Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Robert Rajabally

1) Tell us how you became an artist/illustrator?

Like many artists, from an early age I was quite drawn to drawing (no pun intended!), keeping several types of drawing books and so on. By the end of High School, we all had to choose our college or university careers. I saw my classmates and friends sure of themselves and taking off into the usual careers to be dentists, lawyers, engineers and business administrators (this last was an attractive novelty for many in the mid-seventies in Brazil!). I had a lonely time deciding what to do with my life since none of those were my calling! Soon enough though, illustration came to my rescue as “the right thing to do” as it was what I loved the most. Also, I had two older brothers, more than 10 years my senior that were quite good artists in their chosen drawing and painting niches, but that never became professionals. Mostly I think, because at that time few risked working on their own without the certainty of a paycheck by the end of the month. They also did not know much about of how to go about it professionally. Anyway, I felt it was my calling both for me and to kind of fulfill what we all liked and wanted one of us to accomplish professionally. The conditions for taking up art school (for three years), instead of any nonsense college were ripe, and so I took the leap and hoped for the best. I did enter a fine arts college as my conscience dictated I should give it a try. Soon I saw it would interfere with setting up a professional career, with its lousy mid-afternoon hours and offering mostly what I could study on my own if I wanted. I soon realized that it would do little towards helping my career, because what mattered the most at that time (1977), was getting some real life working experience, learning to build my portfolio, visiting printing shops and, generally, learning the ropes of the industry; so I just suspended my enrollment then and there and never looked back. And that’s about it, as they say, the rest is history!

2) Do you specialize in any particular medium? Describe your style.

In Brazil, back in the seventies, very few could survive as an artist with just a single line of work. Besides, a lot in illustration interested me, so I became proficient in many types of art: from advertising to didactical art for schoolbooks, board games, lettering, logos and technical art. All this involved all types of media including pencil, pen and ink, paint and then the glorious days of airbrushing! The computer age with any prospect for art came quite late to Brazil, in the early 90s, and that changed everything! So I was one of those artists who had the privilege of having lived in two separate artistic ages, experiencing life before and after the computer, as it were! This gave me a healthy perspective and a good background to appreciate the value of both. We were all taken by surprise with this major shift; some artists I knew were shy of the computer and receded into artistic oblivion, others were intimidated by the machine and hated it for its unfathomable complexities and its imposing new skills and methods, with the same result. Fortunately, I enjoyed technology and looked forward to this new media, as that was how I always felt towards all media available. The reliability of these technologies eventually came of age and so did I.

From then on, I gradually began to “master” (God forbid!) both worlds: traditional art and digital renderings, enough to produce decent final art at least, both of necessity and because it was exciting stuff with all the possibilities entailed. Today, after leaving behind advertising and other kinds of art by choice, I am developing my mind’s eye work, a type of nature art, which I refer to as Naturalist Illustration & Design which is, in many ways, a world apart from the usual natural sciences art, botanical art etc. Aside from its purpose being quite different too, it employs several techniques that blend hand drawing, sketches and painting, digital photography, digital painting and photo manipulation/compositing as each piece calls for. Comics and children’s books and educational materials are also an important part of what I look forward to develop further with these same techniques. There’s still a lot to learn and create in this and I’m excited at the prospects!

3) Where do you live and work?

I live and work in Brazil, in a small city just an hour from São Paulo. This is an asset for me because I can live close enough but out of the oppressing bustling of a major city like São Paulo, closer to nature (I live in a region which is in a protected area of one of the last portions of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest). I have a small downtown studio where I can meet clients, work and give my classes, but I do all my illustration work from my home studio. Besides, in this day and age, of course, one can live almost anywhere and be closely connected through the internet, as we are now.

4) Who or what inspires you?

Though I did most types of illustration in my time to pay my bills as any other artist, I was never attracted, for instance, to art for advertising for all the falsehood and damages it is causing to humanity. I also always had a natural perception and strong connection with Nature themes and Spirituality. Perhaps it was tenacity for cherishing what was and is the most sacred in life but this was only possible because I was fortunate enough to be able to circumvent and outright avoid getting too close to common advertising and such and gradually craft my profession along these other lines, though not without the sacrifices entailed... I was inspired by many artists, writers and music as perhaps all artists are, but I can say that in my case, this inspiration is coherent and consistent with my life interests. Books such as the marvelous Secrets of the Soil (and the geniuses depicted therein), the great and seminal work shown in The End of Materialism, Sacred Geography and The Reflexive Universe, to musicians as diverse but uniquely connected as Rush, John Denver and the Moody Blues, plus authors such as Pietro Ubaldi, Rudolf Steiner and Ramatís, among many other like-minded giants, are the basic influence and drive behind whatever I have been able to create on my own. There were also tons of great artists that inspired me to improve my work and perspective, actually too many to name here without forgetting some, but say they range from the great Belgian artists of the 70s and 80s to so many breathtaking artists of today in many fields. My personal background comes from descending from British-Indian parents who came to Brazil soon after WWII. They gave me the unique conditions and cultural environment to foster and hone my spiritual development in a way that enabled me to blend these healthy influences into a single clear vision for my ongoing work as a Naturalist Illustrator and author.

Alongside that background formation and inspiration, I wish to add that there’s new stuff unfolding today that demands our focused attention and best awakened perception to see and connect with the world changes that are taking place. Changes that are bringing a new level of environmental awareness, of ourselves and the planet we live in and that has a lot to do with what we decide to produce artistically. My websites address this issue in more depth.

5) What was your first illustration job?

I landed my first paid assignment in October 1975. It was a monthly commission to illustrate in B&W for a coffee business magazine in Rio de Janeiro. I was then in my first year at Art School. Considering that as the beginning and that I’m 54 now in early 2012, I’m then well over 30 years in the business, but tell no one!

6) Describe your body of work. Thus far, which project has been the most fulfilling? Why?

Perhaps I have already done so above, but maybe I should sum it up better: I am a Naturalist and Editorial Illustrator for many types of work, especially for nature and children’s books and materials. These are done by hand and with the computer. I am also a Native English-Brazilian Portuguese translator and have done a lot of work in several areas, from institutional to technical, corporate documents and products, NGOs, videos, for web portals and researchers that deal with major environmental issues on the Amazon Rainforest and so on. My main website actually lists all this for anyone with the desire or patience to look it up! So, art, creative writing and translation come together as my main assets to meet new assignments, both for localizing foreign materials for the Brazilian market as for shaping local materials for foreign audiences. As an artist with a good background in communication skills, I give occasional classes to businessmen from all walks of life that wish to improve their English and Portuguese. My pursuits to blend nature, spirituality and cutting-edge true science to help educate adults and children is my most fulfilling project, one which I hope to materialize in its fullest potential in this life, both through publishing my own materials as translating and illustrating the ones I truly admire by other authors, for the benefit of where it is most lacking: my home country. Some of this is being done right now, as we speak.

7) Where can your works of art be found?

My work can be found online at my various dedicated websites and professional networks, some of which are bilingual or only in English.

8) What is your definition of success as an artist?

It is the rare case that an artist can achieve spotlight popularity, financial success and spiritual success in a world such as ours. Although that is no secret, still relatively few artists factor that essential point into their careers. I seek the latter but require the former as anyone. By spiritual success I mean something beyond and deeper than religious beliefs and quite here-and-now in the material experience too, which is equally important and not a lesser value. It just should not be the only value. A truly successful artist, in my opinion, is one who has understood the role, power and responsibility of artistic creation (whether as an artist, musician or writer) to shape the world and how we perceive it, and took on the responsibility and courage to fulfill that calling to the best of his/her ability, and has learned to screen out the frivolous, the misguided and the outright bizarre as legitimate ‘cultural’ manifestations to reach his/her audience with meaningful creations beyond simple entertainment.

I feel no other form of success can have a lasting value or one that we won’t have to atone for after death. This may sound somber, but it is not: it’s a simple fact of life that unfortunately many great artists have not awoken to yet, a fact which has been obscured in our present age of controversies, but is quite real and one we can all witness from the often bizarre notions and creations in art out there (in print, online or on our TVs) alongside wonderful accomplishments, both vying for our attention and spiritual energies while on this world. The trick is to develop the proverbial ‘eyes that see’ and make your choices consciously.

9) What do you plan to accomplish in 2012?

Aside from the ongoing pursuits outlined above, I would add that I have designed a website for Nature Artists from the ground up that I wish to promote to artists worldwide, for those individuals that have understood the purpose of this work I’ve described and wish to join with their talents in a friendly and professional environment. It is called História & Arte / Natureza and is more than a simple online portfolio. There, artists can discuss exciting environmental projects, air their articles, promote their courses, workshops and exhibitions to a new audience. It is now in Portuguese but will soon be in English and Spanish, all native for a broader reach. This is tied in with my Naturalist projects, as I have been preparing materials to present certain aspects of an inner ecology, such as the living energies and nature intelligence to help shape, educate and broaden our notions into a New Naturalist Awareness, one that redefines ecology into the more encompassing and realistic term, Ecosphere, and all the implications thereof, such as in the production of new and exciting Naturalist Maps for adults and storybooks and field guides for children, to name a few.

I’m looking into online publishing a lot too as a means to publish in full control of the output and without the hassle and delay of printed media and have done so on the Issuu platform, with more to come in 2012 as I wish to get the word out, so to speak, with my Living Energies project, children’s books and some graphic adventures stories. My blog is also a venue for participation in the creative process of this work, with behind-the-scene info I will be expanding this year according to people’s interest in this work.

My wife and I also have a Photo Restoration dedicated bilingual website which is unique in its approach, efficiency and scope, especially in our country. It has been 7 years online and we are planning more activities around this fascinating field. It is called

I wish also to warmly thank you, Raychelle and The Writer’s Block, for this kind invitation for an interview and for the gracious space afforded, it is sincerely appreciated. For those of you that are interested in any of this, please head for the links supplied below, beginning from my new facebook page if you will, and drop me a line. All feedback and participation are encouraged. I look forward to seeing you all around!


Portfolio e-Zine:

Historia & Arte / Natureza:

Blog Sintonia:


Professional Networks:


Facebook Fanpage:



Phone: 55-11-4268-0685 / Brazil

Artist Bio

My academic background began as an Editorial Illustrator, graduated from the Pan-American Art School in São Paulo/Brazil in 1977 and has since expanded into my passion as a Nature Artist. As a former member of Brazil’s main Artists Societies in the ‘80s, I have shown my editorial and advertising illustration work in 15 collective exhibitions at MASP, (Brazilian Illustrators at the São Paulo Museum of Art), at MAM (São Paulo’s Museum of Modern Art) and at MIS (Fantasy Art and Science-Fiction at The Sound & Image Museum of São Paulo) aside from some stints at Brazil’s main Comic Art exhibitions in the state of Goiás, in the city of Curitiba (PR) and Piracicaba (SP) up to 1992. In the region neighboring where I live, my comic book pilot project Flyer, won second place in a 1992 contest.

Having illustrated for several areas such as games, packaging, school books and so forth, my departure from advertising came in the early ‘80s when my kindled passion for Nature Art and concerns fired up to become the ongoing art and consciousness development pursued today.

I have also shown some of this earlier work in Brazil’s main Art Annuals: TALENTO 1, 2, 3 and 7 from 1984 to 1995 and in Brazil’s Illustrators Directory of 1983. I have enjoyed a rather varied experience with illustration, ranging from editorial to comic books and adventure graphics, my second passion.

From the ‘80s up to 2003 I was an off and on member of Brazil’s main Artists Societies such as the first and now extinct CIB – Brazil’s Illustrators Club, ABRASIL – Brazilian Illustrators Society and lastly, of the new SIB - Brazilian Illustrators Society in different phases of their existence, having chosen not to be a member of any since.

 In closing these early years, I accumulated an interesting portfolio as an Editorial, Advertising Illustrator and Graphic Artist with many covers and art assignments done for publishers, corporations, agencies, studios and institutions for book covers and inside art, school books, children’s stories, packaging, magazines, games and toys and esoteric books. Finally, in 1994, I was nominated for a Jabuti Award for children’s book illustration for my work on The Little Tin Soldier and The Sleeping Beauty by Kuarup publisher.

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