name: Luis Miguel
surname: da Silva Melo
year of birth: 1981
Q1: When did you start making art?
I was always somehow involved in art, be it drawing or music.
I enjoyed drawing ever since I remember picking up a pen. In pre-school they didn’t want us to do more than one drawing a day (so we could vary our activities) but I often did two or more, it was my favourite thing to do.
Later though, in high-school, I kind of lost momentum with art (teachers weren’t good, and my class was super lazy) and got more into music.
There were no illustration schools at the time, so eventually I took graphic design in university. We didn’t do a lot of drawing past the first year. It was only when I was 21 or 22 that I came across internet art forums, and found out about digital art and what a tablet was. A bit late, but then I got into it heavily, learning on my own. That’s how my career started.
Q2: What does inspire you?
After more than 10 years looking at art, particularly videogame concept art, I get kind of saturated. I can appreciate it, and I have to keep up with what’s happening for my job, but most of my personal inspiration comes from other sources, like literature and cinema. Ther weirder and more unusual, the better. I like odd, old, cheap and even bad things. Anything that for some reason escapes what’s conventionally “good” might strike a chord with me (although I would say my art is pretty conventional for my current visual tastes).
Q3: What are your techniques?
I’m self-taught and don’t usually get along too well with strict methods… I try to find a balance between freedom to experiment and good technique. So I wouldn’t teach my techniques to anyone, they’re very hit-and-miss and probably all wrong (I’ve done a couple of tuorials, but I’m not extremely confident in them). But to give you some very general info, there’s no secret, I use Photoshop and simple brushes. I like to try a lot of different things, from painting loosely, to tight line work, to black-and-white inking and watercolor emulating (in the style of anime backdrops). All of these I studied a bit from artbooks, and explored instinctively.
Q4: What is the main idea or feeling behind your works?
There’s no particular idea, and my art covers a lot of feelings, I think. Most of all I try to give it a human side, and relate in some way to what’s happening in the picture. I try to always put a bit of my personal experience into the paintings, whether it’s drawing characters I would like to meet, or some fascination with a city or place I visited… this might sound cliché, but that’s really what I rely on the most to make my art “speak” for me. Much more than style choices.
Q5: What is the main color of your art and why?
I’ve noticed I use a lot of greens and earth-tones, and my pictures are pretty dark and dense (which is often a problem for printing). Well, green is my favorite color. I like warm tones, and I guess I started using them in my work unconsciously because of my love for old yellow-ish old film, in the beginning. I try to pay attention to it these days and stray away from that tendency. I would like to use all colors equally well and come up with creative combinations, more than sticking to my fvorites.
Q6: What would you improve about your work and why?
I would improve everything – from my sketching ability to color usage. Things don’t come naturally to me, because I don’t practice enough, I guess. It’s hard to become extremely good at anything when you have a lot of interests like I do, and I’m trying not to worry so much about that. As long as you keep doing what you like, improvement comes, so hopefully, as long as I have work coming, I’ll still grow a lot by doing this. Even if you don’t become a master, the important thing is to have fun and be proud of what your creations bring to the world, and what feelings they foster.
Q7: Do you have any project for the future?
I’m never short on projects, even if I can’t finish most of them (working on that!)… right now I’m about to move to Canada for a new adventure, aboard an illustration outsourcing studio, for which I’m alredy freelancing. I’m excited about working at a more demanding pace and learning with the people there. I think I’ll grow a lot technically. Personally, I would like to always keep a side-project. I write short stories, so I plan to keep doing that. Maybe some comics too!
Q8: Describe yourself with 3 words capturing the essence of Luis Melo.
Haha, this is hard! Hmm… 3 things are on my mind a lot these days:
Death – yeah, depressing, but recently, due to a couple of serious events, I’ve had a very strong realization that I’m a finite and aging being and have to make choices, live with them and accept loss. Growing up is hard and it’s become a theme in the things I draw and write.
Funk – The music I listen to helps me deal with life (and death), and funk specifically infuses me with a playfulness, sense of humour and readiness to improvise. I need this, otherwise I would take my morbid thoughts too seriously. Also, beats. dancing and playing drums are very comforting to me, like meditation, they make me feel a part of a harmonious thing, which is good when you’re agnostic, tend to be alone and aren’t always optimistic about things.
Freedom – This one in almost all its meanings. From mental freedom from personal ghosts, to freedom of speech… It’s my most valued idea, and I spend a lot of time thinking about how to counter the world’s constraints.
Maybe these don’t come across too strongly in my work, and aren’t the best at describing it, but they sure are in my mind every day.
Q9: Show us (link) your very first work. Describe it from techniques till feelings.
I wish I could find either a drawing from pre-school or one of my first digital works, but I think these are lost even to the internet. I found a very old one though, maybe from 10 years ago: HERE.
I remember I was inspired by the film Buffallo ’66 and created a series of these, around the story of a petty criminal. The technique wasn’t so different from what I do now, except I started with a scanned pencil sketch and knew a lot less about color, and had sloppier notions of scale and composition. I wanted to recreate the feeling of a depressing film, set in cold cities and crappy motels.
Q10: What did change from your first work till now?
Well, I improved a lot technically, and if I were to finish a story about these characters today, I’d probably be better able to do it, since I’ve practiced my writing too. But looking at work from then, I often feel surprised with my ingenuity at the time and wonder if I haven’t lost a lot of it… I wouldn’t put this in my portfolio, but I love looking at it. It makes me go back to a time when possibilities seemed endless, and that helps me get out of the “style” boxes I’ve developed or that my job forces me into. It gives me ideas to freshen up my actual work.
Q11: What is art for you? Escaping from reality or the essence of life?
I dont know if I think of it as either of them… it’s probably closer to the latter. I think it’s the best and most complete way we have of exploring the world’s possibilities. In art, life becomes a multiverse. It’s an arena where every idea can be challenged and every kind of feeling and thought can be evoked. It’s a channel for absolute freedom.