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DAPENHA is a Black designer and illustrator based in Rio de Janeiro. After not feeling represented by the art they consumed, they decided to do something about it and started to focus their work in the communities they belong to: the Black and the LGBTQ+ community. You can find more of their work on Instagram.

DAPENHA provided the illustration for the March 2nd story “Rat and Finch Are Friends,” by Innocent Chizaram Ilo.

“Grillz” © 2019 by DAPENHA.

You're a Animation graduate who also works with graphic design and illustration. How is your relationship with the three areas? Does one influence the other?

I’ve decided to graduate in Animation because I’ve always loved cartoons. My degree is actually a combination of the three areas: design, illustration, and animation. When it comes to to animation I’ve made some shorts, but strictly in college, but I’m getting to make some motion design every now and then at my job. I also have to say that Graphic Design Is My Passion, and only went this way because when I was a kid I thought it was the way I could work with drawing without seeming childish. Everything overlaps now: when I’m designing or illustrating, I use the same rules, methods, workflow, and inspiration sources as when I try to animate something.


Your work has a very graphic quality, and you use a lot of bright colors. How did you develop this particular style, and who are your artistic influences?

That’s a hard question. Back in 2016 when I was trying to develop an art style and used to make a lot of vector art I had bunches of influences from designers, 3D artists, and illustrators. I must say that Ryan Putnam is a big name for me. Also some amazing 3d artists such as Aaron Martinez, Vago (Fernando Parra), and Grand Chamaco. I’m a 3D artist myself, so look up to them for these things a lot. In that time I used to see too many things that were alike (in the 2D illustration) and it didn’t feel like me, you know? Just not BLACK ENOUGH, so I started following more people like me. Nneka Myers, Monté L Miller, Dawud Anyabwile from the Brotherman Comics, Nuri, @robopeezy, and Freddy Carrasco are some illustrators that influence my art a lot. When it comes to music, Trevor Jackson is my main inspiration in R&B and many rappers here in Brazil too.


“Untitled” © 2019 by DAPENHA.

Which tools do you use for your art? Do you also use traditional media or is your focus 100% digital?

I have a laptop and a Wacom tablet for my digital works and Photoshop is my main software, even though people think my art is vector based (I carry a lot of my 2016 experiences, still a minimalist enthusiast). I have too many sketchbooks but my lack of time doesn’t allow me to fill all of them up. I also love acrylic painting. I've painted since I was ten (I’ve got some new canvas I must paint sometime soon). I can totally focus on it, ‘cause I’m unplugged, no internet, just me and my art. But again, I don’t have much spare time to do it.


You recently participated in Brazilian rapper and songwriter Emicida's anthology "Pra Quem Já Mordeu Um Cachorro Por Comida Até Que Eu Cheguei Longe" as an illustrator. Between this work and the art you provided for "Rat and Finch Are Friends," how is the experience of illustrating someone else's story?

I actually had illustrated a book before when I was in high school, but now everything feels different. I’ve grown so much as a person and as an artist and I feel like I finally can do it in the right way. I cannot make good work myself if I can’t connect with the work that was handed to me. When LOAD contacted me to work on Emicida’s anthology I could not believe. Emicida is a mark on the history of rap, a mark in Brazilian music, so when someone told me he liked my art it just clicked, ‘cause I love his art. The song I illustrated calls close to my heart, as “Rat and Finch” do too, I’m not straight myself, so I could relate at some points of the story. And for me, relating to the story I have to illustrate is the most important thing.


You also worked for WinnieTeca, a project that connects donors to Black people in need of new books. Can you tell us more about it?

First, it was like a secret work on my part, because the project wasn't launched yet. The project is super exciting to be part of and its work is so important and beautiful, ‘cause it's connecting people who want to help and Black people who need books. Education is liberty, so I think what this project is doing is the most anti-racist and human thing someone could do. I also donated a book, it feels amazing.


“Scarab” © 2019 by DAPENHA.

What would be your dream project, in any of the areas you work with?

I can say I’ve had some dreams coming true the last year and also this month. Recently I had illustrated a beer label, and designing/illustrating for a product was always my dream. For a future dream project, it would be designing and illustrating for a sportive brand like Nike or Adidas in a campaign or a collab. And definitely I would love to be the art director of some big music festival, like AfroPunk.


You're going to your first convention in April. Can you tell us more about PerifaCon, and what do you plan on exposing there?

It makes me SO NERVOUS to think about it. I’m so happy I was picked, sometimes it is still hard to believe people actually like my art. It is the second edition of the event. It is amazing, bringing pop culture, comics, and all that to a marginalized part of the society, that I’m part of too. They call it the ComicCon of favelas and I think it’s dope. I'll be showing and selling prints of art people already saw on my social media, some new ones too, zines, buttons, and stickers. I’m very excited to meet my virtual friends and people who like my art.


What are your other artistic plans for 2020 and beyond?

I’m already too ahead of what I’ve planned for myself when I started posting on my new art page, but I do not feel totally accomplished, there are so many things missing. I want to keep my focus on music, making cover art for the artists I like and all of that, but at the same time, I want to expand. Music is what moves me, I cannot do anything without music, but I like too many other things too. I’ll keep the pace, study more, improve more, maybe have another show this year. But in 2021 or 2022 I’ll be ready to take a risk in fashion, I’ve always loved designing clothing and by then I think I’ll be ready to turn my concepts into reality.


“Untitled” © 2019 by DAPENHA.

Dante Luiz is an illustrator, art editor for Strange Horizons, and occasional writer from southern Brazil. He is a two-time PRISM Awards finalist with work featured in anthologies by Bedside Press, Toronto Comix, and Margins Publishing, among others. Find him on Twitter or his website.
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