters, writers from long, long time ago. And I was like, okay, it’s a new style, I feel is super technological. So when you have no money, you can’t buy the colours and stuff. So for me, it was nice to have all the colour palette on the illustrator. You can do whatever you want with everything. And I began to discover my own style. With my portraits, as self portraits. So that was the first, maybe in 2010, 2011. And I left it there. And in  2017 I began to do with my portrait base, more bearded icons. And I did more than 100 in a few months with iconic personalities. I have a secret Instagram account that is called @beardedicons

I began to do different characters. With the same base of the face, with the same style, I did many, trying to learn how to do it, leaving in their base, just the thick of the hair, the beard. So it was super nice because like different kinds of icons with the same face like Madonna, and also the Spice Girls for example. That is so nice, because once you see one and another one and another one, the beard disappears on the face and you only see the icon, so for me it’s kind of like a drag queen or like a digital drag, you know, because I have the base of my face, and I changed my hairstyle and the makeup and everything to the different characters. So this for me was like learning my own style.

After this part of my life, I began to do the same portraits with my drag friends.

So I was like, okay, I have my friends around. They are growing as newborn drags in town. And I began to do the portraits, and I did my first art exhibition in 2018. It was a Drag is Burning exhibition with me doing the portraits and another photographer that I signed for to have a mix between my drawings and photography. This was the beginning of Drag is Burning and then after that was like, okay, let’s do something like full experience with other LGBT artists doing the drags also and showing the drag scene from the night to the day. That was the first one in 2018 in November, the next one was in February, and another one in June and the next one in August, and the next one in October, the next one in December, like six exhibitions in one year. Was kind of crazy, but was super nice.

And after that in 2020, I began the podcast in the beginning of the year. Let’s offer more content then only the drawings and the paintings. Let’s start from the inside and not from the outside. Because this one of the drag is very mainstream, but the history behind is more interesting than just the face, or just the makeup or just the style or the look. So for me, it was like, okay, after almost two years doing this stuff, let’s go for something different. And let’s talk about the person behind the drag and behind the artist.

So let’s change the style and let’s study from the beginning of the drag community or trans community in Barcelona, and I began to study and find them everywhere and let’s check what’s going on in the Raval district and Paralelo because it was the cabaret and the music hall there, it was like a huge beginning in Spain for this kind of arts in the 60s 70s. It came from Paris and Europe, but we have history here from the last part of the 20th century. 

 

I think it’s very important to have these kinds of references and historic references and also very important to understand the society at that time to understand the kind of living of the LGBT artists. In the 90s disappear many, many reference. So I think it’s very important to show these kinds of lives that disappeared because the LGBT community don’t used to have daughters and sons and more family. So it’s very easy to disappear from history. So usually the friends, maybe they decide to do something about your life, but it’s the same life, so it’s not so mainstream.

I have many pictures and videos from the community right now. And I think it will be more important in a few years, maybe 10 years or 20 years. All this content will be huge. Because we are preparing content for the future, not only for the present.

I think this kind of ‘contracultura’ as we say it in Spanish is very important for the mainstream because the mainstream used to be super boring. So the mainstream needs the contracultura to receive something different, a bit of colour in a black and white society. And I think it’s really important for the people to know that because for example also the drag is a feminist movement, because it shows big feminist actors and characters so I think it’s really nice because empowerment is not only for the LGBT community, so, you can take this empowerment for you being a cis woman. I think is very nice because open the mind and makes you feel that you can do what you want the whole time. And decide how to dress and how to show your identity to the people. I think it’s very important for the whole society.

If you think about the arts, in all the history, only with the paintings and the photography we can recover the history. So it’s very important that the artistic movement for the record, I think it’s very nice to respect the old artist that did it before and it’s really nice to empower the actual community to grow more than the past.

When do you feel most beautiful?

I feel beautiful 24 hours! Because I really like my kind of living. I enjoy every day because I’m doing the things that make me feel nice. Every day if I’m on the computer designing and doing some portraits I enjoy the time. I also enjoy the time recording a podcast and staying with my friends or having fun with taking pictures and doing stuff. 

I think the future for each artists and not only for the LGBT communities is to have the money each month, and also to have like 50% of work, the real work and 50% of the time or maybe more for enjoy your art and grow and study your own creativity. You need time to do that. So it is very important to have free time for what you want. Because if you stay the society way you don’t have time. Because you’re always busy and you come back home, like lazy, like I need to work tomorrow. And it’s fucking Monday. You know? So for me, so it’s Friday or Saturday the whole time, because I don’t wake up early in the morning. So I think you can decide what you want to do.

And what makes you sad?

I think I feel sad when the people are trapped on the society like trying to find the work. Have no job, no money. Like the precarity of the arts. I think this part makes me sad. And that’s why I’m working on Drag is Burning to make shine each artist that has a different way of thinking and to discover the artist identity who is trying to do different stuff. I think for me is like okay, let’s try to help these people to grow, like me. If I can help others to do the same I’m always trying to do it, because it makes me feel good and I also enjoy the goals of other people. And they get the things that they want under a different project like yours, for example, like okay, I’m doing my stuff. And this is my shit and I really like it. So it’s like okay, let’s do it. Let’s try to make it shine. Because I think it’s a community.

What does freedom mean to you?

What is freedom for me? Do what I want the whole time. This is freedom for me. If I if I can do what I want, every fucking day.

How do an ideal world looks like for you?

I think sometimes you need to live out some stuff like, okay, the society is telling me to do this and this and this and this and this and this. And it’s like what I feel, what I want? I want to have time for do this. Okay, maybe I need to find another kind of work that led me free time for do my stuff. You know, for example, for me, freedom is like that. To don’t have every day the pressure of the society like do you need to do this from nine to till two, from five till nine and you have lost all your day. For me the freedom is have the freedom to plan my own life.

But it’s true that I’ve been working my whole life. But at the same time I use always my free time for my stuff. So I always had the feeling of being free. Because it’s like, okay, I’m working, but I’m working on my things. I’ve been working in advertising for more than 15 years in media and radio, and like traditional media, for 15 years. So I was like, okay, that was creative work also, but it was different at the same time, and it’s through that after many years was like, okay, I need to find my own style, because I’ve been working for more than 20 years after doing stuff for the clients, and not for me, you know. So is like, okay, now I have the possibility to do my own stuff. And I did everything for example, I did my own website, my own shop, my own logo, my own everything. And it’s very nice. It’s very nice, because for me, this is the real freedom like do you want to do this? Do it! Do it and do it and do it and if you need help, try to find some help. But after all, this is my way of life. So I don’t feel like I’m working the whole time. I know it’s hard work, but at the same time is my kind of living so maybe if you have free time, you take a book and read about, I don’t know a fantastic history and if I have free time, I try to find more history in the biblioteca or something talking about the LGBT or depends. So it’s nice. It’s very nice.