COMPUTER ARTS UK FEATURING LEVY CREATIVE ARTIST KAKO! by Nick Carson
How would you describe the Brazilian creative scene at present? How do you think it compares with other global design hubs?
I think we’re getting there. I wouldn’t say we already have a scene like Europe, Japan or US always had, but we have brilliant minds that inspire us all to reach another level. Good thing is that talented people are remaining here now instead of going to work outside Brazil and I think that’s a way to gather strength to make it happen, that’s a way to really create a powerful Brazilian creative scene. Also the Brazilians got used to a more refined design and are starting to ask for it, so this is a great environment to work on, this design awareness and the demand for new ideas only helps us to be more and more creative.
Would you say that Brazil specializes in a particular creative field? Illustration, interactive media or graphic design, for instance?
I think we have good people everywhere, more and more we learning how to handle our business, improving ourselves technically and artistically and feeling confident that we can reach a higher level on each of the fields above. Not to mention our street art scene that showed the world how fresh the graffiti art can be. They had something to say and were louder than everybody else and that’s very important for an artist in a country bombarded by external influences. That’s better than any specialization, that’s a statement. I respect that.
Do you think there’s a particular defining aesthetic present in Brazilian design and illustration? If so, how would you describe it?
Sometimes I feel we are too bright and colorful. I keep wondering why, asking myself if this is really who we are or if this is something that someone wants us to be. I say that because I believe we have so much to show and it’s not always as bright and colorful as it seems. We’re deeper than that. This is a huge country; it’s very hard to define it. Unfortunately we are stereotyped because it’s easy for others to understand the whole. And it’s safer, I feel we only show that stereotyped face to be accepted. We must show all our faces at once and when it happens, then you’ll know how difficult is to describe Brazil.
Beyond aesthetics, is there a particular method of working, design philosophy and/or cultural vibe within the Brazilian creative scene?
I think more and more we are getting closer to each other. We are promoting ourselves better, helping each other, joining forces. You can feel there’s a unified voice, especially between illustrators. We have the “Bistecao Ilustrado”, which is a monthly get-together open to all designers and illustrators in Sao Paulo and that has spread to other cities; this month we are having the “Ilustre”, a huge Illustration event with a lot of lectures and workshops; next month Computer Arts Brazil will hold the 3rd Design Show; there are so much stuff going on now, I feel glad I’m part of all that.
Other than yourself, what three creative studios (or individual freelancers) would you say are at the very forefront of the creative scene in Brazil?
Definitely Carlos Bela is one of them. Works at Lobo. The guy is amazing, I could go on and on about his work. I also think that Flávia Nalon and Fábio Prata from PS.2 need to be mentioned. They are very serious about what they do and I respect that. From illustration I would say that you will hear a lot about this young guy, Ze Otavio Zamgirolami, in the near future. Amazing artist.
What are the main creative hubs in Brazil, beyond Rio and Sao Paulo? Are there particular clusters of designers, and if so, what do you think attracts them there?
Indeed Sao Paulo and Rio dominate the Brazilian scene but you can find brilliant people everywhere: Eduardo Recife in Belo Horizonte and Nitrocorpz in Goiania are some examples. But in the end almost everybody comes to SP/Rio.
What are Brazil’s leading design schools / courses, and are they the main source of new talent to the industry?
I wish I could give a more positive answer, but I think we are still in need of a place like that. I’m not saying that there are none, but I don’t think there is a place that I could say I’m proud of. I believe that there are people here that do an amazing job teaching and learning on their own, but that’s it. Unfortunately we have a saying that translated would be something like “The ones who know, do. The ones who don’t, teach”. And I can explain why. The educational system in Brazil is very outdated, basically if you don’t have a masters or a doctorate you can’t teach on a university; you are not recognized by the Ministry of Education as a potential teacher. I think this is very stupid and we all are losing with it. There are many professionals with extraordinary experiences and no degrees that can’t contribute in the education of our future designers, architects, engineers, economists and so on.
Recently I read an article by Alexandre Barros, a political scientist in the University of Chicago about this particular problem in Brazilian Universities. He says that at the University of Chicago, the biggest winner of Nobel Prizes today, you can enter without ever having gone to school. There, the primary criterion for hiring a teacher is the potential for a Nobel Prize. They know that each Nobel Prize attracts students, donations and other good teachers. This is what we need here to create this leading school, places with experienced people on each field teaching, not being prohibited to pass along what they learned practicing all their lives because of an outdated way of thinking.
Who are the main creative clients in Brazil – and do they often work with local designers? Or do most successful creatives aspire to work with international clients?
Main clients are always advertising agencies and yes they often work with local designers and illustrators. Because of “budget limitations” they fear working with international professionals. If they should do it or not, that’s not my business. Last time I saw something from an international illustrator here was in late 90s or early 00s, some Monsieur Z illos for a big telco campaign, but at that time I also heard it was someone simulating his style, which is very common when you “don’t have” enough budget.
Everyone wants to work internationally. If it’s on your reach, you’ll go for it. I’m fortunate to be able to do work mostly with international clients today, but I wouldn’t be able without having assistance. I think when you reach this level you’ll definitely need help to handle your business otherwise you won’t have time to sit and make a single straight line, believe me. The best thing that happened to me was being invited by Sari Levy-Schorr to join her team at Levy Creative Management. That was a turning point in my career; with her help I was able to manage the transition to the international market easily.
But most of all, it’s very important to creatives to know their limits; it’s not easy to handle international business, you have to know the languages, you have to know how to work your way into time-zones, know how to deal with different taxes and laws and it’s not easy to do it alone. Do you know that saying “Be careful what you wish for”? That can be applied here.
Where are you located, and what’s your connection to Brazil? (e.g. born there, relocated there, etc)
Born and raised in Sao Paulo. Still here, living and working.
How would you describe your style, and how does it fit within Brazil’s wider aesthetic, if there is one?
Putting my advertising work aside, it would remain lots of dark illustrations. I don’t think I’m a “one-style illustrator”, but when it comes to what I really like to do, it’s all dark and dirty. It’s not what someone would call “Brazilian”, I believe, but that’s what I like. I think it’s because I grew up with lots of comic books, and artists such as Mike Mignola and Dave McKean always influenced me. Dark and Dirty. Later I discovered the Ukio-e, the beautiful prints from Hokusai and Hiroshige and the limitation of colors imposed by this particular art. I like to work with a limited palette of colors. There are only few possibilities to use and this challenge is good, makes me think.
Where and what did you study – what’s your design background?
Actually I didn’t studied at any place. I did go to Fine Arts school but I dropped out to start my own business with my brother and some friends. It was not working for me to go to college and work at the same time, so I quit. I enjoyed much more spending my time in the studio working than in classes with bored old teachers that didn’t inspire you to do anything. All I know was learned by hard work and lots of personal studies. Right or wrong, that was my way of doing things. But sometimes I think I would enjoy going back to school today, probably because I think I wouldn’t take it so seriously, I would do it in my own way. It’s never to late to study, you know? My mom got into Psychology when she was 50. Best student in all her classes.
Who are your three biggest clients, and what projects have you worked on for them?
Lately I’m working with clients like Ford, Microsoft, AMBEV, all big, all advertising. But I’m glad I’m working again in editorial with art director Rob Wilson, from Playboy magazine. He’s such a wonderful person and always gets me cool articles to illustrate. Last one was about the “New James Bond”, a new breed of spies recruited directly from native countries instead of England or US. Loved that article. Also I’m working with Nike on something that will blow your minds next year, but I can’t get no further than that!
Take us through your favorite recent project in your portfolio. How did you win the work, who was it for, what was the brief, and how did you approach it? Would you say the work is distinctively Brazilian’?
I enjoyed working with Spanish design studio VASAVA ( www.vasava.es ) on a project called Galactic Battle of Foosball. The client was 55DSL and Panini and each artist was asked to design a tee about their national football team. It was a very open brief, but had to use the colors of each countries flag and of course, have some football going on somewhere. So it needed to be distinctively Brazilian.
Graphically speaking my art is a bit obvious at first glance but I really wanted to work with very particular theme of the Brazilian culture for a long time and this was a great chance to do it. I think people around the world don’t know much about our native’s culture and myths, which are so beautiful and so rich in many aspects and why not spread the word on a t-shirt?
I wanted to illustrate the natives as being our land and history, our beginning. The composition was created in a way to resemble our entire coast, what the Portuguese found here where they first came in 1500. I wanted the illo to have that close relation with nature too, the birds, the branches and also some kind of weightless and serene state, like if they were underwater, in a kind of a sleep that reminds me some of the lyrics of our national anthem: “Eternally lain on a splendid cradle, by the sound of the sea and the light of the deep sky”.
Posted on 07/27/2010 for KAKO