Meet artist Jorge Alderete

Día de los Muertos

Our upcoming mug for October 2020 celebrates Día de los Muertos. I caught up with the artist Jorge Alderete and asked him some questions about his artistic process, his connection to music and comics, and his experience with Día de los Muertos.

Jorge Alderete perusing LPs

Jeff Ayers: The design you created for our upcoming Día de los Muertos mug is so beautiful - what inspired your creation?

Jorge Alderete: The inspiration was obviously the Day of the Dead, a celebration that changed our relationship with death when you begin to understand it a little.

Having grown up in Argentina, with a more "European" relationship with death, mourning, sorrow and crying, it is a shock at first, but then when you understand that you can celebrate your dead ones, remember them in life, it is wonderful.

Illustration of woman holding skull coffee cup by Jorge Alderete

(Original drawing by Jorge Alderete)

Jeff Ayers: Did you celebrate any holiday like Día de los Muertos or Halloween while you were growing up in Argentine Patagonia?

Jorge Alderete: Neither [of them], at least in my childhood. Today, that is changing a bit with the internet and global communications ... a mixture of Halloween and the Day of the Dead as imitation of movies and cartoons.

Jeff Ayers: You moved to Mexico City and lived there for quite sometime - what has been your personal experience with Día de los Muertos while living there?

Jorge Alderete: The first time I experienced it [in person] was at the funeral of a friend who had died in a car accident. We went to his funeral and suddenly a group of mariachis arrived and began to sing to him facing the grave.

It was very very emotional, and yes, we were sorry for his loss, but we celebrated him, we remembered him through the songs, and we toasted him.

Día de Muertos inspired illustrations of women by Jorge Alderete

Jeff Ayers: What was your first artistic inspiration?

Jorge Alderete: The first thing I remember was my approach to comics. My dad read comics, and my first magazines were comics, even before I could read. I "read" the drawings.

Jeff Ayers: You have created art in many different forms - do you prefer an artistic medium over others?

Jorge Alderete: I don't have a favorite form, one of the things I like about this profession is that it allows me to constantly move around. I started, as many, doing illustrations for the press (publishing in the newspapers with the largest circulation in Argentina) but I quickly realized that that was not all. So I moved from place to place, I was a poster artist, then a typographer, later an animator. I started making album covers, drawing live in band shows, [got] closer to cultures new and old from illustration, become a photographer and a portraitist, and the thing goes and goes…

Jeff Ayers: You are also a music fan, a musician, and even started your own record label. Can you talk about your record label?

Jorge Alderete: Yes, Isotonic Records, the name of the label was born with the idea of releasing a single album, a kind of polaroid of an instrumental music scene, at a particular time in Mexico City, in the late 90s.

But the album was a hit in the underground scene and we decided to release another and then another… for several years. Music was always a source of inspiration in my work, and for years I felt [like] a frustrated musician, but this project allowed me to be close to something that I was passionate about.

Posters illustrated by Jorge Alderete

Jeff Ayers: How about the band you are part of - Sonido Gallo Negro - you play the theremin and also create art live on stage. How did that come about?

Jorge Alderete: I had known the musicians of Sonido Gallo Negro for years, from other musical projects more linked to western or surfing music, I had helped them with their image, posters, and album covers. When SGN began to take form, they came to see me to help them with the scenographic part.

Right at that moment, I was researching live drawing in real time. We decided to test if these live drawings [since they] could be the scenery for some shows, when we tried it for the first time (the band still had no name) we realized that it should be part of the band, not just some shows.

The theremin thing came later, I had an old theremin at home and when I mentioned it one day they told me to try it on the band ... Psychedelic cumbia with theremin, it sounded unlikely at first, but it worked very well.
I am still taking classes, it is a very complex instrument. My teacher is a professional thereminist, probably the only one in Mexico, his name is Ernesto Mendoza.

Jeff Ayers: Growing up in South America and living in Mexico, coffee is a big part of the culture. Are you a fan of coffee, and if so, when did you start drinking it?

Jorge Alderete: There is a lot of culture of drinking coffee in Argentina, we drank it since we were children (with milk). Good coffee, black, strong is what we drink most ... In Mexico it was more difficult for us because in general terms here the people drink "American" coffee, which is almost water with coloring next to a good espresso. Hahaha.

Q&A has been edited for length and clarity