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Illustrator Profile - Andre Carrilho: "Don't just create pretty images--say something"

By Robert Newman   Thursday June 16, 2016

André Carrilho is an illustrator, cartoonist and animator based in Lisbon, Portugal, who is best-known for his masterful elegantly twisted portraits, which have appeared in The New Yorker, New York, Vanity Fair, The New York Times and many more publications around the world. In addition to his distinctive caricatures, Carrilho creates smart and powerful conceptual illustration, and has started branching out into graphic reportage. He created a spectacular mural for the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscars Partyfeaturing a magnificent array of Hollywood stars. Carrilho’s work has a stylishly old-school feel, in large part because he draws most of the illustrations by hand, scanning in later to add color. He says that the biggest challenge of working alone is “Knowing if what you’re doing is worth doing.”

MY LIFE:
I live in Lisbon, Portugal, and have been working as an illustrator since 1991.

I inherited the talent for drawing from my mother’s side. My mother and my grandmother are good with arts and crafts, painting, sewing. One of my uncles is a caricaturist, and another uncle, my mother and my father are architects, so drawing and art have always been present in my family.

When I was 16 I spent a month as apprentice in my uncle’s architectural studio in Macau, China. I was admitted to university to study graphic design but didn’t go further than the third year. I left school to work as a designer and illustrator.

I’ve just had my first child, a now six-month-old baby girl, and that has been a seismic event in my creative mind.

MY WORKSPACE:
I work at home, simply because it’s convenient. As a freelancer my schedules can vary a lot, so going to a studio somewhere else in the city would be an added stress factor.

HOW I MAKE MY ILLUSTRATIONS:
I draw by hand—most of the illustration—sketching with pencil on paper. I then scan and color it in Photoshop.

MY FIRST BIG BREAK:
Oh, I’ve had a few. First it was in my last year of high school, when I saw a couple of classmates making a portfolio to show at a local newspaper. It never occurred to me that you could do that. I immediately went home and did a portfolio myself, and got a paying job doing cartoons for a new newspaper. I was living in Macau with my mother, and I got my first paycheck as a caricaturist/cartoonist at 17 years old. I bought a Nikon FM2 Camera that I still have to this day.

In 2001 I did a series of caricatures for Publico, one of the main Portuguese newspapers, and with it I got a Gold Award for Illustrators Portfolio at the Society for News Design. That was the event that led to work outside of Portugal.

MY INFLUENCES:
I’ve been influenced by cinema, photography, comics and caricature artists. But if you ask me I can quickly say comics authors Hugo Pratt, Hergé, Goscinny, Chris Ware, Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes, Mike Mignola, Richard Corben, Portuguese cartoonists António Antunes, Cid and João Abel Manta.

MY MOST ADMIRED CREATIVE PERSON:
I’d have to say Chris Ware, because his work is the ultimate confluence of illustration, literature, comics, design and narrative visual deconstruction. He pushes the boundaries of what’s possible with graphic narrative to one of its most extraordinary outcomes, leaving us mere mortal artists trying to figure out where to go instead. I also like Sempé a lot, for his deceptive and melancholic simplicity.

MY CREATIVE INSPIRATION:
I read novels and comics, and watch movies. But what I really like to do is travel to Hong Kong.

THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE OF WORKING ALONE:
Knowing if what you’re doing is worth doing.

A MEMORABLE ASSIGNMENT FOR THE PAST YEAR:
Doing an illustration for a mural with the portraits of the main Oscar nominees for the Vanity Fair Oscar Party. I got to see some of my favorite actors photographed in front of my portraits of them.

DREAM ASSIGNMENT:
Being sent to the International Space Station to do a graphic reportage on the life in space.

MY FAVORITE ART DIRECTOR:
I’ve had very few bad experiences with art directors, and never with a major publication. Most of my clients have been so for years, so I maintain very good ongoing work relations with a few art directors; others I work less frequently, but it’s always a treat. The ones that come to mind are Steven Banks of Los Angeles magazine, Colin Wilson and Sarah Morley of The Independent on Sunday, Chris Dixon of Vanity Fair, Erica Weathers of the New Statesman, Pedro Fernandes of Diário de Notícias, Chris Curry at The New Yorker, among others. What they have in common is a very keen eye for illustration and a willingness to trust and welcome the illustrator’s input, while still leading you to the best collaborative solution.

SOME OF MY FAVORITE ILLUSTRATORS:
Ralph Steadman is another artist that I really admire and look up to, for his seemingly anarchic approach to drawing, a master of chaos and contrast. Charles Burns, for his precise style full of psychological tension. Jim Woodring, because the world needs to know what his brain will come up with next. Bob Staake, for the way he playfully arrives at elegant visual solutions.

OTHER WORK:
I sometimes do some VJ-ing under the name Video Jack, a project with my fellow creative Nuno Correia, of interactive and generative visuals. You can check it out here. Other than that I’m a little overwhelmed at the moment with the editorial work to think of doing anything else. I’d like to do more comics too, like this one.

HOW I STAY CURRENT:
I love animation and I try to incorporate it in my work and much as I can, and recently some publications have asked for it. But my clients are pretty conventional, except for myself, when I work for personal projects. Recently I’ve started to write and do graphic reportage, and that’s an area that I’d like to pursue.

HOW I PROMOTE MYSELF:
In my career I’ve done close to no personal promotion, except doing a website and sending out a couple of postcards and a homemade book, in the early 2000s. I’ve won awards, and that has got me some valuable attention. Sometimes I call and schedule a meeting with an art director, if possible, and show my work in person. Presently I maintain Facebook and Twitter accounts that serve as outlets for my recent work, and I enjoy the immediate feedback from people.

ADVICE FOR SOMEONE STARTING OUT:
Practice, practice, practice. Don’t just create pretty images—say something.

See more André Carrilho illustrations, new work and updates:
André Carrilho website
Twitter: @andre_carrilho
Facebook
Video Jack StudiosSSave

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