For Christian Orillo Tejada, creating is living. “I can’t imagine doing anything that makes me happier than this,” he says.
A Peruvian native, Christian spent his childhood drawing, painting, reading his grandfather’s esoterica, and studying the plants and insects in the garden. “I was encouraged from a young age to follow my dreams,” he says with appreciation for his supportive family. His gratitude is inherent, as woven into his work as his curiosity for the mystical and unknown.
Inspired by ancient futurism and time travel, Tejada combines human elements with heightened perception to create colorful, supernatural iconography. “My characters represent fragments of external and internal aspects. They embody my human qualities and extra sensory world. They’re archetypes or entities that personify something very deep.”
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Cajamarca, a beautiful valley located in the highlands of Peru. I grew up in my maternal grandparents' house with my parents and my younger brother.
How did you express yourself creatively as a child?
I was drawing and painting from a very young age. My mom would draw me pictures of my favorite cartoons and I’d hang them in my room. I started to look at the cartoons and draw them myself, over time. I loved drawing mermaids, fantastic creatures and cartoon characters. Every time I finished a new drawing, I wrote a small dedication on the back of it and gave it to my grandmother. She keeps a small collection of my early creations to this day.
I also spent hours reading books and magazines on mythology and esotericism that my grandfather collected. I loved exploring the plants and insects that inhabited my home garden. I’ve always had a quasi-scientific curiosity for nature, the marine world and the small and micro universes.
Did you have any indication when you were young that this was your destiny?
It is difficult to explain the deep feeling I have for my work. As I grew up, I realized that out of all the things I enjoy doing, nothing compared to the sensation I got from painting or drawing something. I am fortunate that I grew up in a family who always supported. I was encouraged from a young age to follow my dreams. I can't imagine doing anything that makes me happier than this… for me, creating is living.
What were some milestones on your path to becoming a full-time artist?
I've always been a big dreamer. Many of the accomplishments on my journey were dreams or desires I had in mind a long time ago. It's strange to think about, but I am so grateful for it.
I had the opportunity to collaborate with Caroline Polachek, a singer-songwriter I’ve admired for years… by chance, I was invited to collaborate in the merchandising of her first album "Pang".
I also had the pleasure of doing illustrations for the annual Adobe Max event.
I'm lucky to be able to do what I love most and that it has been able to open doors and pathways for me. I'm excited to see what happens next.
Describe your conceptualization process. What sparks an idea for you? What motivates you to act on it?
Lately I’ve been more conscious about my creative process. The phenomenon of "pareidolia" is key. Something as simple as a flower can be interpreted as something completely different by my brain— perhaps it registers a face or a creature. I love to get carried away by unconscious processes and let my imagination and intuition lead me to unexpected ideas. I’m encouraged by the symbols my mind builds after processing a lot of images, stimuli and references. If what emerges resonates on an emotional level, I’m sure it will become a painting in the future. Some concepts also come in an unexpected or random manner… in my sleep or while drinking coffee. Each new concept emerges in a different way than the last.
How deep is your connection with the characters you create? (Do you see entire storylines for them?)
My characters represent fragments of external and internal aspects. They embody my human qualities and my extra sensory world. They don't always have a story behind them—they’re archetypes or entities that personify or symbolize something very deep. I try to graphically convey an emotion or a particular state like melancholia, sensuality or serenity. Their physical qualities can be translated as alien but also human; their gender expression, sometimes more feminine, sometimes masculine. I like the ambiguities—they leave room for interpretation.
What attracts you to bio-luminescence and iridescence?
I love naturally generated iridescence. It’s such a simple, everyday phenomenon but so magical. I imagine that colors live through light, so seeing them in movement, flowing and intermingling is mesmerizing. I like to collect pearly / iridescent objects like seashells, vintage mirrors, and porcelain, I believe they carry a certain particular magic that I identify with.
On the other hand, bioluminescence leads me to imagine an infinity of creatures inhabiting the depths of the sea. I remember a scene from the movie The Abyss, where a human encounters a beautiful bioluminescent underwater alien similar to a rainbow jellyfish. It fascinates me to think of the beautiful colors generated by creatures that inhabit the deep sea that science has yet to discover.
What are your favorite mediums?
I started with digital illustration when I was 18 years old. At that time I thought I would be a manga artist and made a lot of characters with big and bright eyes. I spent a lot of time in front of the computer, surfing the internet and exploring digital painting software. As time went by, my digital tablet and computer became my main working tools. But I never stopped feeling a great appreciation for traditional painting, especially watercolor. The pandemic created many changes in my life, which led me to reconnect with many elements that I had pushed aside. This is how I formally resumed traditional painting.
I can’t choose a favorite medium for creating. I’m always going back and forth from one medium to the next. Sometimes I explore photographic filters in my digital paintings, other times it’s new watercolor pigments. I live in the middle of two worlds that constantly enrich each other.
Which mediums are most challenging?
Traditional art will always represent a challenge for me because at a certain point it invites me to flow and let go, to forget about wanting absolute control of every form, element and aspect of the work. This is unlike the digital world, which allows me to have much more precise control and measurement of the final result.
Do you experience extra-sensory perception? When is it at its strongest?
I’m very attracted to the unknown and the magical. I used to play with a small improvised pendulum. I’d ask it questions about where to find lost toys. I also practiced tarot in school and began to educate myself about magic during that time.
I never went beyond a simple exploration in these areas, while I’m always drawn to the mystical, I think my most powerful magic lies in my work.
Do you remember past lives from other planets? What were they like?
I'm not sure I remember any past lives on other planets, though I do fantasize about having lived other lives. Sometimes I travel between dreams to other realities when I’m asleep and they’re not always earthly. There, I interact with people I’ve never seen in reality. It amuses me to think of all the dimensions we could be inhabiting or exploring right now.
Who/what are your sources for inspiration?
I may never finish listing my sources of inspiration. Today, for example, I was looking through a photographic catalog of 15th century jewelry while looking for lighting / coloring ideas in a scene from the movie "Under the Skin" where an abducted character floats in a black space.
I listen to music almost all day. It stimulates me on a very particular level. I believe the arts are mere languages we use to express ourselves on a much deeper, more personal plane.
When I look for inspiration I seek ancient futurism, I travel to the past and the future in search of a present that combines both. I reflect on nature, what we know and recognize with our senses versus all we cannot interpret or perceive. I imagine magic and technology as two infinite paths that inevitably cross each other to birth visually surprising results.
What does your dream project look like?
I would love to work on a project that combines different disciplines and incorporates different artists that collaborate to create an experience that encompasses not only visual and sound but also tactile and olfactory to transfer the magic we perceive every day into new forms and experiences. I’d like to collaborate with musicians, costume designers and animators. I think the exciting thing about this path is never knowing where you will arrive next.
If you could design a world of your own, what would it be like?
An ideal world for me seems to be a somewhat limited concept. In my mind, I constantly inhabit different instances, times, worlds and realities. I’d love to create a kind of portal where I could transport myself not only to a different universe but to thousands of different worlds, dimensions, and dreams as well as travel through time and space freely.