Cristiano Siqueira who is also popularly known as Crisvector is a a highly acclaimed Brazilian designer and illustrator. He specializes in digital and vector illustrations. After some years of working as a graphic designer and art director, in 2005, he started to work full time as freelancer, creating illustrations for advertising, publishing and print design. His illustrations are a style statement on there own and are a great source of inspiration.
It was a great pleasure for me to do a interview Cristiano, who was very welcome to share his work experiences, his thoughts on arts, the design industry, as well as, his future goals and inspirations.
1. Hi Cristiano, welcome to VECTORTUTS! Please give us a brief background of yourself, tell us where you’re from, and how you got started in the field of digital arts? Did you take any formal training in this field?
Hi Vectortuts! It’s a pleasure to talk to you and thanks for the opportunity. I’m an Illustrator from Sao Paulo, Brazil. I work as a freelancer in my small home office in downtown of Sao Paulo. I make work for publishers, packaging design and advertising.
In digital arts, I started as soon as I started to work as designer. My formation is in traditional arts, but I’ve started in graphic design working with software like Illustrator and Photoshop. I didn’t have any formal training in software. Instead, I learned everything at work, with the help of work mates, books and the "help" of each software. I don’t know if I consider myself as "self-taught," but I think I did that half of the way.
2. How long have you been vectoring for? What made you choose Illustrator and vector art as a medium to express your creativity? What other software do you use and what does your workstation look like?
I started with vectors in my first job. As I said above, I just started to use software when I started to work as a graphic designer. My task was to redraw logotypes in vector. They had lots of logotypes scanned from paper and I needed to make vector versions of them. So, the very first software I used to work was the Illustrator. It was the 7th version.
Using Illustrator almost everyday, I could get some practice with the Pen tool and other resources, so I realized I could make something with my hand drawing stuff in Illustrator too. I really enjoyed the perfect lines I could draw with the Pen tool, rather better than my skill to draw perfect lines by hand. I first started to ink my drawings in Illustrator and later I started to give them colors too.
Lately, I’ve been using Illustrator and Photoshop. Sometimes Poser to help with anatomy and lightning issues. My workstation is clean, a big table with few elements over it. Just the computer, a lamp, a calendar, a phone and some pens and pencils… sometimes the tablet…empty walls… just this.
3. You started with a traditional art background. How did it influence your work as a digital artist? When did you transit into working with Illustrator for your art pieces? Was it an easy transition? How is traditional art different from digital art, vector art in particular?
The knowledge that traditional art gave me was all the basic skills needed to develop my work in the digital environment. I could learn how to think first in the image before making it, plan the composition more, the light source, the shading, and how everything will work in the whole picture.
The transition from traditional techniques to digital happened when I started to work with graphic design and I started to work everyday with computer and graphic software programs. The transition was not easy and I had to change a little my way to work, adapting to the digital tools, trying to extract the best from both ways, digital and traditional and mix them all in the digital format.
The main difference between traditional and digital is that you can work with virtual materials. It means no dirt, no expenses and not having to be so dependent on good materials to make the best work. In traditional work, we need to find the best materials for each technique, a good paper for watercolor, good brushes and inks for oil and we need to be really skilled in handrawing to enjoy the max of the materials and not lose lots of time making corrections.
In digital you can simulate the effects of the traditional techniques, you don’t have dirt, you don’t need to be worried about papers or other materials, you don’t need to be an ace in handrawing because you have tools that helps you to make the perfect line, the perfect colors. In the standards of the graphic design industry, the digital works can fit very well in any printing process, you can prepare your file considering any printing process and optimize your work to the best result.
Anyways, the digital isn’t better than the traditional, it’s just different, and optimized for an application. Both (digital and traditional) are ways that people can express their feelings, messages, and communicate. They can provide the same products.
4. What is your typical workflow from thought to completion? How much of the time goes into research and what are your research resources? Does what you finally see on your screen or artboard always match with the mental picture you originally had or is it constantly evolving?
Well asked! All my work starts in the concept. Doesn’t matter if it’s a work for a client or personal. I always try to guide my process through the concept, the message I need to transmit or inspire. Once I get a concept (given by the client or myself) I start the research for relevant informations about the theme. This is also to look for references that can helps me (or not) in the drawing process.
So, after the research I can have good ideas for the images and I start to do some small sketches, like thumbnails, in my sketchbook. This is just to have an overview about how the work would look like. I can make 2 or 3, sometimes 4, thumbnails, the important thing is to get a satisfactory suggestion of the composition. At this step, I can see if I will need to find more references to draw all the elements required.
With the thumbnail done and approved, I go to Photoshop and start to refine this thumbnail into a scene sketch. I redraw the thumbnail in a larger format, probably the final format of the work, but in a low resolution and I start to add more details, make the anatomies with the right proportions, set the light source with some simple shading and sometimes I play with some basic colors. At this step I’m trying to define the composition, the elements, actually I’m doing the illustration right now, but without any perfection of the small details. At this step, also, I use references to draw what I don’t remember or I don’t have skill enough to do.
At this time, I have 50% of the work done. So I can go to Illustrator to finish it into a vector work or keep working in Photoshop, detailing and detailing until achieving the final look. Here I use all references possible to make every detail with perfection, at least to make them as I wanted.
Most often, the final work is really what I was looking for. I try to not get out of the initial concept I had in mind. Some changes happen in the process, some adjusts are made, but the overall imagined concept is kept. I can also change the technique I thought to finish the work. The point is that I try to represent the initial concept using the best way.
5. A picture is worth a thousand words and that comes true with your artwork, like King, Madam Nature, and Creativity among others. What plants the seed for such illustrations? Where do you derive inspiration from?
I always try to say something more than the obvious in my works. I try to play with the signs and give them power enough to generate or inspire thoughts about the theme. To get this I try to think in many ways of how I can organize these signs or how to choose the best sign to carry the idea I want to transmit.
Well this is a little of semiotics applied. So the idea for the illustration starts after strong research into the theme or subject, finding references or signs that I can use to compose the illustration. In this research, I can get some ideas for the work and brainstorm to improve these ideas too. I try to not wait for inspiration to come to me, I go to meet the inspiration where it lives, in the research.
6. I noticed that the Blend Tool seems to be one of your favorite Illustrator tools, you spin magic with that tool. Please give us some pointers on how to master the Blend tool. Apart from that, what are your other favorite Illustrator tips, tricks, or techniques?
The blend tool is really my favorite tool from Illustrator so far. I like the mobility of the shapes, the editing possibilities and the precision. I try to not use the Blend Tool in complex shapes because the anchor points need to be aligned, otherwise the effect will be a mess!
If the intention is not to make a mess, or a texture, I keep them aligned. For shadings I like to use two blended shapes with different opacities, sometimes 100% and 0%. It gives me the possibility to blend this shape with other blended shapes and build the shading like with watercolor for example – always shape over shape. Sometimes, I use these blended shapes with lines, playing with different line thickness, it gives me an inked drawing style, very good to make shading using one single color and no grey gradations.
Other tools I like are the crop, cut and unite options, they are perfect to build really complex shapes without drawing point by point. I like the envelope edit, it can make wonderful things to adapt an art to some surface. Also, I like, of course, the Pen tool! The master tool of the tools!
7. How has the design industry changed from when you started till today, and what changes do you see happening in the next few years? And, what are your future goals and plans?
Somethings have changed, yes. The technology improved so much, the internet, everything. I think I’m not a kind of veteran. I still don’t have more than 10 years in the design industry, but I saw lots of changes. I think the biggest change was in the work relationship. Some years ago, the whole team needed to work in the same place, everyday. The file transfers by internet were just a dream. So the illustrator or the designers needed to be in the same place just for file transfers, not exactly for sharing ideas. It could be by a simple phone call, but the file, the product of their work was really big to transfer by internet or even to record in a CD.
Nowadays we have ultra fast internet, transferring 100 MB in just minutes. Everyone can work at home, use the Skype to talk about the work, use emails or FTP to share references and send the final product. Nowadays, we don’t need to be present to make us present in a project. It doesn’t matter if you are working from your home, in a beautiful or ugly place, the only thing that really matters is the intellectual product.
For the future, I see this kind of work relationship becoming more intense. The companies will exists just in the virtual world, the creative team will be worldwide. The companies will have just a place for physical meetings with clients that really want to do it. Breaking these geographical barriers will break the creative barriers, as well. There’s no excuse not find the right people for the projects.
I have plans in this way, to make my work more available to everyone. I’m trying to improve my English to be able to talk better with international clients and make everything in the bureaucracy part to be able to receive the payments of my work without problem with the client or the government of my country. I’m trying to work to make a solid base and be able to work with any client worldwide.
8. You have done work for Editorial, Print Design, Packaging, CD covers, advertising, magazines, food, toy packs and other industries. Which industry has been the most challenging to work in and why?
I think it’s the toy industry. I’ve had some funny times working with toy packaging, but it was really challenging because the client (the children) are very exigent and the industry didn’t have the monetary resources as we are used to working with. So, the creative solutions should be creative, eye catching and cheap. In other words, it should be a perfect shot in that aim.
Also, we had some limitations about concepts to work in toy packages. We had to be careful with double interpretations for the images, never use something that could bring any kind of sexual or violent content and take so much care about the security of the whole product as well the package. I think I could learn lots of things when I worked for toy industry. Mostly, were how to be smooth but strong!
9. When doing client work, how do you strike the balance between what they want and what you see as the end product? What are the pros and cons of freelancing from your perspective?
Well it depends on the client. I try to find the best way to work and I try to understand the client needs. Some clients want just my technique, so they want to direct the illustration in all steps of production…suggesting details and everything. Some clients even comes with a finished concept, they need just the work finished. This is not my favorite way of work, honestly, but once I accept the work I try to offer the best.
Other clients want my creative work, so they come with just a rough idea and we can discuss some solutions. I believe this is the best way to offer very creative work and get a satisfactory product for the client. Actually, this is my favorite way to work! So, in both cases, the solution is walk with the client to the final product that you both are looking for.
Being a freelancer is a good thing because I can interact in almost all steps of the creative work. Also, I feel a bit more of respect for my work and the payment that I get is enough and fair. The problems of being a freelancer is that I need to take care of everything, contracts, billings… I need to administrate my time with discipline, otherwise I cannot take care of my business and I cannot make illustrations. It’s hard to divide my brain into a creative person and a bureaucratic person.
10. Who is your artistic role model? Are there any particular artist(s) that you get inspiration from? Or any particular website(s)?
It’s hard to pick up just a name for who I follow as a model. I just want to be a good and complete illustrator, professional and respected. So I can get everything as inspiration. I can tell you some names, like the brazilian Illustrators J. Benício, Montalvo Machado , or Kako. They have, aside the excellent technique, a solid career and the full respect of the industry, clients and other illustrators. The inspiration I get from them is that I can be more than just an illustrator, I can play a role in the illustration world helping itself to be more respected and help my colleagues to work well and get respect too.
I can’t forget my mates from depthCORE, its founders Justin Maller and Brian Smith and our discussions in each theme for a new chapter that always helped me to improve my work both technically and conceptually. And, finally I need to mention the friends I have in DeviantArt, Behance and all other friends that are always giving me feedback to my works. These things really help me more than follow just a work or a model.
11. Okay Cristiano, now some rapid questions:
a) Do you keep a daily diary to note down your ideas?
No, I try to keep my ideas in memory and leave my brain to mix and give me better ideas.
b) Being from Brazil, do you play football? Who is your favorite football player?
Yes I do. My favorite player at the moment is Ricardo Kaka, the most complete one.
c) Your worst graphic nightmare?
A job when I need to copy another illustrator. It’s quite unethical and boring.
d) What do you wish somebody had told you when you created your very first vector illustration?
"Don’t worry about the time, you can get faster as you get more practice. Just keep the quality of the work as your target."
e) What do you want the viewer to walk away with when they see one of your pieces?
I would like to know that the viewer had a few moments of visual delight and started to think more about the piece aside from the beautiful lines and colors.
12. Cristiano, thanks for the interview and for your time. Any final thoughts? What advice do you have for young people considering illustration as a profession and who look up to your work as inspiration?
It was a pleasure! For the young illustrators my only advice is: Try to know the industry very well, drive your work to be original, learn to read and understand the contracts and charges, and enhance your work. For people that see my work as inspiration, well I must say a big thank you and I hope to never disappoint you!
Cristiano Siqueira, AKA Crisvector on Web:
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