Jelly Presents: Mariana Rodrigues

Thursday 8 October 2020

The Portugal based illustrator delves into the art of adding narrative to her already detailed artwork.

Where do we begin when we talk about Mariana Rodrigues’ work? She’s certainly no stranger to utilising any technique available to her, from pencil, ink and watercolour, to digital manipulation and digital colouringall to create her wonderfully detailed imaginary worlds. Mariana also likes to deconstruct things – predominantly nature – and reassemble them into a universe that we can’t help but get lost in. The perfect escapism for 2020.

Like most people, Mariana has found this year a hard and strange one. Mariana tells us that at the beginning of the pandemic, for a few months, she completely lost her willingness and drive to draw or create anything at all. Like a lot of other creatives at this time her confidence was shattered. But having been a professional illustrator for many years now, Mariana knew this was normal, she’s had her ups and downs before but having client work always kept her afloat and helped her not to overthink things.

Yet amidst the pandemic things got a bit quieter and there was nowhere for Mariana to escape to from her worrying thoughts and the sense of guilt that comes from not being able to create. So what did Mariana do? She decided she would simply have to ‘just go with it’. She accepted this particularly low moment in her life and stopped forcing herself to try to create artwork. Until one day, out of nowhere, she started to create like she never had before, “Ideas were pouring out of me and I created a lot of new illustrations in a small amount of time. Now, every time I have a new ‘down time/period’ I just have to remember that it’s okay to feel this way”. Sound advice for anyone and everyone.

When ‘in the zone’ Mariana draws her inspiration from the world around her. From a walk in the park, a book, a documentary, a beautiful shadow, a dream… anything! She collects objects/pictures and videos on her phone as well as her mind and create her own imaginary worlds.

A self-confessed “9 to 5” person, Mariana used to work from home which meant no boundaries and sometimes no weekends. But since recently moving to a studio with friends she has been able to keep her work-life relatively separate from home and this has enabled her to feel more productive whilst trying to finish her task list before the end of each day. All while answering emails, creating new work, petting and playing with her dog Bao or talking “way too much” about food with her friends at the studio.

Lately, Mariana has felt like her work needed to evolve in a different way whilst remaining familiar, “Drawing things from the natural world will always be my favourite thing but I needed to push that. It was time to bring to life my own fantasy worlds.” She has now been a lot more focused on adding a narrative and weaving characters into her work. In these narratives, Mariana brings to life her imagination, places and gardens that live in her head so the viewer can walk into and interpret these worlds in their own way.

Mariana has also been giving a more important role to the animals that feature in her work. They now have their own personalities and are more playful with their surroundings. They live in her drawings with a purpose – they can be the protectors of a flower or they can be just some playful greedy eaters.

When creating her artwork, Mariana confesses she doesn’t like to do sketches, “If it’s for a commission, I’ll naturally do it. I understand it’s needed; it makes the process smoother and it helps the client to see and understand my idea. But if I’m working on a personal project, I’ll just skip that part. It comes out of my imagination straight into Photoshop (I paint every single element on Photoshop).” That doesn’t necessarily mean everything Mariana creates works on paper like she’s imagined. Sometimes there will still be a lot of trial and error until she is happy with the final result, which is the opposite on a commission, where everything is always very well thought through and planned.

This year is all about focusing on new personal projects for Mariana. Like many, it’s been a period of reflection, taking the time to look at one’s self and our life. Mariana is taking the time to strengthen her work and create the work that she now wants to be commissioned for, “I want to take my work into new directions and I think it’s important to keep improving and be better at it.”

Mariana has also been working on a very exciting project that will be released into the world before the end of 2021 – something for us to look forward to in these dark and dismal days. “It’s all about aquatic animals and I think it’s a very important one because sadly, the aquatic environments and all the planet really, is in serious danger. I hope this one will bring some good and knowledge to the world before time runs out.”

We hope so too Mariana. x