If you’re a member of a popular Facebook group devoted to classic film, such as TCM Fan Club or Turner Classic Movies for Fans, chances are you’re familiar with the work of artist Alejandro Mogollo. Based in Seville, Spain, the 53-year-old illustrator quickly gains likes on that social-media platform when he posts his latest work — or an existing piece from his portfolio when a birthday or film anniversary warrants it — or on Instagram to his 8,100-plus followers.
Working under the professional moniker Alejandro Mogollo Art, his illustrations have earned their share of enthusiastic fans largely due to his desire to be faithful to iconic characters and scenes, in a style that imbues his pieces with a hyper-colored, Technicolor quality that enhances each cinematic moment. From Gone With the Wind to Gilda, Sunset Boulevard to Sabrina, there doesn’t seem to be a classic-film image that Mogollo has missed — and courtesy of his Redbubble online shop, many of them are available not only as wall art, but also T-shirts, coffee mugs, pillows, phone cases, even shower curtains. Challenges, however, often come with success, and for Mogollo that means other companies using his art without permission to create products, a fact he sometimes discusses in his Instagram posts; to guard against copyright infringement, his images posted here include his watermark.
If classics aren’t your thing, Mogollo also has produced work that pays tribute to contemporary films and great television moments. But it’s clear that golden-age movies speak to his heart, so with that in mind, Screen Chic reached out to Mogollo at his home in Seville, and he agreed to discuss his early inspirations, his process and his classic-film favorites.
Screen Chic: At what age did you discover your love of classic films, and was there a particular film that inspired your interest?
Alejandro Mogollo: I was probably eight years old when I came home for dinner after playing outside with my friends. At that point I was only interested in kid shows and Disney movies. But this movie on TV caught my attention, with a blonde woman who seemed to burn up the screen. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. The film was Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and of course it was Marilyn Monroe who left me breathless. From that moment on, I discovered the wonderful world of classic movies and old-Hollywood stars.
SC: Were you influenced by anyone other than Marilyn in those early years?
AM: I also discovered great directors like Orson Welles, Billy Wilder and Michael Curtiz, whose films were so brilliant. I started to feel the need to know how these movies were made and the talents behind them.
SC: This can be a tough question for classic-film fans, but if you had to select one favorite actor or actress from classic films, and one favorite classic film, who and what would they be, and why are those your choices? AM: It’s certainly tough to answer only one, but definitely Vivien Leigh would be in the top five. Like many people before me, I discovered her in the role of Scarlett O’Hara, and my fascination with her began then and there. Picking a favorite film is even harder, but I would say All About Eve, because it’s the perfect combination of great acting, writing and directing as I’ve ever seen, and it’s so delightful to watch again and again.
SC: Had you been interested in art and illustration prior to your discovery of classic films, or did that follow? AM: My interest in art and painting came before anything else. I cannot think of a time I wasn’t drawing or creating; it was my form of expression from an early age. I studied Fine Arts in college and took post-graduate classes in arts and photography at Cornell University. So my formation has been all about art, but my interest in movies is something I developed on my own.
SC: What can you remember about your earliest experiences of blending your love of classic films with your artistic talent? AM: As a teen I was really obsessed with Farrah Fawcett and Charlie’s Angels. I remember drawing her like I was possessed; it was my way of expressing my fandom. But it was not until later, when I developed my taste in classic films, that I wanted to pay homage to those wonderful movies I was discovering.
SC: What was the first piece of art you did based on a classic film? Is it still part of the collection? AM: I don’t remember the first one, but it was probably a Maria Montez movie, because as a kid I was also obsessed with her exotic adventure movies, like [1944’s] Cobra Woman. I didn't keep the art, unfortunately, but as I’ve drawn constantly since I was a kid, there are probably many sketches of other movies sitting somewhere in a basement.
SC: How would you describe your aesthetic? AM: It’s hard to determine, as I’ve had many influences over the years. A while back the subject came up with my followers: From Alberto Vargas to Tamara de Lempicka, with a touch of Patrick Nagel — and a lot of Disney, of course — those were the names that came up during that conversation. I’d like to think I’ve created my own style, though. I like clean lines and shapes and bright colors. Mainly I try to get the essence of the character or the classic scene using as few resources as I can. I’m going for a minimalistic approach, though that also can be a struggle with myself as an artist.
SC: Can you take us through the development of a piece? AM: It starts with an idea, a scene or character I want to recreate. First I picture them in my head, then I start researching photographs, any material — even movie clips help me decide to get the scene right. Sometimes I do pencil sketches if the scene requires it. Then I use the computer to create the shapes in vector form, and work on color at the same time. Usually that process takes a few days in short sessions. But it’s not until I touch and retouch the artwork to perfection that I feel it is ready to share.
SC: How have you combined your love of classic film with growing your portfolio? AM: Sharing my love of classic movies and icons with my fellow classic-movie fans online, and getting their wonderful responses, keep me growing and evolving. I feel like I belong to a wonderful community that appreciates my work. Hopefully I also think it can help arouse interest in a new generation of movie lovers.
SC: At what point did you realize that this could be a business? AM: I started sharing my artwork online five years ago. It was never my intention to make a business out of it, but one particular Madonna artwork caught her attention, and she shared that on her social media, so suddenly everything changed. I created my Facebook and Instagram art pages to accommodate that interest. People started asking me for prints and stuff, and at first I sent them jpgs of my artwork. A colleague of mine suggested I visited Redbubble, and from the first moment I knew this was the way to take care of the demand.
[Edit note: Mogollo did the cover art for 2015’s Encyclopedia Madonnica 20: Madonna A to Z, and in a June 2018 Instagram video, Madonna can be seen showing off a handheld fan featuring his artwork.]
SC: Are there certain illustrations that are more popular than others? Which illustrations do fans seem to respond most to?
AM: Certainly anything with Marilyn Monroe or Vivien Leigh — of course two of my favorites — instantly get attention. But also LGBTQ icons like Barbra Streisand or Madonna are also well-received by fans. Then sometimes I will do a little piece on Thelma Ritter or Judith Anderson, thinking no one will like or remember them, and I get many warm responses, which makes me so happy.
SC: Have there been any particular pieces that have been more challenging than others from an artistic standpoint, and how did you overcome that challenges? AM: There have been many that took me so much time to tackle, usually because they meant a lot to me. For example, the “As God is my witness” scene from Gone With the Wind was one of them. It was so hard to blend the emotion of the scene itself with a graphic image that reflects the strength it has in the movie.
SC: Do you receive requests, and do you do custom work? AM: I receive many requests; everyone has their own idols and are very passionate about them. Unfortunately I have to turn them down, because I need to feel what I draw. My art is really a labor of love, something that has to do with my own tastes and memories. That’s why I don’t do commissions. I need to feel the love.
SC: What are the latest pieces, and how have you continued to evolve the collection? AM: I’ve done a number of pieces for Halloween, which is my favorite holiday, and I’m particularly proud of them.
SC: Why do you think it's important to showcase the beauty of classic films, iconic moments and golden-age stars through your work? AM: It’s somehow second nature to me. I almost think in classic-movie quotes, so expressing that love in art is my way of giving back all the joy that those movies and icons gave me growing up.
SC: Finally, for Screen Chic's Gift Guide this year, which new products from your Redbubble collection might appeal to readers? AM: I’ve done tributes to two films celebrating anniversaries this year: of course Gone With the Wind and its phenomenal 80th anniversary, and the 75th anniversary of Meet Me in St. Louis. Another piece I think will appeal to readers is my Rosalind Russell and “Life is a Banquet” quote. I’m pretty proud of that one.