{the interview series} Zé Otavio

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

É engraçado reparar que a maioria dos meus entrevistados são mulheres... mas hoje tenho o prazer de vos apresentar mais um artista masculino: Zé Otavio. Este ilustrador Brasileiro com sede em São Paulo, desenha com intensidade e paixão e encontra no universo feminino uma das suas maiores fontes de inspiração.
Adoro a forma como o Zé combina diferentes cores e materiais e retrata pessoas conhecidas de forma tão pessoal... leiam e admirem o seu trabalho ao longo desta entrevista!

[Este post pertence à rubrica semanal {the interview series}, onde publico uma nova entrevista todas as quartas-feiras, com artistas e bloggers inspiradores que admiro, de acordo com o espírito handmade e um estilo de vida criativo. Tornem-se fãs no facebook e não percam nada!
Por motivos óbvios de extensão e compreensão do texto, tanto pelos entrevistados como pelos potenciais leitores do resto do mundo, a entrevista segue em inglês.]

It's funny to notice that most of my interviewees are women... but today I'm pleased to present you another male artist: Zé Otavio. This Brazilian illustrator based in São Paulo, draws with intensity and passion and finds in the female universe one of his greatest sources of inspiration.
I love the way Zé combines different colors and materials and portrays well-known people is such a personal way... read and admire his work throughout this interview!

[This post belongs to the weekly feature {the interview series} where I publish a new interview every wednesday with inspiring artists and bloggers I admire, according to the spirit of handmade and a creative lifestyle. Become a facebook fan and don't miss a bit!]

Zé Otavio
São Paulo, Brazil


1. Let’s pretend we don’t know each other and I’ve never heard about Zé Otavio. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Well, I'm illustrator based in São Paulo, Brazil. Working as a freelance for six years.

2. You have a graphic design degree but work mainly as an illustrator. How was this creative passion born and which path lead you here?
I used to have fun in class drawing my mates on and off but I never gave really much thought on doing something with it until the day I saw a cool magazine, called Trip, somehow I started to wonder how they produce the magazine, who took those pictures and everything, and one year later I was starting a Graphic Design college. At that time I fell in love with photography and life drawing, taking lessons in the morning and also at night if the teacher let me in. Quite lovely time. Although I was really into it, I didn't see any future with my drawings, I mean, I did on the core, but I couldn't feel that so I was just becoming another graphic design student until the day I landed on Céu D'Ellia's studio who is one of the most incredible illustrators and animation filmmakers in Brazil. Another amazing time, I worked there as an intern and it was just like doing another college, this time real life college and full of illustration as well. We worked mostly with animation there and I didn't felt like pursuing an animation career so I decided to become a freelance illustrator and here I am.



3. You’re attracted to faces and people and the characters you create are extremely expressive, somewhere between the glamour of fashion and the obscenity of sex. Are they real? What inspires you to create them?
Some of them are real, but not too real, you know, those people you see in the night that you find attractive or cool, they aren't real. It's more like a mix of everything I see on the streets, or on tumblers or Facebook. What inspires me? Let me see, walking on the streets, the city, photography and used to be the nightlife but nowadays I'm not really into that.

You create some amazing portraits of celebrities for your editorial work, but you also like to celebrate the uniqueness of the anonymous people that you come across in the streets. Tell us about the way the experiments you explore in your sketchbooks influence the evolution of your art.
Well, it's just like an illustrator mate wrote, sketchbooks is just like an idea antenna and for me the sketchbooks will always represent where I'm heading, the gates of the future, something like this. I've been working a lot these days and I'm not having a good time to experiment on my sketchbooks but they’re always around even to stick some cool pic on it, even to write a word. An artist and a illustrator must have a sketchbook always in hand even if you are not the kind of guy who walks around drawing, I don't like that actually, I'm more up to sketch indoors but it's always good to take some notes.

5. You like to create mixed media compositions, combining strong lines with bold colors and collages. Why do you prefer to use these mediums?
I don't know actually, it's just what years of studying and looking at Egon Schiele, Andy Warhol and São Paulo's walls, flyovers and graffiti that makes who I am or my style. I've always loved the lines, I'm always searching for the perfect line. It has to sound simple and strong, loose lines and bold colors.

6. I’d love if you could share some of your favorite artists with us.
I love Nadav Kander and Nan Goldin photography, first of all. I really like Sam Weber, Tina Berning and David Foldvari illustraton artwork's. Also the street artists Daniel Melim and Zezão.


7. You’ve already worked to some well-known clients, such as Editora Globo, Playboy or Rolling Stone Brazil. What’s the main type of commissioned work you develop? What are the biggest challenges you face?
The main type of commissioned work are the portraits. The biggest challenge is to make these portraits true and meaningful. I’m always trying to make the people that I'm illustrating look pride at some point.

8. You have a recognizable style and through your work your name travels all around the world! What means do you use to promote it?
Sometimes I think that my images just flies around as everything flies on the internet. Basically, I post my work at Illustration Mundo, on my Behance page, flickr and now on tumblr. Last month I had the pleasure of be mentioned on Lou Reed's facebook page because of a unpublished portrait that I did of him. ;o)

9. Would you share with us a regular day at work?
Wake up. Try to get up. Wake my cat up or vice-versa. Drink a good shake. Open my Macbook. Check e-mail go to my facebook page look at news feed. Run away from the newsfeed. See what is on my iCal. Start to sketch something or finish some artwork. Lunch that I usually prepare. Watching some TV series eating my meal. Back to the work. Listen to music from radio or some music from my friend Bandini. Walking around the studio, stretch my legs. Do some yoga exercises. Always checking my e-mails. Feed the cats. More facebook, more looking at something on the internet. Back to the paintings. Open a beer (not everyday of course) at the end of the day, eat something. Chat with my girlfriend ( I always send the work I'm doing for her to check, she's a journalist but is always saying the right things about my images...) and this is it. I'm done.

Would you give us a glimpse of your working space? Describe it and tell us what you love most about it.
At this moment that I'm writing this interview is totally messy here because there are a lot of things to do. Pens e pencils all around, my unfinished paintings, paper, lots of paper, smell of the good coffee that my mate Bandini does, the cats crying for more food and attention, loud rock'n'roll music playing or a vintage reggae. And what I love most about it are the cats of course, always my companions, always looking at me with a hungry fat fur face.

11. Share your passions and hobbies with us.
I love to walk and be upside down. And I like to buy magazines, newspaper and books.

12. You work and live in São Paulo, one of the most vibrant cities in Brazil - tell us about what you love most about it. Would you like to live anywhere else one day?
The nightlife and the food are great. You can eat good food on every corner. Also the inspiration and vibration of the city walls, the graffiti, the people... For an artist is great because the city push you forward every time, not because we got a beautiful city, it's no good to say this but the visual pollution is what makes our city vibrant and inspiring. When you walk through São Paulo you don't feel comfortable or happy, it's like you're looking at some Pollock painting all the time, you don't have to understand but you do have to identify with it.
Well, I always have this passion about New York, you know, from pictures and movies, I've been watching the TV series Louie and it's set there, more and more I think I would live there. Not to mention TV series Girls now.

We Float | Vera & Lucélia

If you could live in any historical era of your choice, what would it be? Why?
I'm ok with this era. Precisely in 2012. I like the present moment and I'm not a person who thinks that we used to be better in the past.

What advices would you give to someone who would also like to become an illustrator?
You've got to love the environment, I mean the rush, the late hours working, networking, got to be a nice guy and you got to have a plan of where you are going as everything in your life. Also is great if you study some other media such as photography, film, fine arts, literature, etc. I don't know if it's a good idea to study too much other illustrators, I rather studying some other arts. This will shape your style, your ideas and attitudes in a unique way.

15. What are your plans for the future? And your most unrealistic dreams?
My plan is to have a decent life working with art and illustration, expressing myself as much as possible and making a living with it. My plan for the future is to become more analog and less digital with my illustration and art. Unrealistic dream? Hum, well, maybe give up this illustration art thing and play the guitar and sing some songs about my life and São Paulo city's.

Now a quick question and answer game so we can find a bit more about you and your tastes!
Tell us one:

book: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
music: O Stella by PJ Harvey
movie: Before Sunset by Richard Linklater
personality/artist: Adam “MCA” Yauch from the Beastie Boys
color: magenta
object: guitar
animal: cat
drink: whiskey
food: hamburger
season of the year: autumn
travel destination: London
piece of clothing: jeans
secret: I don't have a graphic tablet

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and passions with us Zé!


  1. powerfull work! the colors & the lines! amazing! thank you Ana for this interview!

  2. I've always loved Ze's work. I found him originally on Flickr and never stopped loving. The yellow, THE YELLOW!
    Great, beautiful, loud work, Ze!
    :: Marta

  3. I love Ze's work. As soon as I saw it, I was reminded of Egon Schiele. And what do you know! Ze mentions Schiele as an influence. Many thanks for sharing this story. -V.

  4. CONGRATS! Ze is one of the best!!


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