Illustration is a language, as the ABC

Damian De Amicis is a professional illustrator that works with editors and creative directors since 2009. He has experience in advertising and branding illustration, but his favourite field is character design. We developed many projects together, from branding to advertising. Every time, he amazed us tremendously with his commitment to the job and his positive mindset. He’s a great team player. And all of this, working remotely.

We asked him to share his opinion on how is it working as a freelance illustrator and how he handles the relationship his clients.

We call him Tato and here he is.

Tato at his home-studio in Bahía Blanca, Argentina

Let’s begin with introducing yourself. How did you start drawing and growing your career as a freelance professional illustrator.

Well… I don’t think I started drawing at some point of my life; the thing is that I never stopped. In general, what happens is that people stop drawing as they grow up.

I was very lucky to start illustrating for Noche Polar magazine while I was still studying. I was 19 years old, and seven years later I continue to work with them. But apart from that, like every other illustrator, my first jobs were for friends, the aunt of a friend or a family member. At that moment, one probably don’t excel at communicating a message, which comes later with experience.

What kind of work do you do? What’s your role?

Well… I’ve done a little bit of everything, different types of illustration. Nowadays, what clients ask me more is advertising and branding illustration.

To be a good illustrator is to be a good communicator.

One must be capable of communicating all kind of ideas. Drawing and illustration are often mixed up, but they’re not the same. Illustration is a language, as the ABC.

Advertising illustration for education (For Sangha Brands, previously Cóncavo&Convexo)

Regarding my role, it’s imperative to be very careful and truthful to the message. I try to give the client proper insight, and I learned that it’s better to adjust to the client’s brief, especially if he is convinced that’s the way to go.

The best is to give precisely what he asked for, and then, if the project requires you to give more, then it’s important to be able to give more.
Yearly Calendar with Patagonian Fauna. Branding illustration (For Sangha Brands, previously Cóncavo&Convexo)

As a freelancer, what’s the most unpleasant part for you?

There are two things I find really painful about freelancing. Bureaucracy is the first one. I have to handle formalities myself, like writing the bills or open bank accounts. It’s not difficult; I just don’t like it a bit.

The second thing is when the client is wrong. Objectively, I mean. When the client asks for something you know it will not work and he’s entirely sure it will. This situation makes me quite uncomfortable because I’m doing something that’s not going to achieve the desired outcome! An illustrator’s job is to combine a written message with a visual support.

Every element of the illustration, -from the things you draw or the colour palette-, must serve the message.

Which stages of a project are key to achieving a goal? How would you describe the perfect teamwork?

The primary stages in a project are the first ones, where you seize the brief, define the type of communication, distribute tasks and assign responsibilities to each member of the team.

Likewise, there’s another substantial step: when the job is almost ready, and you’re able to put it into perspective, you’re obliged to look for mistakes. And regardless how excited you’re about your performance, you should never rush the delivery and check the message. It’s tricky, because you may find out that what you’ve done is wrong and that you have to start all over again or make sound changes.

Do you get to feel part of the team while working remotely?

Sometimes you feel part of the team and sometimes not. And it’s OK. You have an assignment, and you’re hired to carry on a particular task. Many times the client wants you to involve more and many times he doesn’t. Both situations are OK. It’s his project. If this bothers you in any way, it’s your problem. It’s your ego you have to deal with.

Editorial Illustration for “Érase una vez” (Once upon a time) section on Noche Polar magazine

Do you have an opinion about the work process or the client’s brief? How would you improve it?

Most clients have a very clear idea of what they’re looking for and a precise message to communicate. In general, this is very positive. It gives you a solid basis to work. The problem appears when the brief it’s way too solid, and it’s like an impregnable shell. There’s no way to bring in an idea, and it makes the job very complicated.

Otherwise, if communication with your client is fluent, you can participate more and enhance the brief with new valuable approaches.

The brief should make you a better illustrator, and you could consider yourself lucky to have a client with very unique ideas.

You also teach. What would you say or advice to a person who’s looking to pursue an illustration career?

I try to teach to my class that the mission of an illustrator is to communicate. And that research it’s most significant. Read, look for information, make questions about what you’re about to communicate, study the message.

I teach in the last year of the Illustration career at the University, and at this point, some students still believe that they’re going to be drawers, not communicators and that the only practical perspective is to produce children’s books.

But drawing is a tool. You communicate through drawing, which opens up many working possibilities. They might illustrate children’s books or never do so. They can illustrate album covers in the music industry; character design for video games or movies or storytelling. Or custom design for theatre or TV, partnering up with a fashion designer. They can be hired to create the visual style for a movie script that will be filmed or animated in 3D. There’re lots of fascinating alternatives.

The Martos series. Character design for branding (For Sangha Brands, previously Cóncavo&Convexo)

Why do you think your clients choose you to work with them?

I’m not sure. I don’t consider myself a great illustrator; I’m very critic on my work although I always give my best. But to answer the question, I think that something my clients genuinely appreciate is that I pay them attention. I try always to be interested in the project. Another aspect I believe that they value is that I focus on the communication effectiveness.

Why do you like to work in our Sangha?

I like to work with you, guys, because you’re lovely and we became friends. So when I work with you I get to work with friends. Each one of us has a point of view and has his role. But when we finish a project, no matter the outcome, we celebrate together as a family. I like that.

Any given day at work

The best thing is that when a problem takes place, or one of us isn’t rather happy with a result or with how things are turning, like it happened last year that we had to change the illustration’ style after a client’s feedback, I wasn’t satisfied with what we were doing. I remember Franco saying “trust me; it’s going to be good”. He encouraged me to stay positive and keep going. I’m still not thrilled about that particular job, but the truth is that the overall result was good enough and the client loved it.

Would you share with us what’s your biggest challenge at the moment and what’s your pathway and plans for the future?

I’m working on a couple of projects right now. I’m committed to the creation of a video game studio in partnership with two more friends as a side project. One of them is a programmer and the other one a sound designer. It’s a great group! We’ve been seriously dedicated to this project for the past year, using all of our free time and we’ve made a lot of progress.

As for the future, I hope to continue to improve. Every day I find an illustration that blows my mind, which on one side, it makes me very depressed because I feel I’ll never be up to that level; and on the other hand, it keeps me motivated. Right now I’m specialising in character design. I love to generate content through characters and context. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of illustrating.

Character design for a video game based on the history of the alchemist Nicolas Flamel

Go and snoop Tato’s portfolio, you’ll love it!

Visit Damian De Amicis’ portfolio