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Interview for QX Magazine

QX Meets Bobo Bear

The arty bear with a passion for painting!

We know you’ve seen this absolutely adorable bear drawing everywhere you go. From the window displays around Soho, to the t-shirt of the guy you’re chatting up at the bar, they’re EVERYWHERE. We decided to find out more about these cute, buff little bears so we sat down for a chat with Bobo Bear creator Roberto Nisi. The bear behind Bobo, if you will…

So Bobo Bear, or should we say Roberto, have you always loved illustrating?

Definitely. I was an introverted boy and drawing at school was a great way to break the ice. I spent my childhood drawing, reading comics and watching cartoons/anime.
When I was around 20 I started studying as a comic designer, although to pay for my education I had to work at a supermarket and that became my full time job after realizing there are not many open doors for young artists in an Italian small city. My dream remained in standby for years.

You have quite a recognisable way of drawing these bears. Where did Bobo Bear come from?

I’ve only started drawing men in the last three years. Moving to London from Italy gave me a great inspiration, everything was fresh and exciting; I found myself sitting in some café in Soho looking around and needing to express this new energy I found. I created my first two gay characters, Adam and Ben, with the idea of drawing an erotic comic, but then fashion caught my interest and I started to play around with t-shirt designs. The success of Bobo Bear really took me by surprise!

Do other gay illustrators like Tom of Finland inspire you?

Not really. I love and admire Tom of Finland, but my work is more inspired by Japanese artists like Gengoroh Tagame or Jiraiya.

Interesting! So the name, Bobo, how did you come up with that?

Bobo is a nickname my old friends gave me over 20 years ago and I love the way Bobo Bear sounds, for me it’s like saying “Welcome to the bear world of Bobo!” Then learning Spanish I realized Bobo means “silly”, which also represents me, and the funny world of my characters!

You have names for your characters, like Adam, is he a person you know?

No, Adam is just my dream bear, I tried to give him all the characteristics I love in a man: a big chunky body and a nice full beard, but also a gentle face expression and a cheeky personality. I have to say though that I met a few guys actually looking a bit like him!

Your pictures are EVERYWHERE! How are you getting yourself out there?

I obviously sell online (Bobo-Bear.com), but I’m also in quite a few shops and bars in the UK, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Netherlands and in the US. I really love is travelling to bear events/prides, having my stall and meet all the people who helped me with their support, specially through social media.

Where do you see the Bobo brand going?

I will definitely create new and more diverse characters, and friends for Adam to play; I would love to have a Bobo Bear colouring book. I might also visit the US and bring Adam there!

We would TOTALLY buy a Bobo Bear colouring book.
Do you have any advice for any budding illustrators and artists out there?

Just have your unique style and be proud of your work. Don’t be afraid of knocking on doors and keep doing it, sometimes it can take more than you want, and you need to be patient. Most importantly, know that it’s never too late: I started doing what I wanted at 38 and I’ve never been happier!

To find out more and buy some Bobo Bear merchandise head over to Bobo-Bear.com. You can also find him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter at @BoboBearArt. Bobo Bear t-shirts, cups and cards are also available at Prowler Soho.

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