by Sharon Milne
An Interview with Cristiano Siqueira, aka CrisVector
In this series of three artist interviews, we’ll be speaking with several of the Adobe Illustrator artists who are featured in my new book Adobe Master Class: Illustrator. This book showcases the work of 31 talented, innovative vector artists, giving us insight into their workflows and creative inspirations. Eleven of these artists share their design process via tutorials. Today we talk with one of these artists, Cristiano Siqueira, and also let you know how you can get a 35% discount on a copy of the book! So let’s get to know Mr. Siqueira…
Cristiano Siqueira is better known by his handle, CrisVector. He hails from Sao Paulo, Brazil and is easily one of the biggest names within the vector art community. His client list includes Nike, Playboy, Gillette, Microsoft, The Wall Street Journal, Richmond Publishing and many more.
I was honored to have him create a tutorial exclusively for my book, Adobe Master Class: Illustrator, because Cristiano rarely gives others insight into his workflow.
If you are an active member of the vector community, or simply admire the look of vector art, Cristiano Siqueira, aka CrisVector, is one artist we all know and whose amazing art is something we all aspire to. His has developed and refined his unique style has over the years, and his more recent style, which uses pressure-sensitive strokes within line art compositions, further separates him from the pack.
Hey Cris, you love vector so much you use it in your online identity. But you use a variety of platforms in your work, as you dabble a bit with raster and 3D work. What is it about vector art that you love so much? Was “CrisRaster” not an appealing route to go down?
Hi Sharon! Yeah, I love vector so much, that’s true. Actually, vector art was the first way I started to work in a digital art form. My background is based in traditional media, you know, painting, drawing and such. When I started to work in a graphic design studio, I wasn’t able to produce illustrations using traditional media. Some workmates suggested I try a digital approach, so I started with vector graphics. Since my first drawings in vector, I was looking for the perfect line and the perfect color scheme. I never had the manual skills to draw a perfect curve, so when I did it with vectors, I was happy! I could have total control over my lines and mix colors in a better way. Also, since I loved vector, my boss at the studio started to give me lots of jobs involving vector drawing. Nobody at the studio has worked with Adobe Illustrator before and I quickly started to be the “Adobe Illustrator guy” there. Back in 1998, I started using AI 8!
After starting with Illustrator, I tried Photoshop for digital painting and worked with 3D software. To be honest, the only time I took advantage of Photoshop for digital painting was when I bought a Wacom tablet in 2005. So, before trying another way to make my illustrations, I worked at least five years in a row just with Illustrator.
The thing with my name is a bit funny. I never had in mind to call myself “CrisVector,” that happened by accident. In 2005 I started to share some of my work on the Internet. I didn’t have an online portfolio and someone suggested the deviantART website as a good way to share and promote my work. So I created an account there. Since I only had vector artwork to share, I thought, “Maybe I can open a vector account and later another account for other work techniques.” Obviously I was a total newbie in online galleries! I then created the CrisVector account and posted some work. I was lucky enough to get a Daily Deviation for one of these pieces and I found my gallery getting very popular in a short time. Everybody started to call me “CrisVector”. I did a search for free domains, found crisvector.com and I bought it. So, I became CrisVector from then on.
Originally you started working from photographs for your vector portrait work. Now you’re working more and more with your own character creations and sketches. Was this move away from using stock photography a conscious decision? How has it changed your workflow? What is your opinion on work that uses stock photography?
Yeah, it was a conscious decision. I often worked from stock photo references and created good line work that way. But I had my own techniques for drawing in traditional ways that I never tried with digital art (vectors). So, when I developed more skills in digital drawing and started to use a tablet, I had the opportunity and the techniques to bring my original drawing style to vector art. This doesn’t mean that I’ve abandoned the stock photography approach, just that I’ve changed the way I use the pictures. In the “old” way, I created the illustration based totally on stock photography. I used the light source, anatomy, and expression of a single stock photo source and I then created over all that information, almost as if the stock photo was “telling” me what to make. Now, I develop the illustration from sketches and use photo references just for those elements I cannot draw by memory. Frequently I use five or more photo references for one illustration. I typically take my own pictures for references: a hand pose; the musculature for a neck, arm or leg; a gesture; perspectives and such.
I think the most exciting thing about a work that uses stock photography is the way the artist reveals his view of the image. I appreciate the technique that represents the picture as it is, but I like it much more when the artist creates something original with the picture that changes the way we look at the image. What I love is when the artist really translates a photo into an illustration, with new meanings and other languages.
One of your more iconic pieces, which is very much part of your new pressure-sensitive strokes within line art style, is the portrait you did of Ayrton Senna. His portrait was part of a series of pieces you were commissioned to create about Brazilian sporting idols for Brazilian ESPN Magazine. This was really the start of your new style and the technique that you went into detail with for Adobe Master Class: Illustrator. Why did you decide to share this technique rather than your previous styles? Given that so many people try to duplicate this apprach, why did you decide to create such a detailed tutorial?
Actually the start of those portrait styles was two promo pieces I did in 2010, featuring the players Messi and Kaka. A big publisher in Brazil saw those works and commissioned me to draw 10 portraits for a special article, and after that ESPN magazine came to me for their portraits. The Ayrton Senna work was intended to be the cover of the ESPN Magazine, but the editors were not sure about using an illustration for the cover, even with all the arguments from their art director. That illustration is very well loved in any gallery I submit it to online, which makes me very happy since Ayrton Senna was/is an idol.
I decided to share this style because I’ve been getting many requests for tutorials on this approach. Almost every day I get a comment, email or message from people asking if I could do a tutorial of this style, that they wanted to try their own and such. The Illustrator Master Class book felt like the best opportunity to share the technique in a respectable publication and for a good audience. I also believe this technique is a good way to get a take on drawing organically, different from the typical vector styles in Illustrator. It shows that not everything needs to be hard, precise and very technical.
I know that there are many people trying to duplicate this style and I see it as a way to learn this approach to vector illustration. As a student, I have tried my hand a duplicating a style many times as a way to understand how the artist did his/her work and be able to use the same techniques in my own work. Since I didn’t have ways to ask my favorite artists to teach me, I tried to do the same work in hope to learn how to do those wonderful works. With the tutorial, I wanted to share that the secret of my “style” is not just about the software, but about a personal way of drawing. I want to say, “OK, you see that Illustrator offers good tools to create an organic drawing, now use them to improve your own drawings.” That’s it.
You have worked with Nike for a variety of projects now. What is it about the guys and gals of Nike that makes them so enjoyable to work with? Nike seems to be a dream client. But other than Nike, who would you most love to work for and why?
I really enjoy working for Nike. You are right; they are like a dream client. Working for Nike is fun but it’s also a big responsibility. I am lucky because I work with experienced art directors that know very well what they are looking for. Usually, I don’t have any problem doing work for Nike because the art directors already know my work and what I can offer. They always have a solid idea in mind of the type of illustration they want from me, but they are also open minded enough to accept suggestions, too. The important thing is that both of us work on getting an image that represents the brand well, full of energy and exploring the possibilities of the media, in this case, t-shirts.
I like creating illustrations for sports; I would like to work for other sports companies. Sports are a theme that I enjoy and fits very well with my work style: stylized bodies, lines, energy, bold colors.
Over the past year or so you have been looking beyond your day job as illustrator and have gone to university to study editorial publishing and production. Why did you decide to take this course at this point in your career? Where do you think you’ll take your university experience?
Actually, I never went to university and it was a goal in my life. The years were passing by and I thought I should move myself and start a university course. I could have done it before, but I was not sure about the course I wanted to take and I didn’t have the flexibility to keep both working and studying. As a freelancer working for some different magazine and book publishers, I got interested in the editorial/publishing area and then I found an university course exactly about this subject. So I started it.
I hope the experience with the course makes me able to have another profession and be able to bring what I know of illustration and design to the editorial world. Maybe creating new products? I still don’t know.
I’ve had the pleasure of checking out work you’ve done on your course so far. I’ve especially enjoyed your rotoscope animation. What process did you go through creating this and what tools did you use?
That work was very hard to do. It was the second semester work and required a long process of research and conceptualization before starting the animation. The animation was based on a poem by the Brazilian writer Mario de Andrade (1893-1945) called “Meditação sobre o Tietê,” which he wrote only 13 days before his death. To create a script for the animation, we had to make a criterion analysis of the original text to identify the concepts behind the poet’s words and translate these concepts into a script. In order to make this “translation” we researched the historical facts around the text, the poet’s life, his style of writing, reflections in other texts and imagery of the poet’s work. With these elements in hand, we started to write the script. The poem is about deception and the relation of the poet with the city of Sao Paulo in the 40’s. The script was written about a character disappointed with the ways of his life and the relation of this character with his parents.
The original script was for a three-minute animation, but due to the lack of experience, we wrote too much, pushing the animation out to about six minutes in length, impossible to produce in just one month! So we had to cut some scenes and condense the animation back to three minutes.
The option for the rotoscope animation was decided after watching movies like “Waking Life” and “A Scanner Darkly,” both from Richard Linklater. The technique was perfect for an existential drama, and I wanted to learn how to make an animation like this. With the storyboard in hand, I started to record the shots with a cell phone, using myself as actor and my apartment as background. The process was like this: Record scenes with a cell phone, get the perfect take, split the take in frames in After Effects. Draw each frame in Photoshop, join all the frames in a new take in After Effects and build the whole movie in IMovie. I did this process several times, for each scene. At the end I realized that I could make many scenes using Illustrator instead of Photoshop and that I could apply some After Effects filters over vector illustrations, which I did for the final scene. But, anyway, it was done!
How has your experience as a freelance illustrator helped you in your course?
I think the discipline required to be a freelancer helped me a lot in this course. As a freelancer, my time is flexible, but I also need a bit of discipline to get all the work done, even when I don’t have the same periods of time available to work everyday. Also, having work experience lets me enjoy and understand the classes more deeply, asking better questions of the professors and extracting more from what they can offer. I found that I could learn many things that weren’t originally in the class by simply asking the right questions.
So what does CrisVector get up to in his free time? Do you have any creative hobbies other than illustration?
I don’t have any hobbies, but I like to go out with Mari (my girlfriend), see our friends, watch a movie or just be at home. I really like to travel. Recently I’ve been to Colombia, visiting Bogota, Medellin and San Andres Island. I really loved it!
Thank you very much for your time today and contributing to Adobe Master Class: Illustrator. One final question… if you could control what new features could be added to Adobe Illustrator, what would you like to add and why?
I would like a “tutorialize” tool that can record all the steps and split it into screenshots with a small legend of what tool was used and the configuration of the tool. That way I would be able to write many tutorials while I work and be able to remember the configuration of the tools every time.