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Interview with Rubens Scarelli

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Rubens Scarelli, also known as Rusc, is an illustrator and graphic designer from Sao Paulo, Brazil. It seems like there is something special in Brazil's air, that it produces some amazing designers and illustrators.

Ruben's illustrations are crafted with clean linework and attractive colors that are perfect for t-shirts. He creates some fun, expressive, and engaging characters through his illustrations. In this interview Ruben talks about his creative journey, his passion for t-shirt designs, his future goals and inspirations.

1. Hello Rubens, to start, could you tell us a little about yourself, about your formal education and about your design and illustrating background? When did you first feel a calling to be an artist?

Hi, My name is Rubens Scarelli, a.k.a. Rusc. I'm an illustrator and graphic designer from Brazil. I'm 44 years old and my background is in advertising, but I drew as a child and my first job was to design a comic book for Nestlé in Brazil in 1987, when I was 21. I had just left the family business, a small clothing industry in Sao Paulo. The agency hired me specifically for this project, but I ended up staying for a few years.

I liked the comics and later went to create my own. It was all very magical at the time and the comics were a great foundation for me to develop my side as the designer.

2. You do a lot of t-shirt designs. When and how did you get interested in designing for t-shirts? Why do you think t-shirts make such a great medium for designers and artists?

In my 17 years I was developing my designs for t-shirts. One of the goals of the company of my family was to have a street wear brand. But unfortunately my father put other ideas in front and I ended up leaving the firm.

For many years I worked in advertising agencies and drawing comics, but that idea of t-shirts never left my mind. When I began to spread over the internet, contest sites for creating t-shirts, I decided to send, unpretentiously, a drawing.

I did not win in the first one, but I received many comments of encouragement and just in the second attempt I was an approved designer. I think that this interaction was the point that it encouraged me to become a t-shirts designer. In this manner, I became more known and I made excellent friendships.

3. Could you describe your typical workflow for an illustration? How long does a piece take to complete?

I still do not live solely on t-shirts, I do my job and freelancing. My time to develop the projects are short and irregular. There are complex jobs that can take a week, but there are others that I do in a day. But all are drawn on paper, scanned and vectorized node to node with my tablet. Some will say it's crazy, a boring job, but I say I am very fast with my tools (Hahaha!). I am studying and in the near future I intend to test new techniques.

4. How long have you been designing and illustrating? What are your tools of the trade?

I am a professional illustrator for 23 years and the stuff I'm working on is now reduced. I replaced a good part of my arsenal as watercolors, gouache, acrylic by an iMac 2.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 24 inch screen and a Wacom 6x9.

Where before I drew with pencil on paper. Incidentally, I finish art using brush (marten fur) or disposable pens. To trace I use three programs: Photoshop, Illustrator and Vector Magic.

5. Which T-shirt is your bestseller? Do you have any personal favorite t-shirt design you have created and why is it your favorite?

My best seller is the Vox Populi. Even today people talk about it.

I do not have a favorite, I always say that my favorite is the one I'm working today.

6. What are you currently working on? Any interesting project that you would like to plug?

I have some unfinished projects that are making me lose sleep. I have dozens of projects that I want to put into practice in 2010 and one that is well under way that has the theme "zombie" (innovative, is it not?). I just finished its details and I can only say that it is something quite different than I'm used to doing.

7. How would you describe your design and artistic style? Do you have any specific plans for the future direction of your artwork and illustrations?

I'm a humorous person and I try to pass that into my drawings. The cartoons are the best way to express it, although I have a more academic training.  I define myself as someone who has likes to have fun, and who use my creations for that purpose.

I intend to continue with the t-shirts, but on a more regular basis. I like the retro line and intend to accent this in my designs, blending styles with a strong graphic appeal.

8. Who, if anyone in the world, would you like to design a t-shirt for?

Hmmm! This is the most difficult! I think for Brian Johnson of AC / DC and say: "Uses only this in your world tour!" Hahaha!

9. What do you do to get past creative blocks? How do you recharge your creative batteries?

I travel a lot, every day it takes two hours to get to the agency and I "destroy" two agendas this year with drawings and notes. I am more creative in a bus than in my studio.

When I have a creative block, I try to read or browse design sites, sometimes you find a solution in the most unlikely places.

10. What do you like and dislike about the design and illustration industry? What do you think is a best strategy to deal with competition especially in the t-shirt design industry?

There is much good in the new generation of illustrators/designers, but there are a lot of those that copy. One of the things that annoys me today, are the photo montages. Today many designers are entitled only to do a bunch of layers without any concept. I think the design has to be something pleasing, and above all, have commercial appeal.

In the sector of t-shirts there is only one strategy: be more creative than most!

11. Are there any artists that you feel had an influence on you? What websites do you visit on a regular basis for design inspiration?

Yes, it's a long list. Illustrators: Norman Rockwell, Alphonse Mucha, Frank Frazetta, Adam Hughes, Travis Charest, James Jean, João Ruas, Aaron Horkey, Oscar Chinchón, Jamie Hewlett, Shane Glines among others. Designers t-shirts: Niark1, Joshua Smith, Shepard Fairey, Jared Nickerson, Alex Solis, Jerome Castro, Paulo Arraiano, Drew Millward and the masters of design Neville Brody and Fabien Barral.

I always visit sites like behance.net, ffffound. com, bloodsweatvector.com, ideafixa.com, illustrationmundo.com, joyengine.com, abduzeedo.com and many others, as well as portfolio sites of artists I like.

12. Rubens, thanks for the interview. Any advice or tips you would like to give to upcoming illustrators?

I hope that I've been useful to artists who are starting out!

My message to you is to observe everything: the walls, the outdoors, the people, other artists, you can find an idea in unusual places. The style and techniques come with time.

Rubens Scarelli on Web

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