Indie art festival reveals this year's theme and poster (and it's pretty fantastical)

THU 2021 - a quest for roots (Image credit: THU)

Each year, artists from all digital art industries – and all countries the world over – gather as a tribe at indie artist festival, Trojan Horse was a Unicorn (understandably abbreviated to THU). There, they celebrate, learn, share, make new friends as well as career-changing opportunities. The tribe has come to expect special things from the creators of the event, with the year's themes and poster being of particular excitement, to boost the anticipation.

A different artist is chosen each year, and 2021 that honour is being handed to Carlos Grangel, the rock star Spanish character designer. We sat down to discuss the beautiful poster and his experiences as a tribe member so far (for more excellent posters, see our roundup of brilliant poster designs).

You can check out the THU festival website here and find out more about Carlos Grangel, too.


Carlos Grangel, character designer (Image credit: THU)

What was your first experience with THU? Your first impressions? 

Our first experience was in 2019, Jordi (my brother) and I attended the THU and we really enjoyed it very much, the chemistry and energy was incredible – from artists from all over the planet and students from different disciplines. It was really a nice experience to meet and join the tribe.

How did the collaboration on this year's poster come about? With your busy schedule, what inspired you to take up the assignment? 

André proposed and we accepted to do it, it was a real challenge, a poster isn't an easy task. The message and how is portrait makes a poster or a cover one of the most difficult things to do. 


Sketching from the written brief (Image credit: THU)

What was the brief? 

It was a brief, the theme was "A QUEST FOR ROOTS", a manifesto that started...

"Once upon a time, we set sail looking for the Tales of the Unknown. Looking for ourselves. We believed there was an unknown island waiting for us and started a journey of self-exploration".

Given what you know of the Tribe and your connection to them, how did you interpret "a quest for roots"?

I interpreted [it as being] on a sailing boat going back home after a long, long journey, bringing back home all the experiences and adventures having learned so much and ready to share them all, it is like a great reunion after a long time. The cancellation of THU 2020 because of Covid-19 makes that gap and the new tribe gather even stronger.


Stylised lines are key to the design (Image credit: THU)

What informed your choice of style/aesthetic? 

I had it clear from day one, [the poster] had to be stylised, iconic, elegant, nice flow with a summery combination on the colour palette and textures, with a mix of colours from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.

Did the poster change much from the initial concept to the final version?

[I] produced several sketches, [I'm] never happy with the work I produce, so six to seven ideas were submitted and André, Joana, the Team at THU enjoyed a particular one. My brother Jordi and I also thought was the stronger so we went for it. 

How did the idea evolve? 

The sketch was done [in] rough with a Copic thin point multiliner, [then] step two and three was to do the drawing and add colour. Also, the majority of those posters were done digitally so I went for traditional techniques, always going back to the origins, so the cave.


Carlos and his work in progress (Image credit: THU)

You've had an illustrious career working solely in traditional mediums. What has kept you focused on those mediums vs. moving to digital?

[I] love smelling the flavour of wood of the colour pencils and getting dirty with paint on my fingers, [I] love the flow of the watercolour and the smell of markers. I have a studio where my brother and other artists can do amazing things on the computer.

What trends and evolution have you noticed in traditional arts over the years?

I noticed an avalanche of 3D and things done in computer, I am not against that but somehow we shouldn't forget about the use of traditional mediums. Traditional is first stroke, no messing around, you make a mistake and you start again or jump from a cliff. Let's just imagine that I go to get lost to an island, I will be happy carrying my pad, pencils and colours, so I just need the shadow of a palm tree and light enough to start sketching and painting. 

How has your style, approach, methodology, art, changed over the years? 

I tried to be faithful to what I learned, so much respect for all the ones showed to became a better artist. What has prompted those shifts? Sharing experiences, that is something THU knows and does well.

What have been some of the highlights in your career?

[I'm] still looking for the best one. [I've] had many but naming a few will be wrong and pretentious, so every new project means to push the envelope, exploring a new path.

What keeps you inspired/where do you find your inspiration? 


Will we see you in Tróia, in September?

Hopefully Jordi and I will be assisting in Troia. We all hope and wish the very best for it, a restart of common life. 

To read more about THU and to learn what previous attendees experienced look for 3D World magazine issue 278, coming soon.

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Rob Redman

Rob Redman is the editor of 3D World and ImagineFX magazines and has a background in animation, visual effects, and photography. As a 3D artist he created the mothership in the Webby winning Plot Device and was animator on the follow-up; Order up. He has created training for Cinema 4D and Blackmagic Design Fusion artists. He's been a published product and food photographer since the age of 15. As well as being a multi-instrumentalist, Rob is also an avid beard grower.