Meet Bernardo Bejerano Narváez, or as most people know him, Bern Foster, a Spanish illustrator with a huge talent for creating retro aesthetic art. He started his career as a design engineer back in 2012, but his love for illustration led him to use his paycheck to fund his art. Eventually, his illustration hobby became his full-time job.
Bern’s art takes you back in time, inspired by childhood memories of 80s TV ads, movies, and music. He’s all about aesthetics and has a soft spot for the captivating charm of capitalism. A self-taught artist, Bern picked up techniques and influences from famous illustrators like Hajime Sorayama, Hiroshi Nagai, Eizin Suzuki, and Bob Peak. He’s worked with an amazing lineup of clients, such as Reina Olga Beachwear, EGLAF, TWRP Band, Mayol Jewelry, Filippa K, and many more. Be sure to check out Bern’s awesome portfolio, but first, enjoy our interview with this amazing artist!
Watching you work on your illustrations in a video, the first thing that catches our attention is your traditional approach. Nowadays, it's rare to find a digital artist who begins with manual input. How much has the traditional art world, specifically painting and airbrushing, influenced your approach? More importantly, how much do you consider yourself a digital artist now?
When I started as a freelancer in 2013, I was doing it 100% digitally, using Zbrush, and Photoshop. I always loved illustrators like Drew Struzan, Hajime Sorayama, Masao Saito and many other illustrators from the 70s and 80s, so I invested in real materials and started learning those techniques from these illustrators and from many books about airbrushing.
Once I started painting using traditional media I couldn’t come back to digital, as I didn’t feel the connection with digital art anymore, at least not for illustration. I use digital tools just to import and export my art in different file formats, and sometimes make small commissions as a Graphic Designer, but is not part of my portfolio as Bern Foster.
The main theme of your artwork is the dreamy summer atmosphere, featuring iconic '80s babes as the protagonists that immediately evoke a sweet sense of nostalgia for those of us who belong to that generation. Where does this captivating "obsession" of yours for the ambiance of the 1980s originate from?
It’s easy to have the past attached to your future when you’ve grown up in the 1980s and 1990s, the golden age of capitalism. Since I was a kid, I have been fascinated by TV commercials, TV series, movies, book covers, advertising in magazines, and everything related to the pop culture of that time, so my childhood has been represented in my profession in some way.
In the end, my art does not launch a specific message, it’s about attracting the viewer with the aesthetic through my technique.
In some of your artworks, you incorporate typography. What is your relationship with graphic design, and how much does it intersect with your work as an illustrator?
Making a logo is easy using Adobe Illustrator, but there are some exclusive clients that want an exclusive logo, using a shiny Chrome aesthetic for example. My traditional technique for Chrome shapes will show the metallic logo as an organic material, there are a lot of fake reflections and complex details which make the logo more organic, and in conclusion, luxurious. Most of these logos were for the fashion industry, others for posters or brand identities.
It's evident that your style is inspired by the great Japanese illustrators and American consumer culture. Has Spanish culture, your country of birth, enriched you artistically in any way?
Not much. Spanish culture is amazing, underrated, I must say. But in terms of art, it hasn’t influenced what I do today. Art in Spain is really limited to the political sphere nowadays, which is far removed from what I do and my aesthetic.
In the 80s and 90s, American culture was spread all over the globe, and you can tell this even in Spanish TV spots. There were a lot of Spanish ads on TV that were filmed in the US. Even if grown in the Spanish cultural space, we had a big influence from American pop culture.
Your hyper-realistic style demands meticulous attention to detail. Which of your works has challenged you the most, and which one do you consider to resonate best with your audience?
My most challenging illustration is probably one of the first I did about Marylin Monroe wearing a latex catsuit, it was a really bad illustration, but it was a time of learning new techniques and on some occasions, I ruined the artwork and had to start all over again.
My style has been varying in the last years, from Exotic pin up to American pop style art, so I had different audiences. Drink on the Beach House is one of the ones which has resonated better with the audience, I think.
We know that you used to work as an engineer. When did you realize that illustration could become your main profession?
I quit an engineer role in 2014 as I was sick of it. So, I decided to do what I liked even if it meant that I was unemployed, which is drawing and painting. In the following years, I was still working as a CAD Designer in the UK to finance my art. Later on, when I got some success getting relevant clients, my hobby started turning to be my main profession. It was hard working two jobs for more than 13 hours a day, but soon I was a 100% dedicated artist.
What are your hobbies apart from drawing, and do they connect in any way with your passion for the 80s?
I am not sure. When I was working as an Engineer, my hobby was art, now art is my profession all the time left is to work on my personal illustrations or wait till summer to use my Kayak, learn windsurfing, and of course, go out with my friends. There is not much time left when you are a freelancer by the way. I am not sure how this can be connected to the 80s, I just try to have as much fun as I can!
Movies and music are known to be significant sources of inspiration for artists. Which one could you never give up?
Contemporary/Smooth Jazz from the 80s to 2000s inspires me a lot in my creativity, in fact, I use this music in most of my art videos, and it’s well connected to it. I’ve always been faithful to music artists like Kenny G, Vangelis, and Patrick O’Hearn. Also, rock bands like Van Halen, Survivor, and many other AOR bands from the US. I do not watch movies now as much as I used to, but I enjoy watching teen and romance comedies from 80s. However, there are two movies I am never tired of watching, Angel Heart and Howard the Duck.
What are the five films that have most influenced your aesthetic?
That’s hard to say. Campus Man 1987, Summer School 1987, and TV series like Baywatch, California Dreams, or Miami Vice. It’s about the west coast atmosphere, I guess.
What is one piece of advice you would give to an illustrator who wants to follow in your footsteps?
Imitating other illustrators you admire will help you experiment with different techniques, make a lot of mistakes, learn, and finally get enough discipline to find your own style.
All this is about discipline, observing and keep practising. And if you are young enough, study for an art degree to understand the history and basis of art.
What are your future plans?
My business got affected massively recently, as my Instagram, Facebook, and Facebook page were hacked and finally disabled by Meta. So, I had to start building my credibility again as an artist on my new social media accounts.
Being an illustrator here in Spain is not easy at all, as the government takes most of the income you can get, so I am feeling lucky to continue surviving as an illustrator. In any case, the market is outside, and most of my clients are from northern Europe, North America, and Japan, so I will keep working for these countries, from Spain for the moment. I am quite interested in Fashion Industry & advertising, so I am trying to stay tuned up in these areas.