Maria Gabriela Gama

Maria Gabriela Gama

Represented by Lilla Rogers Studio
Maria Gabriela Gama Interview

Maria Gabriela Gama

Children's Illustrator

Who or what made you want to become an illustrator?

Since I was little I always loved to draw, I don't even remember a time when I didn't. I loved overlining comic books, recreating my favorite animated characters on paper and all that. I was hooked from the beginning. However, I didn't really know what to do with that. So, I got into a Graphic Design school to pursue brading because I thought, as a creative, that was the only thing that could get me a job. Despite that, I never stopped drawing. A couple years went by and one day I got to see lectures of a few successful seniors that worked with illustration and children's publishing and I immediately fell in love - that’s when I realized I could turn my cute drawings into a career. So that inspired me to transition from graphic design to illustration.

Did you attend art school or undertake any other formal artistic training?

I got a Bachelor's degree in Graphic Design at UNESP (São Paulo State University). I could experiment a lot of things during my graduation, but there weren't any available classes that would dive deep into illustration. Nevertheless, it definitely was important for me to develop my creative repertoire, and it helped me understand and develop editorial projects. 

Also, moving to a completely new city far away from home, in a new environment was life-changing. Now that I've graduated I still miss the calm campus filled with trees where I could meet a lot of cats, marmosets that wanted to steal my food, and once in a while beautiful toucans.

Where do you currently live and where did you grow up?

I live in Bauru, a city located in the countryside of São Paulo state, a few hours away from São Paulo city, Brazil. However I grew up in São Vicente, which is a city on the coast side of the state. I moved at 18 to attend college and decided to stay for a while, but I do miss the beach from time to time.

Who or what have been some of your major artistic influences?

Recently I have been very influenced by mid-century artists and graphic designers, like Mary Blair,  Alice and Martin Provensen, Jim Flora and others. I just adore the way they use shapes and colors, I have a lot to learn from them! What also inspires me a lot is my culture and things I see around me, so I think that's why my work is mostly very warm and colorful. Brazil has a rich culture and I want to add that more and more to my work.

What is your favourite medium to work with and why?

I've always been more drawn to the digital medium. I think the main reason is convenience, but also the infinite amount of possibilities you can get from it. I currently use Photoshop with a Medium Intous Wacom tablet, and recently started using Procreate on IPad.

However, I love the look and feeling of traditional pieces, that's why I try to replicate that on the digital medium.  Lately, in my spare time, I've been playing with acrylics and gouache, and though it's messy, it can be really fun! Hopefully I can merge those two together and apply on my professional work someday.

How long does it take on average for you to finish a spread, from initial sketch to final colour?

First thing I do is look for references and sketch a few thumbnails. This inicial process can take about 1 hour. Once I have the overall skeleton of the piece, I refine it a bit more, and that can take 2-3 hours. The time for the final painting really will depend on how complex the scene is, but a more complex one could take from 9 to 8 hours of painting.

What do you hope children take away from your drawings?

My main goal is that they feel connected to the characters, and because of that representation is really important to me. When I was little, I didn't have many characters that looked like me, and when I found one, I held onto them forever. I hope I can bring this joy through my illustrations.

Share your favourite piece of artwork from your portfolio and walk us through its creation.

One of my favorite pieces I made recently is a cover for Alice in Wonderland. It is a personal piece, I wanted to play with composition, and add a lot of elements to it as a frame, and finish it off with a beautiful lettering.

After looking at references, original illustrations, and researching a few things about the book, I started with a very loose sketch. I had never done any piece like this before, but it felt surprisingly easy! I assume it's because I like the story and characters so much, I subconsciously knew exactly what I wanted to do.

After that, I made a cleaner sketch, adding more details. Then I added the colors and texture. It was also easier choosing colors because I knew I wanted a magical gloomy mood, so a lot of deep purples and pinks were on my mind. 

All of the steps were done in Photoshop.

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First step

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More detailed sketch.

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Final color image.

What are some of your favourite subjects to draw?

I've always loved to draw women and girls in general. It's my comfort zone, because you can have a lot of fun with accessories, motifs and florals. However, recently I discovered a new love, drawing anthropomorphic animals. Animals were not my thing, I was scared of drawing them because I thought they were too hard to draw. But once I gave it a try, I realized it was a lot of fun! So now I won't say I don't like something until I really try it.

How do you get your creative juices flowing?

I start most of the projects by making some tea on cold days or getting some refreshing juice on hot days. I usually go through a few picture books to feel inspired, I put on a good podcast and start researching about what I will be drawing. If it comes easily I start sketching right away, if not, I try to organize my thoughts by writing ideas and outlines of the project down.

If I’m working on something personal, I usually keep a notepad (usually on my phone) of ideas I have throughout the day. It can be anything that pops up into my mind, but it usually is based on something I see in real life; an interesting scene, a cute cat, a beautiful dress. So when I need inspiration, I consult that.

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