Larissa Laban Talks About Her Art, Working as an Art Director, Brazil and More

by Rubén Palma
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Larissa Laban, is a visual artist, designer and illustrator from Brazil. She works in different medias such as airbrush, oil painting and ceramics to create textured, energetic and bold figures to her works.

Hi Larissa! Thank you for sitting down with me. First question that I always ask. How does a regular day look like for you in Sao Paulo?

Hi! Thanks for having me! Sorry about the mistakes, english is not my first language. It’s a day full of work, I have a job as an art director and I also have my art studio, so I’m handling two works a day, it’s a little messy sometimes. I also usually take a lot of pictures of my cats, play some horror videogames and wash the dishes.

Don’t worry about it, English is not my first language either, so I’m sorry about my mistakes as well ;D… I know that you grew up in a very small Brazilian beach town called Cabo Frio. What was life like there? And what kind of kid were you…? what did you enjoy doing and how did you spend your time?

Life in Cabo Frio was very simple. I used to love eating blue ice creams, watching cartoons, going to the beach and eating my family cocada, a brazilian coconut candy. I really enjoyed spending time with my two best friends at my grandparents’ house, which was in the countryside. It was fun because my grandfather had two pigs and sometimes he would let us wash them with soap and a hose.  

Alright, so working as an art director in an advertising agency, as well as being a freelance designer.. When did you first start to play around with the different graphic design programs? And which programs do you use now?

I started using a free software called Photofiltre when I was 12. I would edit photos of celebrities to change their hair color, add a butterfly, glitter, make those cheesy compositions. After school I graduated in advertising and then specialized in design. Today I use Photoshop, Illustrator and Procreate.

Gotya, so what led you into illustrating and how did you turn it into a career?

I have always liked drawing, as a child I would made a lot of silly animals. At the age of 21 I have started studying human anatomy for drawing while I was working as a designer, by that time I had a freelance job that needed more studied illustrations. At 23 I took an oil painting workshop and then I started painting almost every day.

Ok, let’s talk about your paintings now. How did you get introduced to the airbrush? And when did you start taking becoming an artist serious?

I went to an exhibition at MAC, in São Paulo, which had a painting made with airbrush by Kozo Mio, called Perspective in Space C. Today this is one of my favorite paintings, I was very fascinated and curious about the technique, and then I went and researched the airbrush and tested a working model.

I have started working seriously as an artist after I had done a lot of design work that involved non-digital techniques, experimenting with illustration, oil painting, charcoal drawing, pictures, etc.

While we’re on the subject. What is it about the airbrush that makes you prefer it over a regular paint brush?

There are so many ways to use airbrush, from painting cakes with food coloring to that 40s movie poster aesthetic, you can have very different results while using it. I like it when the technique gives you this soft, almost dreamy touch, with the blurry result, it makes a lot of sense with what I’m trying to create. When I don’t think too much about the hard lines, I can trust my intuition more and see where it goes.

The various dreamlike, surreal scenes in your work. How do you come up with them?

I stopped drawing when I was ten because one of my school teachers said that artists are supposed to be born talented, and when i was a kid i just made childish and silly drawings, so i thought I wasn’t good at it. I started illustrating again seven years ago, and today most of my paintings feature these animalistic, odd, gentle and childish creatures along with realistic elements that I find in antique shops in Brazil, things that I have at my house, camp objects, kitsch ceramics, fruits, ice creams from shops in Cabo Frio, anything that makes me curious about.

All of this comes together in a black background composition, which I always try to bring up to make the art somber, darker. I like to look at my work and remember my childhood along with some ideas from the present, and maybe the future. Adulthood is very complicated and sometimes I need to bring along some friendly animals to keep going.

With that in mind, I know that you like working in like working in the childrens universe and that you’re a huge fan of puppets. Tell me more about that… Why does it resonate so well with you?

I’m very inspired by the aesthetics of children’s programs from the 90s, like Big Blue House, Sesame Streets, Muppets, and I also like puppets in general, like Cavalinhos do Fantástico, Xaropinho do Programa do Ratinho, many shows that I found very camp and inspiring to create these childlike creatures to my work.

I think the reason I’m obsessed is because I was at a theater when I was kid, and there were these big dolls that were kind of ugly, scary and cool. I like it, it’s just a part of my story.

Can you walk me through your creative process. From beginning, to end result?

I usually have an idea of what I want to paint in my head, but it always comes out completely different to what I expected, and that’s ok but sometimes it’s not.

I start by making some doodles on procreate, then creating a mask to use for the airbrush, start painting freely and then go to the oil painting part. Most of the times I visit antique shops, different shops here in São Paulo, and I like to look at some old furniture on the internet, vintage ceramics, etc., so I can get inspired and paint some of those realistic objects on canvas.

And that’s more or less what I usually do, but this tends to change from painting to painting.

So how do you deal with creative blocks?

I don’t. I cry and wait.

How do you approach color?

I use vibrant colors for airbrushing and the oil painting objects are usually less intense, more true to reality, to give this surreal aesthetic. This makes a lot of sense from what I’m trying to create. Sometimes I try to use the color wheel to work with complementary colors, but it only works in specific cases.

What motivates you?

Fighting against my anxiety.

How would you describe a perfect day?

A perfect day is when I’m not thinking about anything. Just lying down eating tangerines and looking at some funny cats and poodles.

Alright Larissa. I always ask these two questions at the end of an interview. The first is. What’s your favorite movie(s) and why?

Right now it is Frankenhooker. There’s not much to say about it, it’s Frankenstein and she’s a hooker.  

The second is. What song(s) are you currently listening to the most right now? 

100 gecs – toothless. Sorry I love pc music.

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