Illustrator of the Day: Marina Esmeraldo

ADC Member says illustration is not for the faint of heart.

Happy Friday! Illustration Month is in full swing at ADC  — have you stopped by the Gallery lately to take in the jaw droopingly beautiful Society of Illustrators exhibit? Here on the blog, we continue to celebrate the illustrators within the ADC community with our Illustrator of the Day series. Some are professionals, some are students, and some just draw for fun. All of them are card-carrying members of ADC.

Next up, the vivid work of a Brazilian illustrator who attributes her style in part to her seaside childhood.


Barcelona, Spain & London, UK


Almost every kid likes to draw. When did it become more than just a kindergarten project for you? How was that interest nurtured?

I was one of those kids, and drew all during childhood and for most of my teens – I was convinced I’d go to art school. The lack of such in my hometown in Brazil and some wise parental advice led me to studying architecture in university, which gave me an amazing set of skills, of which most importantly the ability to understand the visual and built environment.

Eventually, after graduating and post graduating in architecture and design, I realized that illustration could actually be a career. I never looked back.

How much of your ability is self-taught versus through schooling?

I studied classic painting when I was little, and then observational drawing and descriptive geometry in architecture school. After years of working in design, I did a fine art degree — a complete 180º for me, after being schooled in the design way of thinking — and learned to let go and be a lot more open. In the end I combined my design education with my fine art education and arrived in illustration (in a very roundabout way!).

How would you best describe your illustration style? Would you say that you had a specialty?

My style is bold and bright and tropical, often using patterns, be they geometric or organic, and devised to exist comfortably in both digital and print. It’s a consequence of my upbringing by the seaside in Brazil and of course my background in architecture and graphic design, but much more so in the way of systems, rhythm and composition rather than subject matter. It’s also the result of much trial and error, and hopefully will always be evolving.

I’ve been working a lot in editorial and posters, but also in simple digital animations and their equivalent in print — what I call “moveable prints” — but I trained in mural arts and once spent a whole week painting a huge mural measuring 14 meters wide by 5 meters tall in a gallery in Barcelona. I’ve been devising a way to use more of my architectural background by working with tangible compositions, and this year I’ve worked with art direction, set design and film quite a bit.

I also love the physicality of mural painting, but the speed and convenience of digital really appeals to me as well.

“So much inspiration can come from a mood a song creates or the imagery contained within the written word.”

What’s your weapon of choice? Any particular brands or models you swear by?

Usually my laptop and Wacom tablet, but if I’m struggling with a concept I always work out the kinks by sketching with pencils, felt tips and Posca markers.

Finish this sentence: “Despite what you might think, illustration is not _______ .”

Illustration is not for the faint of heart.

What other artistic passions do you have?

When I was fourteen years old I thought I’d be a photographer. I love the narrative power of photography and my illustration draws so much from photographic reference. I’ve also been increasingly working with art directed compositions, which of course materialize through photography and/or film.

I’m also passionate about music and literature, which are subjects I also work with but from a visual point of view. So much inspiration can come from a mood a song creates or the imagery contained within the written word.

Which professionals do you look up to the most in the illustration world?

I think Milton Glaser is the root of everything that I’m interested in these days, really. In style, prolificness and flexibility of application I’m constantly fascinated by Hvass & Hannibal and Craig & Karl. In use of colour and content I love Toni Halonen, Cocolia and Olimpia Zagnoli, and I really admire Jessica Hische’s abundance of charisma and work ethic.

At the end of the day, what do you love most about being an illustrator?

Honestly, the knowledge that I can do what I loved most since I was a little kid – playing with shapes, colours and moods, creating a new visual universe everyday. But just as strongly, the flexibility. I’m from Brazil and I live between London and Barcelona, so I travel a lot – the fact that I can do my job from wherever is one of most liberating things ever.