Jorge Mascarenhas was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He’s been drawing ever since he was able to hold a crayon. His illustrations have been commissioned, nationally and internationally, by clients such as The New Yorker, The New York Times, Family Circle, Macmillan, TOR, Wednesday Books, Runner’s World, Random House, Abrams Books, Popcorn Books, New Republic, D Magazine, 5280 Magazine, Desigual, Stanford University, Chief Investment Officer, Becker and Mayer, Six Red Marbles, Flaunt Magazine and Estado de São Paulo.
His work has been awarded and honored by every major illustration competition including Communication Arts, Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, Spectrum Fantastic Art, 3×3 Magazine, SILA and Lürzer’s Archive 200 Best Series; as well as featured in notable illustration publications such as Taschen’s Illustration Now and HOW Design. He’s a recipient of several Communication Arts Awards of Excellence, Silver and Bronze Medals from the Society Of Illustrators LA and Creative Quarterly.
Samples of his work can be found at https://jmasca-art.com
Interview by Jon Messer
What is Illustration?
Illustration is the visual representation of a text or concept. It’s crucial for our culture since many things need visual representation of a story, idea, message, or information.
What drew you to become an illustrator in the first place? What illustrators influenced you most as a young artist? And today?
During my childhood I was inspired by movies such as Dark Crystal, The Secret of NIMH, The Last Unicorn and Never ending Story. When I enrolled in college I discovered a bunch of illustrators that opened my inspiration even further. I idolized the work of Mark English, Bernie Fuchs, Skip Liepke, Greg Manchess and Gary Kelley; as well as old masters like Edvard Much, JW Waterhouse, Vilhelm Hammershøi, Vouillard, Bonnard, and many of the Symbolists. I admire the work of modern illustrators like Marinetta Surek (Loputyn), Marcela Bolivar, and Gerard Dubois.
Was there an important event or shift in your thinking that boosted your career as a professional?
As an illustrator, your art has to evolve over time. There was a particularly challenging time that forced me to look back and grow my work (both technically and conceptually). This happened around my sixth year as an illustrator. I had to evaluate my portfolio with brutal honesty and also ask myself what I kind of work will bring me joy. I remember telling myself that I will never work digitally once, and now almost 70% of my work is done digitally. I still enjoy painting, and feeling of having a physical piece of art.
Do you only accept commissions that inspire you?
I see every project as a different opportunity to grow, even if the subject is something that is not up my alley. In fact, I find those projects more rewarding after bringing them to life.
What do you do to stay inspired?
I look a lot at photography and film for ideas, as well as reading different stories and listening to soundtrack scores. Inspiration is all around you. Sometimes, you’re having a chat with friends, and an idea comes by. For me, the best ideas come when I’m least expecting them. I have a thread on my notes app of ideas to be done.
What goals are you currently working towards?
To keep collaborating and creating art for publications, and if possible, inspire others. Also, to be more involved in the illustration community, and challenging myself further creatively.
Which is more important; content or technique?
Both. A good illustration must show mastery of the technique and great thinking.
What do you see as the big challenges for illustrators in the future?
The rise of AI can be a challenge, since it provides a quick image for many businesses. Theoretically, an illustrator won’t be needed with such powerful tool. Publications may look into cutting costs, and have in-house prompters as “artists.” On the other hand, illustrators have faced major technological shifts and survived.
What kind of training or education should illustrators receive?
Today an illustrator must be trained both classically and digitally. Having both set of skills, and an unique way of thinking can take you a long way. Many resources are available online, and there are several schools where an aspiring artist can get their education.
Do you think art fundamentals are still relevant in the new age of AI?
Of course. Every aspiring artist must know the fundamentals of image making, and know how to use the different tools (both traditional and digital). I don’t think AI will kill off art. There will be always those who love to draw and tell stories with their pictures. As artists we will have to adapt to another shift.
What advice do you wish you had gotten as a young illustrator?
Business management is something that I wished I studied in college. I think it should be a requirement for every artist to take a business class. This is something that was barely touched during my college days. Every artist should know how to manage their studio and how to be a businessperson.
Do you have anything you’d like to say or share with other illustrators and students?
For fledging illustrators: in addition to learning technical skills, learn how to run a business if you intend to make a living off your artwork. Also, get a mentor or keep in touch with your favorite instructors to guide you through the first years. Always push yourself to be better, both conceptually and technically. Create work that you care and are passionate about.
© no artwork displayed can be used without permission of the artist, Jorge Mascarenhas