Deborah “Tartaruga” Feliz is an illustrator using character design to change the environment around her to show the silver lining of every moment. Not every situation calls for joy, but optimism brings hope, and hope inspires change. Her work focuses on bringing more empathy and love to the world, and was most recently featured at Pictoplasma for the Character Face-Off Challenge.
When you create a character, you have to sacrifice a part of yourself.
In order to create something new, something so pure, you have to figure out what you are and learn how to communicate that to others.
My work is all about playing and expressing yourself freely without fear of being judged. Character design, for me, helps me to give shape to my emotions and my values. It is a different way of experiencing reality.
I believe so strongly that character design and storytelling are the paths to growth and empathy that I have begun teaching workshops of my own that carry on the values represented in my art.
Character design opens up a new way of perceiving the world around you.
I want to solve the issue of feeling contained. Contained in our minds, by our own thoughts, by our own beliefs. We should support each other to expand beyond the thoughts and practices that make others comfortable.
The thing with society today is that everyone is full of fear. This fear is put on us in early years. We are afraid to fail, afraid to express ourselves, afraid of judgement. We are so focused on following society-imposed structures. For so many, it’s great. But for a lot of us, it isn’t.
Character design is a way for us to relate to each other. It helps us understand each other and ourselves.
That sense of community and collaboration – being in a safe space to create art – is a bridge to openness. You aren’t afraid to be judged or do something wrong because there is no such thing when you are expressing yourself. There is no right or wrong. Character design is perfect for expression in this sense.
I want people to understand that it’s okay to try new things, to realize there is no wrong. When we are young and first go to school, we are able to express ourselves fully. It’s incredible. We are so comfortable. Then we spend a few years over thinking. Society doesn’t think about the consequences of judgement. Until you’re confronted with a defining situation, we don’t know what our limit is. To what point are you diminishing yourself to fit in.
“Character design opens up a new way of perceiving the world around you.”
It’s difficult to be totally free. Through character design, I have challenged that.
And I want to teach people that animating and creating new characters – each representing a part of my soul – isn’t a straightforward process that you can do right or wrong. It’s very chaotic. There is no right. There is a small fleeting idea and I capture it and I doodle it and I feel better.
Every time I feel a little bit sad, I try to concentrate and create characters that give people a sense of love and empathy and compassion.
This process should be fun, the journey is so much more interesting than the destination. If you get everything right on the first try, you never learn. You learn with your mistakes.
That’s when you make breakthroughs.