BOGOTA, Colombia — Artist Pedro Villalba Ospina was 14 years old when he was first introduced to “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” one of the best-known novels by Nobel prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It was the beginning of a long and passionate relationship.
Since then, he has read the book 27 times. So captured by it, and transfixed with a desire to explore it further, Villalba embarked on a journey to illustrate a story that has long inspired filmmakers, writers and musicians.
Villalba studied the novel and went to Garcia Marquez’s home town of Arataca (referred to as the inspiration for the book’s fictional setting in the village of Macondo), to sketch its environs and absorb the spirit of the place. Drawing on his training in painting and print illustration, he made 120 metal-plate etchings of incredible detail, which were then used to make original prints using century-old presses in his workshop, Taller Bosque Primario. The process took no less than six years.
Only after the project was completed in 2002 did Garcia Marquez see it, at the Casa de America in Cuba where Villalba was exhibiting his work in 2005. Villalba admittedly was nervous over what the renowned author would think — but he appeared to be as taken and impressed as others who have had the opportunity to see the illustrations. The novelist suggested they publish an illustrated version of the book, which was published last year in Spanish and features 60 of the original 120 illustrations.
Villalba has also made special editions of the complete set of 120 original illustrations, called “One hundred years of solitude in etchings — The view of an artist towards the novel of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.” The illustrations have been exhibited in various South American countries, the U.S. and Cuba.
Villalba spoke to GlobalPost about the process of transforming his passion for a novel into a body of work that is as much an homage to Garcia Marquez as it is a unique creation of his own.