Leonardo Gutierrez, an artist from Argentina who now lives in Santiago, Chile, has been creating art as far back as he can remember. He has dabbled in comics, web design, the booming video game industry in South America, and is now going into fashion via his company, Oso Apparel. As Gutierrez put it, “I’m all over the place [with art].” Gutierrez spoke with mitú about his clothing brand venture, which brings together classic video game and cartoon characters and the bear community.
Have you ever seen Luigi and Mario portrayed as bears? No, we’re not talking about the animal. We’re talking about the gay, human variety of bear.
In the gay community, the term “bear” refers to someone who can be in shape (but not totally ripped) or with a pot belly for days and has body and facial hair (because bears are furry). For some people in the LGBTQ community, bears are the unsung heroes of body positivity because the bear community embraces diversity in body shapes.
This is the visionary behind Oso Apparel and the transformation of video game characters into furry bears (not the animal).
“I guess the idea came from all those Disney princesses being turned into all sort of things, even cement mixers that one killed me,” Gutierrez says about his inspiration behind these reimagined characters. “But more than that I came up with the idea of making bear versions, or ‘bearsions’, of content that I like.”
“The first ones were actually my Sailor Bears,” says Gutierrez.
Though the Sailor Bears didn’t attract too much attention, Gutierrez continued to draw his favorite cartoon and video game characters into bears because that was just something he really enjoyed doing.
His second round of creating “bearsions” as he calls them came in the form of classic characters that are all in the Super Smash Bros. video game.
“I love and have been playing Smash Bros since the first game came out in 1999, so it was only natural to choose the game,” says Gutierrez. “Smash has a BIG collection of characters, so I decided to go for the original roster to keep it contained.”
Gutierrez identifies as someone in the bear community it definitely played a role in who he re-imagined these characters.
Gutierrez says that he has seen these characters depicted in fan art several times but one thing was missing, “bearsions” of these beloved characters.
His “bear art” consists of more than just re-imagining video game characters.
“What gets me the most is when people tell me they made an emotional connection with my art,” Gutierrez says. “Like this one time I did a very loving piece of me and my now-ex hugging in bed, and a guy told me it got him tearing up as he realized he was worth being loved, like in the picture. That was one of the warmest comments I’ve ever received.”
When it comes to the haters, it’s safe to say that Gutierrez is unbothered.
“I love reading what people have to say, even in some of the dankest places,” Gutierrez admits. “I find most of the comments are hilarious, even the hateful ones.”
Gutierrez says that by creating these works of art, he is staying true to himself and giving representation to something that is not usually acknowledged.
Gutierrez says that the work he created in the past is not what he wanted to do. On the contrary, he found that work tedious, boring, and uninspiring. After some time struggling with drawing what other people wanted and liked, Gutierrez started to create bear art so that he could start representing his communities.
He also created Oso Apparel, a store with bear products.
Despite the quick growth that Gutierrez says he’s experienced, he will be keeping the name in Spanish so the brand fully encompasses his Latino roots.
You can also get some of his drawings on T-shirts to wear your bear pride.
“I created my clothing brand OSO with this idea in mind, looking to give gays, geeks and bears a place in fashion and not just behind it,” Gutierrez says.
Gutierrez wants his fans and other bears to know that they are beautiful just the way they are.
“Society has its ideas and standards for the best body and so many people follow blindly. Don’t get caught by them,” Gutierrez says even though he admits that he also struggles with this issue. “You are beautiful and worth it and your mental and physical health is always the priority. It’s ok to not be happy with your body and it’s ok to like it just as it is. Whatever you do or think of it, just make sure it’s what you really want, and not just what others expect.”
Gutierrez has some plans to expand his clothing line as fast as possible but he knows that it is not possible without the support he has received from his fans.
“Last but not least, I want to thank every one of you who enjoy and support me and my art,” Gutierrez says. “I wouldn’t be here getting interviewed if it wasn’t for you.”
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