Francisco Martins thinks he was an unusual child.
“It’s natural in Brazil, when you are a kid, that you want to be a soccer player when you grow up. But I never wanted to be a soccer player. I preferred to stay home and draw – I would watch cartoons on the telly with my pencil and paper. Drawing is something that I always do. I always did.”
Then he catches himself. “No wait! It sounds really romantic, like I have this artistic passion,” he laughs. “But I’m kind of a weirdo kid. There’s no romanticism in me.”
The São Paulo-based illustrator, designer and animator certainly has an unusual creative CV. He studied at a school which specialised in architecture, where he found a cabal of like-minded creative souls – “The school was really focused on engineering, and there was this small club of weird design people.”
Later he would go on to work for the international Interbrand agency, but in between he worked as the visual artist for one of Brazil’s most famous puppet troupes, Giramundo.
“The founder of the group is a well-known artist; he used to work with some other great artists in Brazil in the 1970s and 80s. It was a time where I was learning a lot about art. They gave me some really big responsibilities from the beginning.”
Francisco took the plunge and went freelance in 2011, and hasn’t looked back since, working regularly for many of the biggest editorial and commercial platforms in Brazil and beyond.
With lots of blues and oranges his color palette is pretty recognisable, but his process is anything but straightforward. He sketches all the time, filling notebooks with ideas and working to refine his thoughts into visuals that work immediately, but also reward repeat viewing.
“It’s a kind of fog,” he says. It’s difficult to explain. It’s not a natural, linear thing. I usually take some ideas and mix them with others to create some visual poetic stuff. I try to assemble ideas differently, until they look good, like a visual metaphor.”
But if he finds talking about his work tough, Francisco’s work communicates with a beautiful clarity. “My wife is always upset because I can’t speak or talk with her about emotional stuff,” he says. “But when I’m drawing, it’s as if you can put all your thoughts in order. It’s kind of therapeutic.”
It brings to mind a drawing he did for RevistaGOL, of a man stepping out of a door which opens out of a mass of coloured scrawls. “In a chaotic world, you have to find some kind of light,” he says. Maybe there is more romance in him than he thinks…