David Alvarez is not new to fantasy and science fiction: concept artist and illustrator, he has worked on projects such as Wolfenstein Youngblood, the Assassin’s Creed series, The Division or for Bethesda, as well as designs for Games Workshop or Black Library.
If we add to that that he is an accomplished model maker, judge in international competitions and winner of several awards, among them, the European G40BC 2020 and the European Gunpla Builder Contest 2021 with his Barbatos Red Fury, David’s word in the Gunpla world has an important weight. Today we are extremely proud to be able to talk to him at HispanoBuilders.
Thank you very much, David, for agreeing to this interview, we are very proud to be able to count on you.
The pleasure is all mine, I don’t think I deserve so many compliments. I try to do my job the best I can while having fun.
I don’t know if you’ve been asked this question, but… How did you find out that you had won the European GBC, what was your first thought? It must be a terribly exciting moment!
I can’t say that Bandai are professional communicators. The two victories, I met them through friends builders (@chocofalcon and @feelooworkshop) who went to see directly on the website. I received an email 7 months later to know my address, for the trophy. It made me happy although I still have a bit of an impostor feeling. I am a newbie to modeling, I started in the summer of 2019.
Developing a work like Barbatos Red Fury is not a question of the «here and now», starting with the selection of the kit… Why a Barbatos, did you consider other kits before starting?
When I buy a kit, I buy it for its design, not so much for its history I prefer what doesn’t look like a Gundam! The atypical designs, that’s why I like Zeon so much. When I order a kit, I always think about what I could do with it, what inspires me.
With the Barbatos, I wanted to prototype its latest evolution, but not yet fully finished with visible mechanics. It had to be much bigger than the seventh version to be the ultimate melee weapon (from a MG to a PG).
I also had the idea of making a Barbatos Deepstriker, but wanted to make a diorama for the contest. I think it’s a bonus. And I really, really loved making the diorama.
How is the process of creating a winning Gundam? Do you start with a concept design – on your instagram page there are many of them – and then move on with the process? Which step do you consider the most important?
The most important for me is the idea, I always choose a kit that will be my base. Much easier than in my work as a concept artist because I build on an existing design. And then I start to notice everything that inspires me, for the Barbatos, for example: lively, aggressive, bestial etc… from there I imagine it in an environment, space, land, sea, etc… and often a function such as reconnaissance, body to body, mechanical etc… And finally, I draw what I think. For the Barbatos I stopped to sketches, I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted.
But with the Azur Barlyant or the White Scar Beret, I drew it and made the color before starting the build. So I can try various things and colored versions of the future build.
Barbatos Red Fury is not a static figure but has a story behind it, in addition to other pieces of kits – the whip of an Epyon we have been able to identify, although there will be many more – How did you build the storytelling of Barbatos Red Fury?
In the series, IBO, the pilot and his friends are orphans living in terrible conditions without ever having had parents, but despite all the trials they advance towards their goal. The Red Fur, it’s the same, it has a huge potential but it’s not finished yet, and in spite of everything it goes to battle because you have to go forward, that’s why I did so much weathering, to give it a life of struggles. I love weathering. The Barbatos Red Fury, has pieces of Epyon, MG barbatos, Barbatos Lupus Rex, and a lot of scratchbuild.
Creative work always has a problem: overworking, continually going the extra mile with an extra tweak, an extra piece, an extra detail… How and when do you decide that a figure is «fine as is»?
Overworking is a known problem in art, and I’m used to working «with it». I stop when the final build is the same as my design and when I think the scene is believable.
I don’t have a workshop, so if I don’t want my «Build» to last a year, I have to go fast. I have a tool box and tools, plastics and kits stashed all over my apartment. I try to work nights in front of the TV (1 or 2 hours a day) when I can. I paint only the WE with the airbrush because I have to do it in my living room 🙂
I don’t know if it happens to you, but it happens to many builders: dealing with frustration. A project is not going well, or – frequently – it’s taking much more time because it requires a lot of work… and you just want to finish it now. Does it happen to you? How do you fight against builder’s frustration and anxiety?
It’s the same as in art, frustration is a good engine if you turn it into determination to do your best, I think we have to aim for the moon to hope to touch the sky. When something doesn’t go the way I want it to, I say to myself, how can I do something else with that mistake? And many times this restriction turns out to be your best ally to push your idea. I believe that you only create under constraints and sometimes our mistakes create those constraints that are good to go forward.
Master Rihito has a mantra: Patience, Practice and Determination. What percentage would you assign to each to be a good builder?
Hehe! A master, yes! I have to find myself a mantra too.
30% Patience, 30% practice and 40% determination
But I found a mantra for a custom:
Idea 70%, 30% Thoroughness, 100% Pleasure.
And finally, what advice would you give to all those who dream and then say to themselves «I will never reach that level in my life»?
I think that everything can be learned, even if one will reach a good result in 6 months and another in 2 years, it doesn’t matter. It is a hobby, and it allows you to work with your head, eyes and hands. You have to remember that it evades us, it makes us see things from another angle, if only because of the size of our subjects. You have to try to keep a cool head and step back, even if it’s difficult with a passion. The biggest quality for me is curiosity, anything can bring you, music, movies, cooking, travel and feed your creativity. And if custom is not your thing, that’s ok, it’s not for me the last stage of modeling, but one of many. If you paint or just assemble kits and have fun, that’s the most important thing. Life is hard enough to put up additional barriers. In art, when frustration is too strong it becomes a limitation to your progress. «One never loses, one always learns.»
Thank you so much David for taking the time to answer these questions.
Thank you so much for this interview, I hope my very subjective view of things is inspiring (and my great experience «since 2019» hehe).
We wish you from the bottom of our hearts a lot of success. You can follow David Alvarez on his Instagram (@mobilesuitworkshop) or in Facebook (@davidalvarezhobby)Thank you very much again!