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24th October 2019 | Dublin
The Process: Illustrator Giovana Medeiros on Storytelling, Process and Burnout

Interview by Clara Finnigan



At our latest Glug Dublin event freelance illustrator, Giovana Mederios spoke about her practise, process and everything else. Born in Brazil, and based in Lisbon. She graduated in Fashion Design at her hometown and worked designing prints for textiles for a few years. After graduating in college, she moved to Dublin, where she studied Illustration at BCFE and has been working as a freelance illustrator ever since. Her work is inspired by nature, the feminine, kids, fantastical stories and day-to-day life. Working with flat shapes, bold colours and heavily painterly textures, her illustrations have been applied to a series of different mediums such as books, advertising, magazines, textiles, games, greeting cards. Some of her past clients include Chronicle Books, Harper & Collins, Cottage Press, Zara, Oxford University Press, Auzou Editions, Hallmark, American Greetings, Bloomsbury. In her free time, she creates autobiographical comics, drinks coffee and travels.


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What key ideas or themes does your work explore? 


My work is mainly for children’s books, so I love to draw kids having fun and exploring the world within fantastical scenes. Women and nature are also things which have always been present and I keep approaching these areas in multiple forms, especially within personal work. The beautiful and funny day-to-day moments, and people! I love drawing all sorts of people.


Do you think illustration is a powerful medium for storytelling? 


Although I’ve been doing it for years; for quite some time I thought I was just doing it because I liked drawing. I always found it hard to use my work to talk about the “big things”. Recently after following the news about the fires in the Amazon Rainforest, I created a piece that was a very personal response to it. Somehow that image got a lot of attention, and I got huge feedback from people telling me they could understand how I felt by looking at it, and it also brought awareness to what was happening, and was subsequently used in protests in different parts of the world. That was extremely powerful, and I felt very connected to people all around the world. I could then understand how an image can communicate and spread a message very quickly.



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What creative storyteller has inspired you and your work? 


Patti Smith has always been a huge inspiration for me. I came across her when I was in my late teens, first because of the music, and then later I read her books. “Just kids” was an awakening for me to understand where my need to create “something” came from. I love how she can turn the most mundane things into something sacred and beautiful, even though her Instagram account this day.


How has your relationship towards your own creativity changed since it is become your job?


Once I figured I was going to work with illustration, I focused really hard at being disciplined and following a process. It is very important to have that, especially in terms of work and managing projects. But I was always working towards an end goal, even when I was trying to play around with my sketchbooks and creating personal pieces. That eventually killed a little of my understanding of what I really wanted to be working on, because I lost some of my voice on the way. Now I think I am finding a balance.


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What advice would you give creatives to avoid burnout and remain inspired? 


Keep doing the work that makes you happy even when you are used to it, and let the work breath and flow. Understand your finances so you don’t have to take more work than you actually need. Take breaks and rest (like really rest, and try not to draw), and go out, and talk to people. Although I am quite introverted, I find that meeting people and having interesting conversations is one of the best things to do - that is one of my favourite ways to hear stories. 

I love social media and all the connections it has brought me, but it can be a tricky place to be in. There was a point, I was working on an illustration, but already thinking about the feedback I would get from it. Without realising we are constantly curating our own work before is even made. It's good to remember why you started doing what you do, and not to let yourself be to influenced. Also make sure to talk about your struggles with others.


Why did you become an illustrator, what excites you about the medium?


I think firstly it was because I always liked drawing. And I like stories.

I used to work designing prints for textiles, which was my first job and allowed me to draw a lot. However, I always had feedback that my drawings came across as too “child-like” or “too feminine”.

That was when I started to realise that I was applying to the wrong type of work. I am sure I could have taught myself other styles, the things that get my attention are more sweet, humorous and I decided to follow that. Also, there are so many things in the world that I find beautiful, interesting and inspiring. The illustration just became my way of filtering all the things I “collect” and trying to give back to the world.


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What is your process when creating work?


When it's client-based worked and there is a briefing, I usually study the brief and start researching. I then work on the sketches, colour studies, final, etc. Usually, If I have time, I like to do research outdoors and visit something related to the theme - like a park or museum. I finish most of my work on photoshop, but I’ve also been using a lot of Procreate.

Within personal work I try to keep sketchbooks from which I draw from life, and explore different mediums (more gouache and colour pencils lately). That is a way to keep the ideas flowing, moving my hands differently, and using new surfaces. That also helps me understand the colour a lot!

When I draw from life, I get very lost in the process, since I don’t have to “think” too much about. That is a way to let ideas flow freely, and sometimes new images start forming in my head. I also keep journals - nothing regular just when I feel like. I have very visual dreams, and I try to write them down. Sometimes I'm reading a book, or listening to a song, thinking about a conversation, and that makes me think about a certain subject and I let that sink in for a few days and see where it goes. Sometimes that translates to images, or not, but it is a way to keep things in motion. Of course all this personal work also helps the client based work, as it is my way to create my visual library.


What is your favourite work to date and why? 


This Dublin map I worked with Rothco. I chose Dublin as my home for a while, and that is the place I studied Illustration, and started pursuing it as a career. They got in touch with me, because they liked my sense of humour which was something I feel good to be recognised by.It wasn’t only super fun to work on, felt honoured to share some of these funny Dublin stories the creative director put together.


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You can check out Giovana's portfolio and channels by visiting her website.

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