Adam De Souza
Adam De Souza is a semi-professional illustrator and cartoonist based in Toronto.
Could you walk us through the process of creating an illustration from start to finish?
Every illustration begins with sketching; sometimes unrelated subject matter & sometimes not. After an indeterminate amount of time sketching, I’ll try to draw as many possible compositions/concepts for a given subject. I try my best not to hem myself in early on by marrying myself to one idea so i usually end up drawing dozens of compositions. Once I have a handful of compositions I’ll move forward and rough them out and clean up the ones I think are strongest. From there, it’s just about executing the strongest piece in a chosen medium (usually a hybrid between digital and traditional mediums). This process differs a lot depending on if its client work or just art for myself. When done strictly for myself the process tends to involve a lot of crescendoing from crippling self doubt to ecstatic spurts of drawing. Client work has tended to be a lot easier as there is a single goal to satisfy whereas my personal work is less specific in concept.
What is, in your opinion, the most underappreciated aspect of illustration?
We are so entirely immersed in powerful & well composed images daily that I think it’s very easy to forget what it takes to create one. In successful editorial illustrations, I find it completely jaw dropping how a single image can encapsulate the tone, subject & arc of an article but I think quite often illustration gets written off within art hemispheres for being commercial.
What kind of tools are used in crafting your images?
In the past I’ve primarily compiled different traditionally done sections of an image and combined them digitally. My past work slants heavily towards digital but since this past May I’ve focussed only on making images with tactile medias; gouache, brush & ink, & I took a class in relief printing. The satisfaction of seeing something created wholly by hand, blemishes & all, for me cannot be matched by creating an image digitally; it’s too easy to go back and change some inconsequential detail and in turn nothing ever feels finished. I also religiously keep a sketchbook and try my best to draw whenever I can.
Any upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
Well, by this time next year I’ll of completed a series of 10 images in order to finish my Bachelor degree...I have no idea what it’ll be & it’s currently preoccupying the bulk of my mental capacity. I constantly have ideas for comics percolating; hopefully I will have a comic finished within the year about a reunion among friends returning from university at a house party. I wrote a comic that Lily Snowden-Fine is currently illustrating but I am not sure when we’ll be seeing it!
Who/What had the biggest impact on your style?
I think that what I see within my art is usually a lot different from what influences others spot within my work. I mostly idolize artists who do both editorial illustration work and comics. There are a couple influences I feel like unlocked whole doors of thought/image making I had never considered. Thomas Herpich’s comic White Clay completely rocked my world when I first read it; it was poetic and weird and so different from any other illustration/comic work I had seen up to that point. Eleanor Davis How to Be Happy was the first work I discovered done by an artist who also worked editorially; it floored me how beautiful, emotional, personal, and dense the short stories within it are. Taiyo Matsumoto is a huge inspiration in that his work has evolved so drastically over time but has always been consistently great. I think the theme of these influences is they all shook me and told me that I can do anything with illustration & comics. Both mediums are limitless in their possibilities for storytelling and both thrive & benefit from a strong personal voice.
Do you prefer to work on images one by one, or in groups/series?
I really prefer to work quickly and have a line up of images on the go. The more time I spend on a single image the more likely I’ll bung it up or hate it by the end so I like having a plan of action within a short period of time to execute images.
What’s your favorite illustration you’ve made? Can you walk us through the inspiration and process of creating it?
Recently I had the opportunity to paint a mural in the corner of a dreary little stairwell within a building in downtown Toronto. Being an illustrator, I have rarely ever had the opportunity to consider space & physicality with a design so this was a super exciting opportunity. I approached the challenge with two main questions in mind: knowing it’ll be viewed from multiple heights and angles, how do I work within 3-dimensions and use the scale to my advantage & how do I incorporate the design into the space in a way that makes it feel like it belongs while contrasting the dim mundaneness of the area it’s painted within? I used negative space within the perimeters of the illustration in order to make it feel a part of the wall as a whole which I finds adds to the energy of it. While working on this project I was also swamped with school work and an editorial gig so I planned the execution of it thoroughly & managed to get the whole mural painted within 15 hours. Overall it was just a ton of fun. The feeling of walking around the stairwell and viewing it from different angles is not done justice by the photos!
Where does your inspiration for images come from?
This sounds heady and possibly lame but I really want to create images that speak to me the way music does. Different songs trigger all these different intimate memories & feelings so viscerally. I feel driven in wanting to create images that create a feeling within others. I also find getting better and improving on every subsequent image to be fulfilling, addictive, and fuel for art in itself. Aesthetically a lot of inspiration comes from trying to experiment and push my art; I am currently really into expressive & textural painting (like mid-century painter Ben Shahn)...who knows if that’ll ever come across in my work!
How would you describe your aesthetic/style?
I am trying (or aiming) to end up somewhere between two extremes; sweet & kitsch but also dark & real, cartoony yet grounded, dynamic & still. In simpler terms though, where I am at now, is not that. I think my style is built on all these disparate influences I’ve had throughout my life and I am trying to sort out these jigsaw pieces from different sets in a way that will all fit together coherently.