In Conversation With Margarida Esteves
last updated 03 April 2023
Talk us through your creative process. How do you approach a brief?
I first read the brief a few times and sketch a few ideas in my journal. I experiment with a few compositions until I find the one I think works best with the layout and the space available for illustration. Sometimes I have to do some research to understand the brief better - when it’s complicated stuff like science or maths!
Your work is aesthetically unique to you. How do you approach translating your ideas to the page?
I find it helpful to have a written description of an image before I start sketching, like a brief from a client. Every time I do a personal illustration I write down what I’m imagining and then try to make the most accurate image I can. It doesn’t always work! I think we humans imagine so many things at once, it’s impossible to put in a page our exact vision.
After that, I make small roughs, play around with composition, pick one, perfect that rough until I know exactly where the colours, shapes and lines will go, and when I’m happy with it, I start the colouring process. The idea/rough stage is usually quicker for me. I don’t usually linger in choosing one. In the colouring process, I like to take my time to see what colours would work best, the lighting needed to create atmosphere, what colours a character would wear that best translate their personality, and so on. It’s all a very extensive process!
Who/What have been your key influences as an illustrator?
People and stories influence me the most, as chiché as that sounds. We’re constantly absorbing information, and as a highly visual person, I take details from my trips, the people I see and know, the books I read, the pictures I look at and, in a way, put it all in my work.
I would say, anything colourful and bright gets my full attention and gets stuck in my memory. I’m especially drawn to the 60s and 70s aesthetics, but then I also like to read about kings and queens and past wars, look at old black and white documents and pictures, and, I guess, all of that information is mixed up and absorbed.
How did you begin illustration? What was the spark of inspiration?
I started drawing very early in life, and my family always encouraged my interest in the arts. However, I studied Multimedia and Audiovisuals at University and, at that time, I wanted to pursue a career in media - cinema has always been a passion!
I did never stop sketching in my sketchbook, though. Having always been in some way a collector, I’ve always kept every small piece of packaging, prints and all things visual I would find interesting. Eventually that turned into picture books, novelty books and all books with any kind of cool illustrations. It was then I realised I wanted to make books for children. I worked as a graphic designer for a while before finally moving to the UK to study Illustration at Camberwell College of Arts.
What’s your favourite part of the illustration process?
It really depends on the project. Sometimes sketching out ideas, working on a rough and seeing it taking its final form is amazing and super motivational, but sometimes it’s a frustrating struggle. The same happens with the colour stage. Sometimes the best part is the people we work with - a very important aspect of the process we tend to forget. I’ve worked with absolute gems of designers that elevated my work, not only through their great design skills but also by motivating my creative process. Every project has its different pros and cons.
To an up-and-coming artist, what’s one piece of advice you would give?
Practice and experiment! Draw every day and try out new software and new materials if you don’t like working digitally. The world is in constant change, so have fun experiencing all the tools it has to offer!
What would be your dream brief?
A dream brief would be a project I could create from zero. For example, a story written and illustrated by me. Something I hope to achieve in the future.