André Oliveira

Illustration by: Avgvstv.z

Interview by: João Miguel Fernandes (originally published in 2016)

Occupation: Copywriter and Comic Book writer

Click here to read the interview in Portuguese


1 – Tell me about a moment in your childhood that was important to you.

In what sense? I have had so many, so intense and varied that it’s necessary to indicate the purpose of the question… Because there is much that I don’t want to share. I believe that childhood is fundamental to tan individual’s personality, but being a construction of moments and episodes, I believe that it’s essentially worth as a whole. Of course there is always this or that event that seemed decisive for my training as creative or to feel things as I feel today, but naming them would make my answer too extensive. I just like to remember the following: I had a Portuguese teacher who rejected my texts, she found them aberrations. She resisted because I challenged her, I didn’t write the formatted and generic compositions I knew beforehand that she wanted me to write. She refused to give me good scores, and she strove to counteract my “escape from the norm.” All things that I, later, as teacher and trainer, endeavored to encourage and develop with my students. Nowadays, I wonder what she would say if she knew that I had become a professional of that area. Would she have the same position, do the same, or admit that she had been wrong? In a way it doesn’t matter. In life, I haven’t always been faithful to my wishes and my principles, but I’m proud to have been faithful in that moment. And there is no doubt that I won.

2 – At what moment of your life have you thought “Well, I’ll try to live my art”? And how did that really happen at the beginning?

This moment never happened. And, anyway, I’m not sure what “my art” means. If it’s writing, I can say that I live from it, but I don’t always use it in an artistic or expressive creative way. Professionally I’m a copywriter in a design and advertising agency and as such I have to write all sorts of texts and commercial scripts, from the most creative to the most technical. That’s what gives me money to live and pay the bills, as such, that’s where it has to be the main focus of my attention. However, if “my art” is to tell stories, to make comics or the side projects that I have always embraced, then in fact, that decision making that you speak of, that crucial instant, never existed.

There was a time when I was a freelancer and could afford to do more comics or personal works, but even then I had to do things I didn’t like as much as design or illustration. I know many artists, for example, who took this “leap of faith” and today can talk about it. But my story has been much less romantic.

3 – Illustration and comics have grown in Portugal in recent times. From your point of view, what is the reason for this growth?

I think that in recent years it has become easier and more feasible to produce books, both economically and in terms of existing solutions in the market. Nowadays, anyone can simply make a few hundred comic book albums, come to an agreement for distribution or put it in the shops themselves. I started to publish comics in “Zona” (a national anthology of visual arts) and by that time there was a printing house in Spain that allowed us to concretize our project in a profitable way, to support itself (sales paid the following numbers). This model is very common here and this may explain the generalized increase of publications, since people are no longer so dependent on publishers. And this without considering internet and the digital platforms, of course.

As for the increase of illustrators, I’m not sure exactly what’ related to. In fact, I don’t even know if this is true or if there wasn’t much knowledge about what was being done here in the old days. Internet has come to strengthen relations, give visibility to everybody and reduce production difficulties. Maybe that’s why you see more things coming up, although the audience that has interest in it has not grown proportionately, in my opinion.

4 – How did Lisbon contribute to your development as an artist?

It’s the city where I grew up and where I lived until very recently. It’s where I work, where I spend most of my time and this cements the imaginary of those who create characters and narratives. Besides, it’s where the Faculty of Fine Arts is, where I graduated and where I learned to develop my creative process. But I think that’s it, I don’t think my imagination is too conditioned by one or another geographical point. Lisbon is present in the “Hawk” (with some locations that were important to me), in “Vil – A Tragédia de Diogo Alves” (where it’s a character itself) and in a series of shorter works. But it’s always possible to identify a thousand other references in all my works.

“This crisis may have forced you to think differently and take some risks, but I think that this also ends up being a reflection of the times. Our potential is enormous because we have been in contact with many different cultures since we were young, and because we are by nature creative and prone to talent. And the success we have in the most varied areas turns out to be a reflection of this.”

5 – How does your creative process work? Is there any pattern?

If there was a pattern I swear I would suspect it. Everything in my creative process is unpredictable, unstable and, in a way, moved by anguish and insecurity. So much so that I often have to walk away and try to see what I have done from an outside perspective, because otherwise I do nothing more than self-censorship. However, and although I often end up contradicting this same “system”, I force myself to follow several steps regarding writing narratives. I try to close a synopsis first (how it starts, how it’s developed and how my story ends), then I move on to describing characters and environments. Only when this is defined I move on to the script itself and there are also steps that I like to follow so that the scenes sequence is built in a more solid way.

First, I plan every planks, in a very general way, and only then I advance to writing the script, accompanied by the outlined layouts (drafts that often I don’t even show to the illustrators). Anyway, in chaos there is a certain order but nothing is tight, I’m always available to listen to opinions if they contribute to improve the final result. To me, imagination is a form of freedom. To standardize it too much would be to limit its progression.

6 – Who influenced you the most in your life?

I have said it many times: my grandfather. Sometimes I think that my whole life is a mixture of homage to his life, following in his footsteps, taking his example and admiring, still and always, his extraordinary ability of storytelling. There wasn’t a day that he didn’t know a new different story for me to fall asleep, a talent much brighter and inexhaustible than any I may have. When he was a young he studied in “António Arroio” and I grew up with his texts, poems, watercolors, graffiti portraits and contagious mood. He had a very uncreative profession, he was a bank employee, but as a good friend he never told me that he didn’t want to play, that he had something more important to do than to be with me. Being an only child, he was my most present friend, participating in my fantasy worlds and collaborating with my early willingness to make comic books from drafts. The importance that my grandfather had in my growth and my identity as a creator is immeasurable. It’s my compass and a constant inspiration. But either way it wouldn’t be fair to not recognize the importance that my parents had for never trying to limit my career choices and decisions. They have always supported me and trusted me to follow my path, and, liking them as much as I like, I can say that this vote of confidence was fundamental.

 

7-What leads Portugal, a country “in crisis”, to be able at this moment to push itself internationally in so many areas?

 

I don’t think anyone has doubts that we have more value than what we think. In a way, and despite feeling an overall worrying numbness in the youngest, I believe that this financial instability and the worry that hangs over us has motivated many people to excel in what they like to do most. This crisis may have forced you to think differently and take some risks, but I think that this also ends up being a reflection of the times. Our potential is enormous because we have been in contact with many different cultures since we were young, and because we are by nature creative and prone to talent. And the success we have in the most varied areas turns out to be a reflection of this.

8 – There are some Portuguese illustrators working for big publishers like Marvel, but the comic books produced in Portugal still don’t have a big presence out there. From your perspective, what is the reason for this?

 

When it comes to comics in Portugal everything is micro. We have a micro-market, we have a micro-audience, we have micro-publishing and consequently we have micro-sales. This happens in a more more mainstream way, if we can call it that. In the more independent world, the universe of zines and comic authors, I think it’s a little different. There are more synergies, more Portuguese known and respected across borders, but since it’s an even smaller niche, it’s not so promoted out there.

Of course that we have seen an increase in comic book publications in Portugal, of many themes and for many audiences, which is great, but there is still a shortage of publishers (especially those with a reduced size because they are the ones who  believe the most on national quality products and authors) that have enough contacts and negotiating power to put our works out there. A very good progress has been made in this area, especially with issues in other languages ​​distributed abroad, and this is a sign that we are moving in the right direction. Now we need to continue to clear the path.

9 – Tell me an illustrator you have never worked with and who you would love to work with. 

 

Nuno Saraiva. Thefirst Portuguese comic book I had was his (not counting the so-called “classics”, of which, to be honest, I never liked that much), a book I’ve read and re-read over and over again. The album was called “Zé Inocêncio – As Aventuras Extra Ordinárias de um Falo Barato” and it was super funny. However, Nuno, who later came to be my colleague at “The Lisbon Studio”, is an artist with a far wider reach than the universe of humor, with an ability to tell stories and an exalted storytelling. In addition, he’s a very dynamic artist and trainer, with an internationally recognized job, always based not only on his talent but also on his productivity. I would like to do a comic book with him, I have told him this several times, but it hasn’t been possible because of lack of availability. I think I’ll keep trying until he gives in.

“For me, it’s crucial that the illustrator can identify himself with my script and feel enthusiastic. Only then can the final result be won. And this, unlike any ego or creative stubbornness, is always what interests me the most.”

10 – Your narratives have a strong visual component, so they work really well in comics. Have you ever thought about collaborating with someone on a video or another type of visual art?

 

Never happened. The language of the comics is very specific and it’s the one with which I feel more comfortable. I like writing texts for other universes, but I haven’t yet been able to see them interpreted visually by any language other than the comics. They never invited me, and I’ve never seen the need to challenge anyone to realize that experience. And if it doesn’t happen, I don’t think I’m going to miss it.

11 – There have been several independent publishers blooming in Portugal in recent years. What changed in the national panorama so that these publishers could subsist?

 

Which publishers? Kingpin, Octopus, Devir, Mnnnrrrg, and El Pep have been around for years. Other than that I don’t see anything new appearing. If you’re referring to my “Ave Rara”, for example, it’s not a publisher. It’s just an editorial project from which I publish works with very unique characteristics (like the “Living Will” or “Gentleman”) and maybe it’s the fact that there are others of the same kind that leads to this confusion. Moreover, if we look back we see many editorial projects that have ceased to exist: Vitamina BD, Círculo de Abuso, Baleia Azul and Witloof are some of them. What’s happening is that the small publishers I mentioned earlier have shown remarkable dynamism and production capacity. In that sense, they even seem to be a lot more but, unfortunately, this is not the case.

12 – Which less known artists will bloom in the near future?

 

I don’t really know what it means to “bloom”, much less in a context like ours, but I would advise people to know the incredible work of Darsy (cargocollective.com/darsyman), Mosi (mosidraws.tumblr.com) and Afonso Ferreira (cargocollective .com / afonsoferreira). Fortunately, I could name a few others but it’s better not to overload the patience of anyone who reads this interview. In an ideal world, these three authors would have a bright and solid future ahead of them, and I sincerely hope that this will happen, either here or in another country.

13 – From your perspective, what’s the best way for an artist to evolve? Do you strongly advise the academic side or do you think that commitment and dedication are enough?

 

Once again, I don’t believe there is a formula. And it also depends on what kind of artist we are talking about. I think that a painter will need to know certain processes to create his own style rather than me to have contact with narrative rules or writing techniques, to create my stories. There are jobs that simply can’t acquire so much from common sense and acquired knowledge. The key is figuring out the right formula for achieving goals, no matter where you want to go. In any case, such commitment and dedication must exist on a large scale. And work. Hours and hours of hard work.

14 – Over the last few years you have collaborated with some of the best national illustrators. How do you adapt your style to each one of them? How has this experience been?

 

It’s a great privilege and I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to work with everyone. Since I started writing scripts for comics that it has been like this, collaboration after collaboration, and this has made me accustomed to living with different ways of understanding comics and my stories. With those who really wanted to work (because many collaborations were also lost due to lack of response from the “other side”) I never had problems with anyone. I always do my homework, I analyze the work of the artist, with respect to the themes, personal preferences and the domain of storytelling, and I always create from there. For me, it’s crucial that the illustrator can identify himself with my script and feel enthusiastic. Only then can the final result be won. And this, unlike any ego or creative stubbornness, is always what interests me the most.

Back

This is a unique website which will require a more modern browser to work!

Please upgrade today!

Share