From Argentina to Bay Ridge.
Thirty-two-year-old muralist and Argentina native Andres Cobre came to Bay Ridge this month to work on a mural of musical legend Frank Sinatra.
Cobra, who has a sizable following on Instagram, is famous for his elaborate hyper-realistic paintings displayed around the world.
On Mon., Feb. 18, Cobre began work on the mural, which spotlights the famous singer’s blue eyes, outside of the neighborhood staple Tops Restaurant & Bar Supply at 8001 Third Avenue.
Cobre told this paper how excited he was to share his work with Bay Ridge residents.
“This is my first time here in New York so I was very excited to come here, paint and share my work,” he said. “What I do is called hyper-realism. It’s basically picture quality that looks like a photograph. That is the goal.”
When asked why he chose Sinatra for the busy shopping strip, the answer was simple.
“Everyone in the neighborhood loves him,” Cobre said. “Wherever I go, I try to paint people who the viewers and neighborhood can recognize. They can feel like they have an attachment to that kind of character. I thought Frank Sinatra was a beautiful idea.”
The classic “New York, New York” aside, Sinatra also filmed a movie in 1947 called “It Happened in Brooklyn” and released a song “The Brooklyn Bridge.”
The wall also shares the artwork of local muralist Jenna Morello, who helped Cobre come to the neighborhood as well as with the finished product. She also inspired Cobre to paint an “old school singer” like Sinatra.
“He was known for his blue eyes,” he said. “That was one of the most important parts of his look.”
Making them the focus, Cobre said, was the best way to utilize the wall space.
“It’s like a panoramic,” he added. “I decided to zoom in on the eyes to better use the wall and Jenna is [creating] a frame around it so he looks like he is looking into the mirror.”
After five full days of work, one of them snowy, the mural was complete.
“You’re never done or finished,” he said early Friday, Feb. 22 — the deadline he’d given himself with a flight that night. “There’s always something you can improve on like fix a wrinkle or a color or volume, but I have to be done tonight, and I’m getting there.”
The road to becoming a successful artist wasn’t easy for the muralist.
“Since I was a little kid, I wanted to be an artist,” he explained. “For me, since I’m from Argentina, the possibilities they teach you when you’re young is that you can be a lawyer, a doctor, an architect, but there is never a chance to be an artist. They say there’s no way you can make a living through art.”
Though, Cobre didn’t let it stop him.
“From the beginning, I did it just because it was fun for me and I enjoyed doing it. Eventually, it became work and I’m so satisfied with it,” he said. “It’s really hard for people in Latin America to make a living through art. I know that it’s a privilege that I’m doing these kinds of things.”
As he grew older, Cobre said, he honed his craft.
“I’m self-taught,” he added. “I started as a filmmaker, an animator — 3D in general. I learned painting just because I wanted to paint. It was a way to get away from my responsibilities at the time. At the beginning, I couldn’t do these realistic pieces. I started with letters, then simple characters. It was like an evolution to get to this level of realism.”
Cobre has been around the world, creating massive murals of figures such as Robin Williams in San Francisco, Mario Benedetti in Uruguay and Frida Kahlo back home in Argentina.
“I’ve been everywhere like Dubai, France, Spain, Netherlands, Brazil, Uruguay, the states,” he said, adding that Africa and Russia are still goals of his. “It’s awesome but at the same time, it’s a challenge because you’re going somewhere where nobody knows you. Like in Brooklyn, I came here and I had to walk around the area, asking for permission to paint a wall and nobody knows you. So that was kind of hard.”
All in all, Cobre said, it’s all a part of the challenge.
“When you get the final results, it’s pretty crazy how many people want to interact to you,” he said. “They come and talk to you and say that it looks awesome. It inspires me to paint more.”
His success has translated on social media where he has almost 22,000 followers.
“It’s crazy,” Cobre said. “I don’t believe it. I really appreciate my followers that appreciate my work.”
The residents of Bay Ridge, he said, were just as appreciative.
“Ninety-five percent of the people who have come by have been positive,” Cobre said. “They say that it’s beautiful and they love what I’m doing. People seem really happy with it. I’m loving it here in Bay Ridge because it is a real neighborhood. It’s not a big tourist place like Time Square or the rest of Manhattan. You can see the real people from New York and Brooklyn. I wish I could stay longer.”
Cobre also stressed that the owners of Tops were very accommodating.
“They were super nice and cool,” he said. “They would always check up on me and ask if I wanted coffee or soup or if I needed a jacket. I feel like I have real friends here now.”
To see more of Cobre’s work, visit www.instagram.com/cobreart.