As we officially enter the Autumn period, we present to you our Illustrator of the Month: Member Paola Saliby. Based in São Paulo (Brazil), Paola initially trained in Fashion before deciding to steer her career path into Illustration. With a plethora of clients under her belt including Facebook, Google and Daily Telegraph, Paola is increasingly experimenting with painting and expanding her reach.
Join us as we speak to Paola about her personal development as an Illustrator, the illustration scene in Brazil and her process:
Tell us more about how your career started – Why and how did you transition from Fashion Design to Illustration?
When I was studying fashion design I had the opportunity to learn a lot about drawing. Back then I was very into fashion and didn’t know much about the illustration scene.
Right after graduating I started working for a brand as a fashion designer assistant but I wasn’t happy at all. At the same time, I was taking drawing classes and found out that illustration could be a real career, so I decided to pursue that and started building my portfolio as an illustrator. It was very hard at first because, to be honest, I didn’t know how to start. A bit later things began to happen and I could start with some editorial pieces.
My first editorial piece was for the fashion tab of a news website here in Brazil. After that I did few more pieces for this client and then they invited me to create weekly illustrations for a blog about maternity. I did that for a few months, and it was a good opportunity to learn how to deal with short deadlines. Back them my style was completely different to what it is now.
Soon I started to work for some magazines and, from that point, I started considering myself a professional illustrator.
What is the illustration scene like in Brazil? What are the challenges of being an Illustrator there?
Brazil is full of talented illustrators and I’m proud to say that we are a very united community. Most of my friends are illustrators and we can always count on each other, so we feel very supported in that sense.
But on the other hand, there’s not much investment coming from companies (especially publishers) on illustration work, and we are always struggling to make a living out of it because illustration in Brazil it’s not as valued and appreciated compared to countries that have a stronger design culture.
Fortunately, we now have more independent events going on such as fairs focused on small publishers, new artists, illustrators and designers, so people have the chance to show and sell their work at this events. A lot of artists are also selling their work online and it works very well.
Brazilians illustrators have great potential. Even though most of us are self-taught (because we don’t have any illustration grad schools) amazing things are being created here despite those challenges.
There aren’t many references to fees or good terms online for Brazilian illustrators, or they are not as detailed and clear as the AOI pricing support (for instance), so for me the resources for here in Brazil are not very useful. And even when we consult the price charts available, we know that most of the clients won’t have enough budget to pay a fair price. Note: this is where the membership team can help provide bespoke advice based on the territory/area of the commission.
I believe that most Brazilians illustrators are seeking out international clients not only because they got better fees, but because there are more job opportunities and more challenging projects going on.
You have also spent part of your career in Berlin. How did this move influence you and your work?
I lived in Berlin between 2015 and 2016 and It was an amazing experience. I was very inspired by what I saw not only there, but also in other European countries that I had the opportunity to visit.
Going to exhibitions and museums in Europe was life changing and it had a great impact on my work. I learnt a lot more about art history and came back full of new discoveries and references.
But to be honest, the most amazing about living abroad was appreciating the place where I come from. When I came back to Brazil I found myself more open to see São Paulo (which is where I’m based) from a very different perspective, and I just realised how inspiring were some aspects of the city. I guess I came back from Europe feeling much more Brazilian than I ever felt.
I think this experience in Berlin was crucial to my development as a human being. I discovered a lot about myself during this journey, and this in turn reflects on my work.
You have worked on many editorial projects. Can you walk us through the process (from pencil to final result)?
When I’m working on more conceptual editorial pieces (which are my favourite) I usually start on my notebook, writing and analysing key words from the article, making associations between them until I find a way to “shape” that idea. After that, I draw a bunch of thumbnails to come up with a nice composition and, when it’s approved by the client, I go to photoshop to make the final piece.
The communication with clients happens mainly through e-mail and sometimes phone calls, or face-to-face meetings.
Some clients are very easy to work with – They send clear and detailed briefs, respond on time and are very respectful. But of course, sometimes we have to deal with lack communication and messy briefs which can delay the project and create more rounds of feedback.
When I have time and the budget is good, or when I’m creating something personal, I love working with gouache. I really enjoy spending some time away from the computer when I’m painting, and the texture I can achieve when working on paper.
What has been the most exciting brief you’ve worked on so far and why?
To be honest I can’t pick just one project, but I really like when I have the opportunity to help a cause. I recently did a very simple illustration for this initiative called Project Três, which empowers women in India and Kenya through job opportunities, so they can raise money to build their first center. In this case it was not about the briefing or the complexity of the illustration, but the feeling that I can do something meaningful with my work.
I also love challenging projects, like some editorial pieces that I did. Working for Facebook and Google was very exciting as well, not only because they are both huge clients but also because I could learn a lot during the working process. For example, I created a pack of stickers for Google Allo; this allowed me to learn a lot about character design, which was very fun and new to me.
With both experiences I had to be very careful technically, considering how the illustration would appear in a very small scale. It was a challenging process to make everything look good on the screen.
What can we expect from you in the future? Any exciting projects in the pipeline?
I’m about to start a big project for a company here in Brazil and I’m very excited about that. I can’t say much about it now, but it will be nice to see my work on other surfaces besides paper.
I’m also focusing a bit more on my paintings. My style has been changing a lot and I’m trying to find clients and job opportunities that could be open to what I’m doing right now. In the future I’d love to work less digitally and more traditionally.