Rafael Monteiro Bicalho

An artful conversation

M4M: I’m glad that we could do this interview. First, you art is amazing. It's reminiscent of various touches of moments from my childhood. In the early 90’s here in America we had our first major outlets of manga, anime, PlayStation console gaming; as well as foreign shows being shown on the “SCI-FI” channel.

RMB: I am happy to be here as well, thanks for having me and to take an interest in my work. Oh man I miss the PlayStation one days.

M4M: Your artwork reminds me of one of my favorite artists David Lapham (Rai from Valiant comics, 90’s circa), and the legendary Peter Chung (Reign the Conqueror, AEon Flux and Dark Fury). However, you have a lot more going on in your artwork; let’s get into it! M4M: Could you give a brief intro to those who may not be familiar with your work?

RMB: Of course, my name is Rafael Monteiro Bicalho, I am an artist from Brazil, I take a huge interest and love in the cyberpunk genre of cinema as well as science fiction, and that love is manifested in every bit of work I put out. I always try be to in a position of constant learning and because of that I became some kind of generalist and worked on a variety of projects in my life.

M4M: Being from the States, we see Brazil as a land of beautiful women, samba, and Carnival. Yet, Brazil is much more than that. What influences in culture and art influenced you on your journey?

RMB: That is a very good question, every artist art is affected by where they grew up and how life was growing up, and it is the same for culture, some people say that my art is very vibrant and colorful and that sometimes I play a lot with different colors, I guess that could be true and if it is that may relate to where I came from culture-wise, since here in Brazil things are very colorful. Artistically I was inspired by so many things that it is kind of hard to point out specifics, I liked graffiti a lot as a kid, later on in life, I was strongly drawn into abstract art, anime definitely had a huge impact on me also.

M4M: I would like to find out more about the Brazilian art culture there, what publications or artists would you recommend that had a strong impression for the last few decades?

RMB: I would recommend to check out Rafael's Grassetti work, he became the art director for the last god of war game, he became a role model here in Brazil, and I would recommend you to check out Victor Hugo Harmatiuk's work, he is my favorite Brazilian concept artist, but if you're searching more for an artist that had a huge impact in our culture that would be Romero Britto.

M4M: I have heard that Sao Paulo is the Art center in Brazil, how does Belo Horizonte stand up?

RMB: Yes São Paulo is definitely where things go boom here in Brazil, Belo Horizonte in the other hand is very, very small not only in size but also in the art industry, it is growing, and hopefully it will grow more towards games and entertainment all tho I do not believe that is something near. But I've worked with different clients worldwide and I enjoy that a lot, so I try not to focus at a specific place in the world, I do strongly believe that working worldwide from home is totally possible and it has been for me.

M4M: I think that's definitely possibly in the age that we live in. Social media is a huge game changer for the artist and entrepreneur. For example, platform for gaming has shown that game platforming could definitely be a source of viable income. I remember when my mom used to say "Get off that game, you can't play games all day it's not like you can make money off it". Wow, things sure change. Now, it's the same thing with digital arts, especially with the wide fan base and millions on the platforms.

M4M: When did you first consider a career as a professional artist? I remember when the argument first came about in art class when I was in college, “Digital Art, is not real art”. I was personally opposed to digital art in the beginning, now I champion the digital arts. Did you have a similar experience? If so, what changed?

RMB: I never had any other option really, I picked up digital art very early in my life, so I never developed any other interests career-wise, and when I got out of school I literally did not have any other skill, so it was either that or nothing at all. I had the opposite experience actually, all-tho I was into drawing as I believe everyone was, I was very impatient towards traditional art, I respected it, learned from it, and admired it but it was not for me, I was more interested in learning digital arts, and by the time I was in college, digital art was the thing, so everyone was more into that than traditional arts even tho we had training in traditional arts in the beginning of the course.

M4M: LOL. That's accurate. I remember when at art college, my art teacher first introduced us to Photoshop. I enjoyed the program, but didn't originally get into the groove of it. However, when we used illustrator I then began to understand the possibilities of what digital art can do. What 3d program blew your mind away, as far as what you realized how far you could express your ideas.

RMB: I think that I would say Blender, it is the most recent mind-blowing thing for me, it has so many procedural add-ons that help you create and conceptualize even more and faster, increasing your output.

M4M: your favorite music you're listening to now?

RMB: I think that it would be Busdriver - Much, Point Point - F+L, and Koreless - Never, that last one really caught my feelings.

M4M: I'll send you some mixes, I will definitely check these out! M4M: I notice that many concept artists have amazing visuals, how often do your concepts end up in stories? Do you have any long-term plans for any of the characters? If not, would you ever partner with a writer to bring the story to life?

RMB: With my personal work if you asked me 3 months earlier I would say that I am only doing stuff that I think, ''Oh this is a sick idea let's do it'', but more recently I started writing small tales to my illustrations, so for my latest work I wrote some moments and created an illustration to represent them, more like a book cover and that has been amazing, it is all of my gram, but I am no writer tho, I am just exploring matching small tales and stories about moments to Illustrations. For my recent work I do have some things in mind but nothing concrete for the future, but at one point I will create a graphic novel and maybe these characters might appear. 

Yes, I would definitely partner up with a writer to create something for sure.

M4M: That's good to know that you're open for an opportunity, it just so happens I know a couple of people. The funny thing that I see with many artists is two things. First, Artists have amazing skills or ability, but rarely network enough. Secondly, most artists really just want to focus on the aesthetics of their craft. Yet, I see that this often leaves them lacking in the business side; which ultimately forces them to work on other peoples projects and not their own original ideas. What are your feelings on this?

RMB: That's awesome lets connect!  

Well, I agree, being an artist means you're basically a brand, you sell your name along-side your skills, and when you start freelancing you realize that it is not just about making awesome art, it is also about creating great opportunities for yourself by yourself. I would say there are many routes to became a successful artist, you have the studio road, the freelancing road, the influencer and doing the social media thing type of road, and in my opinion, it is ok to want to work on a giant studio and be a part of something that you love that is not your own IP. but whichever you choose, you need to have the networking and business skills as well. It is natural that at first what really matters for you is how great your visuals are, but once that is at a good level you need to start working on your network and getting yourself out there, which is the kinds of skills that for most of us don't come so natural.

M4M: What three programs can’t you live without? Recently, I have begun to dabble with Cinema 4d and Unreal Engine 4. There was a visual movie created by Quixel Megascans showcasing 3d photorealism in UE4 (purchased by Epic), the trailer named “REBIRTH”, Directed by Thaeke Hekkenberg, Antroy Yanne, and Cy. What were your impressions?

RMB: I would say that I could not live without Cinema 4D, After Effects and Photoshop. Yes "Rebirth" was mesmerizing and shows the incredible potential of game engines to the public, and if you asked any 3D artist out there I guess 90% of them would think that real-time rendering is definitely the way to go in the future, recently I've been developing even more interest towards real-time render all tho I am not pursuing photo-real, I was never into that, my 3D work was always in a strange middle place between realism and an Illustrative kind of style and I like that a lot.

M4M: I noticed that in your work, I had the feeling like "He used this and this program, but he also used..." I think the way you layer the various programs' unifies the unique aspects of program rendering, the feeling from the finished rendering can also add another layer of "Style". Perhaps I'm reaching here, but I can't help but feel that's what rendering software helps express, but it's a subtle feature that gets overlooked. However, I think this is part of your process? Am I correct assuming this. If no, then my professional answer is "ICECREAM" (Default shoulder shrugs).

RMB: Well one thing that I can say for sure is that I LOVE to use a lot of programs for each small thing. Once someone asked me what programs they needed to create a specific character, I ended up saying 12 programs just to create that specific character, truth is you don't really need that amount of programs to make a character, it is just something that I like to do.

M4M: I guess what I’m asking is could we possibly see a short from you in the future?

RMB: Yes you will and very soon but it won't be in the current style of my illustrations all tho there a strong possibility for a short movie in that style someday. I am going to drop these two mysterious images here and not say anything hahaha, they are both from 2 different projects, both real-time.

M4M: I see that you worked at GUERRILHA FILMS, a company that specializes in branded content for t.v. and films. What was the experience like working there? Do you have a preferred type of project that you work on, or are you more of a Savant?

RMB: Those were some great times I learned a lot from everyone there, made very good friends, but on the inside I was not aligned with the kind of work I was going to keep doing there so I left, but kept working for them as a freelancer for a while, it was around that time that I started freelancing full-time, it was weird, fun and full of self-discovery. I do not have a strict preference towards the type of work end up on, everybody has to pay their bills, and I worked on a variety of projects with a variety different styles, but I am indeed inclined towards certain subjects and I try always to be very well aligned with the project as not every project is for me. So, I'm doing something new here. Instead of a "Regular Interview" , I would like you to inform me of five bits of information that you can educate me on. 1.) Technology that I may not be aware of

That one is a bit hard, but I'll say BY-GEN and MECHFY for Blender, both generative modeling add-ons for Blender. 2.) What book would you suggest I read that inspired you, that may also inspire me?

The squares of the city by John Brunner, it is an old-school sci-fi novel, and The World of Edena by Moebius. 3.) What person would you love the opportunity to work with, company or project?

Definitely Ash Thorp and Pilot Priest. 4.) What three contacts do you have that you believe I should contact next? Conor Corp. He is a musician I worked with in the past, I really liked his music because he had a lot of criticism and irony, and he might be looking for press releases.

      Luísa Bacelar , I really like her work she has a strong political side to it and she is close to releasing her short movie soon I believe.

      At last, Luiz Evaristo, recently started to colorize old black n white pictures of important historical figures for the community like Marcus Garvey. 5.) Lastly, if it's in my power how could I assist you in your biggest goal?

Maybe we can get that Graphic Novel rolling someday in the future.

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