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My 'interview' with Ana Luísa Souki
November 6, 2016
A young woman, Ana Luísa Souki from Ingarapé in Brazil (who is somewhat of a Oncer and runs the Brazilian Facebook fan page) asked me if I would engage in a written interview with her. The rest, as they say...
Ana: Firstly, can you define yourself as a Graphic Illustrator?
Can I ? Mmm. I guess. Graphic designer and illustrator is a better fit. My art training was split into two phases. Back when I was eighteen, I did a Graphic Design diploma. That was in 1985, long before computers were routinely used as graphic design tools. When I first started doing design, everything had to be stuck together manually and photographed prior to printing. A couple of years after that, I went to Cambridge Art College and did a higher diploma in Illustration Design – a course which focused more purely on the techniques of image-making; primarily, it sought to prepare students for a career in editorial illustration – doing stuff for magazines and newspapers.
So, as you can see, I am part graphic designer and part illustrator! I do tend to think of myself as a graphic designer first though, and an illustrator second.
Most of what I do is more like forgery – especially the work that I do in film and TV. The aim is often about copying (hopefully, convincingly) the look and feel of things that already exist in the public imagination.
Ana: When did you realize you are good at illustrating?
As a child, I spent much time lying on the floor, drawing and creating imaginary worlds. Sometimes, these mental tableaux seemed preferable to the real world... When I was in elementary school, I had a headmaster, Mr. Simmonds: a nerdy-looking chap with Clark Kent glasses, who just so happened to be a fantastic illustrator. He would arrive at the school early in the morning and proceed to design dragon motifs; he would randomly select a classroom and render a fantastical illustration on the chalkboard thereabouts, all before all the children arrived. It always made my day when I walked in and saw that our classroom had been singled out for his inspired 'marginalia.'
He was a fine man – generous of spirit – and I looked up to him greatly. It was he who first encouraged my artistic endeavors and he who intimated that I may have some slight modicum of talent. So, I guess it was around the age of six that I first figured out that art was, perhaps, something that I may be ‘good at.’
Ana: Who is the main person that helped you during the start of your career?
That person would be my good friend, Michael Corrado, who is an Art Director in the film industry. He saw the potential ‘career-fit’ in my work; essentially, he became my mentor for several years. He is the quintessence of generosity. He taught me all about the in’s and out’s of the film business and was extremely patient with me during my early days. I developed a lot of professional discipline under his guidance.
He is an all ‘round superstar’ and made my career path a lot easier to traverse - easier than if I had not had his help and encouragement.
Ana: In your mind, how does your art change the world?
My image making and design work do very little to change the world in any concrete or lasting sense. It is merely a product, one that is ‘consumed’ like much else in society - like a tin of beans or a nice set of new curtains. Most design work is ephemeral and dissolves in time, fading into the white-noise of our culture. This is especially true of my work as most of the time it is not even meant to be prominent. In the film world it is often said that design elements should not be too noticeable or stick out, in a visual sense, unless they are specifically scripted to do so. A sizeable portion of what I produce purposefully blends and fades into the ‘world-making’ process and is therefore part of the larger mise-en-scène. My work is ambient.
This aside, on a personal note, I have had people tell me that my work has moved them personally. People like yourself, for example. In is in this response that I think my work creates little eddies of change, primarily through individuals that I can share ideas and enthusiasms with.
Ana: Who is your idol in the art world?
I do not really partake of the concept of the idol, of idolatry, per se. We are all very human beings. Moreover, trying to narrow any such accolade down to one person would be extremely difficult. Art is a broad experience – a complex fabric of relationships – from music, through literature, film and so much more. However, if pressed, I would have to say that the main candidate for this award would have to be David Bowie.
Bowie was an artist, visionary and entertainment impresario all melded into one human being. As a teenager, his songwriting opened up grand vistas in my mind. He had a eclectic sense of style and an unbridled creativity – one that left an indelible mark on my psyche. His death, earlier this year, affected me in unexpected ways and was a cause for much personal reflection and reminiscence.
Ana: What was the favorite project of your career?
Something I did recently fired up my imagination quite like nothing ever else has.
These past two years, I have been working, on an as-needed basis, for the Amazon TV series The Man in the High Castle. I squeezed in working on this show during the Once Upon a Time end-of-season hiatus (which usually goes from April until June.) The work I did on this series was extremely interesting and fun to execute.
It is set in an alternate reality 1960’s, (one where the Nazi’s won the second World War and invaded the United States) so I got to indulge in one of my passions - namely, reproducing vintage dry goods packaging. The Production Designer on the show, Drew Boughton, has sharp design sensibilities and a keen intellect; he has lofty expectations regarding the authenticity and feel of the work that needs to be produced and I feel creatively ‘stretched’ whenever I work with him.
Ana: What is your inspiration to draw?
What has inspired me to create art has not been any kind of constant phenomenon. As it says in Ecclesiastes, ‘to everything there is a season.’ When I was a child in the 1970’s, the creatures created by the BBC for the Doctor Who show were a major source of inspiration. I mean, what kid does not like monsters? Monsters are cool! When I was six, I got out my pencils and tried to come up with an idea, a design, for the coolest monster of all time.
When I was a teenager (frog marched along by my hormones) women – moreover, female beauty – was a source of much inspiration. Around that particular time, artists who produced erotic works - folks like Milo Manara and Ron Embleton - inspired me greatly.
Now, I am a lot older, I find inspiration a much harder ore to mine. Presently, the HBO adaptation of Westworld is firing my imagination more than anything has since Bladerunner. You see, I like hard science fiction - as and when the genre takes on the mantle of the thought experiment; when it reflects our lives back to us in the hope of perhaps showing us different ways and possibilities of living.
Ana: In your job you are always in contact with famous people. Do you know many people in the cast on ONCE?
I am afraid I am going to have to shed a little light, at this point, on the reality of working in film and television. The cast may live their charmed lives, full of glamour (and sycophantic people in their retinues) but for we folks, us on the crew, our work is often unglamorous. It is long and tiring and we work for twelve hours a day (or longer) five days a week.
I do not work on set, where they do all the filming, but rather, in an office, an art studio environment - so my contact with any of the cast of Once is, at best, minimal.
In the first season, I had a quick chat with Lana Parilla (Regina) about what I was having for lunch.
It was cous cous.
Another time, I was introduced to Lee Arenberg (the man who plays Grumpy.) He was perfectly friendly and a lot of fun! Other than that, the only person who I do come into constant contact with is Jared Gilmore, the young man who plays Henry.
His classroom is close by my office and we often say hi to one another and engage in small talk. In fact, I was looking at him just today. I must say, he is getting rather tall lately. When I first started on the show – over five years ago – he was, well, he was just a wee kid. Now he is almost a man. How quickly time passes...
Ana: Let’s do a QUICK GAME. Name your favorite movie.
Right now, Never Let Me Go by Mark Romanek.
Ana: your favorite artist?
Bill Viola. The closest art can ever come to a religious experience.
Ana: your favorite song?
Waiting in Vain - Bob Marley and the Wailers. Always makes me feel chill, yet ever-so slightly sad.
Ana: your favorite phrase?
I do not know if it qualifies as a phrase, but I like:
“And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds And binding with briars my joys and desires.”
It is by William Blake. It is an image I keep in my head whenever anyone tries to squish my enthusiasms.
Ana: your favorite idol?
Been there. Done that. (See above.) David Bowie all the way…
Ana: your favorite hobby?
Cooking, without doubt. Wandering aimlessly - I do that a lot, too. I also have a thing for fine hand-rolled cigars.
Ana: Can you leave a message to the readers?
Sure I can. Try to see through the veil of reality to understand what really matters. Love and connectivity are what we are put on this planet to experience. Life should be magical. Or, put it this way, it should be, at least sometimes, shouldn’t it?
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!