Bruno Oliveira is living his dream of drawing comics as a career. We recently had the chance to ask him about how he got his start as a freelancer, what inspires him to keep his artwork fun and playful, and the moment he found out he'd got his first job working for Marvel comics.
Where are you from?
I’m originally from a city called Uberaba, in Brazil. I'm still based in Brazil, but I'm currently living in a city called Campinas.
How long have you been drawing and painting?
I've been drawing since I was a little kid.
I’ve always wanted to be a super-hero comic book artist, and since the comic-making process is divided between the penciller, inker, and colorist, I was only really interested in drawing. It was only later (around 18) that I got curious about painting.
How would you describe your style?
I use lines to bring a heavy sense of graphic feeling and expression to the drawing, almost as if it was a sketch, and I tend to be pretty loose with my final lines. I love linework. It gives me an appreciation for so many artists (animators, illustrators, comic book artists, etc), and I try to bring that inspiration into my art.
Do you draw or paint in traditional media as well as digital?
I used to draw and paint traditionally a lot, but as technology got better and more portable and deadlines got tighter, I moved to digital.
Do you have any tips to offer to aspiring artists?
I'd like to pass on some advice I wish I'd heard as I was practicing to be a better artist: have fun.
It is amazing how much faster you learn when you can make it fun for yourself. When we’re serious about learning something, we tend to be very strict, very technical and mostly very hard on ourselves. That’s incredibly counter-productive and we suffer for nothing. I’m completely against the whole “suffer for your art” type of thinking.
When your inspiration is running low, how do you refuel?
That’s easy: I become a kid again. I flip through old comic books that have inspired me in the past, I leave old movies playing in the background while I work, and before I know it, inspiration comes rushing back.
Are there any skills that are required for, or unique to your line of work?
If we’re being technical, it’s hard to become a professional comic book artist (especially drawing superheroes) without understanding anatomy, proportion, light and shadow, composition and visual storytelling, and lots of perspective.
How do your artworks evolve?
It depends on the project. If it’s a comic, I start by reading a script provided by the writer (assuming I’m not the writer), then I do some very quick layouts for the editors to approve.
After approval, I do pencils, then I ink the work. Even though pencilling and inking are traditional terms, nowadays I do everything digitally on Procreate. If it’s an illustration, I start by thinking of the mood and throw some quick colors to a loose layout. After that, the process is the same as a comic page.
Do you usually start a project with something specific in mind, or are you more likely to discover the artwork along the way?
It comes both ways. If I’m following a script or an editorial note, deadline is key! So I let it guide what I have to do, and how I can do it. I need to do the best possible art for that script/note in that specific amount of time. When that happens, I have it pretty clear in my mind what I want and need.
However, some editors just ask me for my input, letting me run free. Then I just start sketching and see where it goes until everybody is satisfied.
Do you need something happening in the background while you paint, or do you prefer to work without distraction?
I like to have something running in the background - music, movies. It depends on how I’m feeling. It’s usually movies I’ve watched a thousand times before. If I put on something I haven’t watched yet, it takes my mind completely out of the work.
The same goes for music. New music distracts me, but music I’ve listened to a lot before just helps me focus.
What projects are you working on right now?
Right now I’m drawing two issues of Scarlet Spider for Marvel.
Are there any artists who have inspired your work?
Hundreds! Artists like Roger Cruz, Ivan Reis, Eduardo Risso, Nicolas Nemiri, Kim Jung Gi, Joe Kubert, Nicolas Marlet… the list goes on forever.
How has your art style changed over time?
Hopefully a lot. I used to have this very tight and constrained drawing which I never really enjoyed and didn’t really take me anywhere.
It was too hard, the drawing too cold and lifeless. But the having fun notion kicked in and the drawing followed along, being more spontaneous, more expressive and a bit more graphical than “realistic".
How does your workspace influence the work you create?
That’s a great question. It used to mean the world to me, I used to need all my magazines, books, posters and everything around me to work and inspire me. But that’s because it was very difficult to move around to do the work.
It was like a desktop computer. You can’t move with it as easy so you need to make that place perfect. But as I started working digitally and more portable, I realized how little - physically - I needed.
I take my iPad with me, it has all my comics in it in case I want to refuel, it has Netflix that can play in the background while I draw. The iPad is my portable studio which is great because it helped me make it to a lot more events and conventions, and allows more travelling for fun.
Are there any overarching themes or messages you try to work into your art?
Again, I keep coming back to the fun. It sounds silly and a little shallow but it took me a long time to realize how important and vital that is to the work.
Whenever I’m inspired by someone’s artwork, it's because I feel the “fun”, even if I’m not aware at the moment. So it doesn’t really matter if it’s a professional work or just for myself, I always want my work to look like fun. It can be a superhero piece, a horror theme, doesn’t matter. I want it to convey how much fun I had and hopefully people looking at it feel the same way.
What’s it like to regularly work with companies like Marvel?
It’s fantastic. It’s a dream come true in every sense. Actually, the first time I worked for them, I doubted that I had actually gotten an email from them. I had just woken up, that moment when you’re not quite sure what you dreamt and what’s reality, you’re still in bed - and there was this email.
I read it quickly and I felt really happy. So I finished “waking up”, and as I stood up to go to the kitchen, I had that feeling in my mind of how nice if that dream was true. Only then it hit me: "Wait a second. Check your emails again."
Can you tell us a little about your journey to becoming a freelance artist?
It was really hard. It sounds fun and great, but being a freelance artist means taking care of so much that you usually don’t have to if you just work for a company.
You need to learn how to look for work online, how to sell your work, how to price it, how to schedule everything so you hopefully don’t run out of work... all of that is really hard when you’re starting.
My first freelance work was when I was 16. As soon as I got it I thought: "Well, this is it, I’m a professional now, I’m gonna quit school and be awesome.” Man, was I wrong. I didn’t get another job for over a year, and it was just a small project as well. I kept trying to look for work online, but a lot of companies were still suspicious of hiring people they hadn’t met in person and it took a lot of searching, a lot of practice and a lot of talk to get things rolling.
So many people helped me with tips and with awesome advice. When you want to draw or paint for a living, you are not aware of how much else you need to do and learn in order to turn this into a profession.
Do you have a favourite tool or feature in Procreate?
QuickLine, hands down.
Do you have a favourite brush to use? I have two! The 6B Pencil for layout and penciling, and a customized inking brush I spent months developing.
How has Procreate changed or affected the way you work as an artist?
Portability - it literally changed my whole career. To have all my paper, pencils, pens and paint in a screen is something that sounds out of a sci-fi movie.
It’s still mind blowing to me how much stuff you guys can put into an app. For the record, I hate the connotation of the word “app" because it sounds like it’s just a fun little thing.
After you’ve used so much software, so many types of paper, so many brushes that you had to import and pay tax to get, and all of a sudden you have that in your backpack? I think we take for granted how amazing these times are.
Are there any features you’d be super excited to see implemented in future?
CMYK colors! CMYK colors!!! That’s the only thing missing for me. It’s actually the only thing for which I need to use other apps to get a complete, finished piece. Everything else is done in Procreate.