September 26, 2011

Timelessness Is On His Side

An Interview with Bernardo França

Part 2 of 2 (link to Part 1)
Click on any image to enlarge

Bernardo, even at this relatively early stage in your career, your work has already been featured in a number of magazines as well as for books, calendars and much more. What has been your favourite ‘outlet’ so far for your illustrations?
I really enjoy seeing my illustrations in books – I just feel books have this everlasting feeling behind them.

Magazines are a cool place to publish, too. It spreads your work and your name very effectively – even though magazines are somewhat of a dying media today.

Is there a different way of displaying your work that you have NOT had a chance to explore as much as you’ve wanted to so far?
You know, I’d really like to do murals. I feel like murals are an exponentially cool way of combining and expressing art and architecture – or really art and any space. I love how a mural can completely change a whole environment.

Speaking of your work and how it is exhibited, I very much enjoyed reading about the ENOX Expressions 2011 where the artworks of 40 artists were distributed all over Brazil, including ‘especially bar toilets – the best place for art ever’! That is so funny! How does it feel to have your work displayed in such a ‘unique’ location for art? Do you have any advice for anyone trying to enter the ‘art in toilets’ market?
I actually made a mistake with that quote where I said ‘especially bar toilets’. In fact, ENOX Expressions artwork were destined ONLY for bar toilets! But I have to say, bathrooms are the best – sometimes the lighting on these rooms is better than in renowned galleries!

In this case, ENOX placed the different art directly in front of, well, your ‘station area’. So while you were busy doing your ‘business’, you had plenty of time to check out the art. This project took place simultaneously in many, many toilets nation-wide including in bars, malls, and restaurants.

But you know, when I sell a small original art-work, I in fact usually suggest they hang it in their toilet! Its great marketing strategy actually, because many people use the space (= rotation!) and they have private time to appreciate it - hehehe. I guess that’s my advice for those who want to enter 'art in toilets' market.

Looking at your style in more depth, in addition to the line-work, I am especially drawn to the often understated coloration. How do you approach the colour selection for your pieces?
I’m really not that educated when it comes to colouring. I feel I still have a long way to go with that. Ha, maybe my signature ‘understated look’ is a reflection of my lack of knowledge! I don't know.

The only thing I’m really, I guess, logical about is how to use colours to (re-)enforce the message of my drawings, for example, to point out something that I want to be evident. Again, the important thing is the message behind the illustration – that’s what must be prioritised.

You also have some more abstract work in your on-line portfolio. What attracts you to this type of expression?
While I'm drawing, I'm also constantly tracing 'option lines'. Sometimes ‘the right line’ comes out with the first stroke of my pen; but other times I have to really work at it, sometimes it seems for an endless number of times until I find ‘the one’ for which I’m looking.

I find the result of this construction process fascinating and very often incorporate this to a final art-work. Using these ‘guidelines’ and when you add them all together, it may create what looks like an abstract piece; but they are actually a way to get to a figurative model. For me anyway, it’s just a way of seeing it differently.

I’m interested in some of your different ‘projects’ including that you exhibit quite a large number of ‘sketches’ and even character studies. I would think that this must be difficult if you are afraid a piece is not finished or perfected.

As such, why do you like to display your work in this more ‘unfinished’ form?
Sketchbooks are a great chance to really understand the thinking process of an artist. I believe – as many other artists do – that a sketchbook provides a look into that time when one really frees himself to create.

My sketchbook production is very prolific, but having said that I think I like to display them to show ideas that sometimes are destined to stay in an everlasting ‘unfinished look’. The key is to let it all out – and many times, my friends and fellow artists will comment on something they liked. Or even better, they’ll point out something that wasn’t clear or didn't work out for one specific piece.

In addition, I’m curious about your ‘Friday Girl’ illustrations. How did you get the idea to illustrate a different ‘femme fatale’ each week?
Friday-gal was me trying to have some sort of weekly contract or assignment that I agreed to with myself. It’s really a way of having some built in discipline. I love drawing women so I figured it would be perfect for this exercise. Something that with time could generate a series that would fit together even if the pieces themselves might be very varied.

Sometimes I don’t get a chance to be as creative as I’d like to be with this, probably because I’m busy with work. But other times I do try to come up with a different approach to an image. So I keep learning that way – and this personal growth is indispensable.

These illustrations are also interesting in that they’re not limited to just ‘girls in hot bikinis’ or other pin-up types, with some being quite full-figured and Rubenesque in their beauty. Is it important to you to vary the type of woman you are illustrating?
Again, I don't think I vary the pieces as much as I would like to. I definitely have to work more on that. But hell yeah it's important to have in your personal repertory as many girls as possible! After all, every woman is unique!

Still, as I said before it depends on the story you’re trying to tell. Sometimes for an illustration, emphasising a certain quality of the body – like is the lady slim as a twig or round like a ice-cream ball – really adds to the message you want to pass on to your viewers! And no matter what, the girls are all beautiful!

Having said that, do you have your own preference in terms of what body-types you illustrate?
My eye - or let's say my mind's eye - differentiates between what is true beauty compared to ugliness very easily. Luckily, for me, this beauty comes in many, many different ways and forms - so I couldn't say I have a preferred type. And me? Well, I try to fall in love everyday - sometimes more than 4 or 5 times a day.

You’ve mentioned having a keen interest in working on background illustration, correct? Is there a big animation industry to work with in Brazil?
Yes, I really have a strong desire to work as a background artist for animation. Works of professionals such as Eyvind Earle, Walt Peregoy, Jules Engels, Paul Julian, Bob McIntosh, Lew Keller and Mary Blair (old schoolers) and from today’s production Scott Willis, Kevin Dart, Dan Krall, William Wray and Drake Brodahl are such a great influence over me.

But the problem remains that the animation industry is VERY small in Brazil - it just isn't encouraged. In fact, Brazil lacks places to train and build these professionals. Even illustration - there's not one University with this as a major degree here.

For me, I think that drawing per se in Brazil is always associated with a type of ‘inner self-involvement’. This really saddens me, because we have so many really amazing talents down here. But most of them will never do what they want for a living (draw, animate ...) and will probably have a shitty job they hate for the rest of their lives.

But, if my dream comes true and everything works out according to plan, in the future I'll open and be responsible for operating some sort of graphic school here. This is my destiny!

I’m curious then: are you promoting your work more in South American markets or internationally?
I live in São Paulo – the third largest city in the world. Here is the place for new professionals to break-through. All the big agencies and publishers are here! So just to physically be in a city where you fit in professionally is a great start (this gives you self-promotion already).

In addition, besides my website where I try and keep my portfolio as updated as possible, plus the de la burns blog, I put my work on Facebook and try (struggle) to use Twitter with update notes and good references. I believe it's crucial for a up-and-coming professional to use all means of social media possible - since it's a dog-eat-dog world and no one is going to do your marketing for you!

Still, looking at your question, I also know that I'm a relatively new professional (3 years now)! I’m still trying to establish myself as a valuable artist here in Brazil - but I definitely want to bring my work overseas! I visited Europe for the first time in June and July of this year, where I arranged some meetings with possible clients and artists who work I enjoy. It was a great experience!

Beside that I try to keep contact with artists from all over the world (especially animators) like California, NY, Toronto, London, Paris. It's such an immense joy for me to have the opportunity to talk to another professional. And it’s a great group, as it seems that they're all willing to talk art and help out in any way they can.

So what’s next then for Bernardo França, the architect-turned-illustrator that likes to fall in love each and every day?
Clearly, I want to make a living with my personal work. I know I have a very long road to travel where I need to continue drawing – incessantly! – and also keep researching and executing as much as I can!

I am indeed aiming to become a well-know resource in any area where music and illustration meet! Or maybe even become really as an artist well-known for his women ... but not in a womaniser way!


Bernardo França is an illustrator with a unique flair, his work being often understated but certainly not underrated! Originally from Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal, he currently resides in the bustling Metropolis of São Paulo, Brazil.

They say you can learn a lot about a person from their taste in music, and if you happen to check a very limited list of Bernardo’s favourite albums of all time, you’ll see artists such as The Beastie Boys, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Bob Marley, Cypress Hill, House of Pain as well as a host of great Brazilian acts. What that then truly says about Bernardo, we’re not entirely sure, so we’ll just go with eclectic and very open-minded!

His passion for his art, the world in which he lives and all things beautiful in their own unique way – as interpreted through the eyes, the ears, the touch and more – is very evident in all of his illustrations! It’s a joy to follow him via social media as he always has AT LEAST a fun teaser sketch to share or perhaps even a simply coloured yet exquisitely lined illustration to propose! A rising talent from a wonderful area of the world that will no doubt have many years of great success to come!

Please check out more about Bernardo at these links and social media connections!




All pictures, videos and other media are used with written permission of Bernardo França, including all current or previous business affiliations related to same, or are available in the public domain (noting copyright and other restrictions, accordingly). No further reproduction or duplication is permitted without contacting the artist directly.

Some pictures have been modified slightly or combined only for the purpose of space limitations. In all cases, we invite you to visit the artist’s site(s) for more, including the links provided above.

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