Jorge Mascarenhas

1-Where are you from and how long have you been illustrating?

I was born in Boston, but I grew up partly in Brazil and Mexico before moving to California to study College. I currently live in Alameda, a tiny island off the San Francisco Bay. Ive been illustrating since 2007.

2-You have a really strong sketchbook practice that really shows on your blog. How does working in your sketchbook play in the artwork you create outside the sketchbook?

At school I never carried a sketchbook or have a discipline for it. My current sketchbook paintings started two years ago, as an exercise to grow as an artist. It now serves me as a useful tool to come up with ideas and different approaches. It keeps me from having creative blocks, which every illustrator is familiar with.

3-The thing I love about your work is how raw, genuine, and emotional each piece is, that draws the viewer into a dream like reality that is strangely relatable. Could you walk me through how you would develop a piece of artwork for publication?

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by book illustrations. Most of these were about dark fairy tales (which were scary!) and fables. Most of them dealt with consequences if you did not obey. Today the publisher would think twice before publishing these scary images for kids. I found them fascinating. When doing a piece, whatever the subject is, I try to merge the fantasy with the real world. For me emotion is a very important element. When I'm given an assignment, it is important for me to identify the core mood of the article or story. It's important to convey this emotion on my initial drawing. If it's not there, the painting will be also lifeless. In almost every painting I use a mix of acrylics, inks and oils. Once it's finished, I scan the painting and submitted via email or ftp.

4- For a while, I thought that the east coast was where lots of great illustrators were trained and or lived to be continually inspired by the large art communities that are in the big cities. But more and more, I am seeing a lot of great stuff coming out of schools from California, and illustrators that are moving from the east coast to the west coast. What makes California, unique that separates it from someone who went to school or works in New York/Boston/Philadelphia/Baltimore?

I'm not sure. I think California is getting a great generation of artists that are getting attention nationwide. When I was in school I learned from nationally recognized illustrators, and that was a great inspiration of its own. Plus, we had great guest speakers at our school. It was very interesting to learn how they think. But I think no matter where you are you can find inspiration. You just have to look closely at your surroundings. Inspiration is everywhere. You can get it from books, music, friends, your own life situations, architecture, movies, etc. It's a matter of what you can do with what you got. At CCA we were encouraged to be unique artists.

5-What was the best thing you learned when you started getting work as an illustrator?

The best thing is to explore subject matters that I would never think of. Illustration gives you the opportunity to tackle a wide variety of problems.

6-How has your work evolved since you left CCA?

It evolved completely. When I was at CCA, I was heavily influenced by illustrators like Gregory Manchess, Bernie Fuchs and Skip Liepke. With the exception of Greg, all the others were considered too old school for the modern illustration world. My work passed through many phases, I painted very colorful and reference based illustrations. I reworked my portfolio three times and then had an epiphany. I wasn't doing what I liked and it showed in my portfolio. The work was lifeless. Then I revisited what I liked when I was younger, when I had fun drawing. I borrowed some aspects of the past and merged them with the present. I liked the limited color monotype/etching like images from the books of my childhood. I was ignoring a the things that I truly loved. After working everyday on my portfolio, something was born.

7-I read somewhere that you were really into comics when you started at CCA, until you fell in love with creating works with paint. Have you now considered doing a fully painted graphic novel?

Yes! It's a project that's on the back on my mind. I need to come up with a good story though...

8-I hope I don’t sound patronizing when I ask this, but do you ever feel limited by working traditionally with the rising interest for digital/interactive illustrations, or is it just another medium to work in to get across ideas/stories?

No worries. I love to paint and I love the feel of it. With that said, the computer is an essential tool for illustrators. It's important to know all the software involved with image making. But I choose to use only as a tool for adjusting contrast, or making some last minute changes (for example, changing the color of a shirt). The way I work is fast, so working traditionally has never been an issue. If you not aware on how the computer can work for you, then you're in trouble. I strongly believe people will always appreciate traditional painting/drawing. Today I see a lot of digital stuff that looks the same. It's also hard to be a unique digital artist.

9-Are you teaching these days?

Yes. I teach a painting class at UC Berkeley.

10-What are you up to when you’re not illustrating?

Mostly traveling. My family is scattered all over the globe. I have relatives living in Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Denmark, Portugal and Japan. It always gives me an excuse to leave the country. If I'm not traveling, I'm probably catching with friends, visiting books stores, or watching movies.

11-What are you loving about illustration right now?

There's a lot of great stuff out there. More than ever! I see more and more a variety of personal voices.

12-Advice for young illustrators trying to get their start.

Be true to yourself. Don't try to imitate a known illustrator just to make a quick buck, or because you're lazy. Trends come and go. Work hard and smart! Remember, as long as you are honest with yourself, your work will standout. Be patient and disciplined.

13-Advice for the veterans?

I think I can learn more from people who been out there for years. Their work have survived many changes in the industry and they continue to adapt. One thing would be continue to inspire younger generations.

14-Final Word?

It's time to get my coffee...

Thanks Jorge!
Check out more of Jorges work: www.jorgemstudio.com

All images copyrighted Jorge Mascarenhas