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Interview with Luis Melo

“Don’t just try to copy your idols or what everyone is doing in the industry, but develop a personal connection with your pictures”.

Please, tell us a few words about yourself(age, where you are from, etc).

Hi. I’m almost 30 years old. That feels strange to say! I was born in Lisbon, Portugal, and that’s where I live at the moment.

When did you start doing digital painting? What was the reason of choosing this occupation? Did you start it as hobby or your aim was to build up a career in this field? Did you have any art related schooling?

I started digital painting about around 2003. I found it a bit late. Up until then I didn’t know what concept art was, and I never thought I could be doing it as a job. I took a major in graphic design at the fine-arts school, because I didn’t know what else to try. It was towards the end of the course that I came across digital illustration, when I was planning to make a small game project. As soon as I found some artist forums, I started to go deeper and deeper in it very fast, and it wasn’t long until I realized that Illustration was the job I wanted. So, it was somewhat unexpected, and I learned pretty much everything I know online and by myself, but I’m really glad I found this activity and I’m quite happy with my career so far.

Looking through your rich portfolio I have noticed that you are working in many art directions. Where do you get the ideas for such amazing works?

I like trying out different styles. Inspiration comes from many different things and places, so I like to find different ways to draw as well. The ideas come from other art and everyday life. Anything can be inspiring – a book, a movie, a game, or just a place I go by and find something special in. It can be something really simple.

I think it will be interesting for our readers to learn about your work “Like it was summer”. Where did you get inspiration and ideas to create this artwork? What stage was the most difficult for you? How long did you work on it?

This image was made some time ago, so I’m not completely sure how the idea came. The inspiration comes from my insterest in anime backgrounds, but also from some places I know. there’s a bit of my neighbourhood in that image, but also from asian urban environments. I was trying to capture a feeling of being young and careless and wanting to really do something despite it not being the right time. Usually, coming up with a good sketch without rushing is the hardest part for me but here it came pretty easy. I don’t think I had any technical problems with it, although now I think it would worked out different. I’m not sure how long it took me, it was a long time ago but maybe from 9-12 hours.

What kind of work are you doing now? What characters, ideas and themes are prevailing?

Now I’m doing whatever work comes, as a freelancer. I’m reading a lot of science-fiction these days, so I would like to draw a lot around that theme. But I end up drawing other things as well, like now I’m doing some DJ nights once in a while, so I like to do some flyers and posters related to the music I play. I’m also coming back to freelance work after having stopped for some time because of an accident. So I’m not reall sure where my work will go but I’m motivated!

What work do you enjoy more: personal or commercial projects?What type of work do you like to do?

Well, I would love to do art for its own sake. I love working on my personal stuff and I’ve thought about doing something like a graphic novel or a small game on my own. But illustration as a way of life is always connected to commercial work. Still, I’m quite lucky in having found commercial work that’s very enjoyable, and also having had some time to explore my own stuff. Even in the biggest projects I’ve been in, there has been a lot of personal freedom, so I’m very happy with the balance I’ve gotten so far.

Are you a perfectionist? Does it take you long to achieve that final perfect image you are happy with?

I’m not too much of a perfectionist… or,some people might say I am but sometimes I have to struggle with myself when I work so that I don’t rush things too much. Sometimes I really want to finish a picture, and I call it done before I check if evrerything is really working right. So I sould be more of a “perfectionist” with my method, and give myself some time to look at the my final images and fix them properly.

Have you any tricks and your own “know-hows” which you gained with experience during your work? What do you think is the most important thing in creation of any work?

It’s important for me to start with a clear picture in my mind of what I want to do. It’s important that that “picture” gives me a strong feeling, whatever it is… horror, wonder, calm, or just something ridiculous. Then, as I said in the last question, I have to keep in mind not to rush and skip stages of painting. But it makes no sense to talk about techniques or tricks here.
I think the best thing you can do is to try to have fun painting. Personally I believe the real meaning of talent is how much fun you can have doing what you like. If you can enjoy more than worry and if you face problems as small and temporary setbacks instead of doubting yourself all the time, you’re likely to improve greatly and be more expressive. Learning how to manage yourself and your feelings and expectations about your work is something very important. I’m far from perfect in this, I have lots of doubts and worries, and it’s quite normal, but my enjoyment in work is still very positive. And I’ve found that the best artists are the ones that manage to break out of the self-doubt cycle more frequently.

How do you manage to combine your personal life and work? Do you have any hobbies? Is it easy for you to find the time for your family, friends?

Sometimes I’m not very good with this. I have some hobbies, like playing the congas, collecting music and cooking. There are times when I’m so involved with work (and sometimes with hobbies) that I don’t see people much, but fortunately I always have other times when I can take a good time off and go out with friends and be with my family. I’m trying to get better at managing this. I used to get invlved in too many projects and acivities, but I’ve had some health problems because of stress, so I’m trying to improve my routine and making it healthier.

What can you say to inspire those newbies who are just starting to work in CG?

I would say learn as much as you can about technique at the start, because that’s when you are most motivated. I wish I could have started at 17. The knowledge you need is basically free. Join forums and communities, don’t be afraid of asking for comments and advice. And be very open to critics. Remember you’re the master of your work, but people might have important things to say about it that maybe your eyes alone cannot see.
But also, more important than learning great techinque – THINK about what you’re drawing and why. Don’t just try to copy your idols or what everyone is doing in the industry, but develop a personal connection with your pictures. Think about who your characters are and what you would feel standing in the places you draw. And the most important thing of all – have fun all the way.

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