A casual conversation with collage and typography maker Eduardo Recife. An interview discussing the fun and downside of living in Brazil, his early years as a tagger, and his present life as typography designer and successful artist.
Adriana de Barros, Scene 360: You live in a country that is lively, social, rich in many ways yet also poor and unstable. Brazil is full of lifestyle contrasts. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages living in Belo Horizonte?
Eduardo Recife: Brazil is a fantastic place, what really ruins it is the political corruption, violence and crime. I enjoy living in Belo Horizonte because it has one of the best climates in Brazil: it’s not too hot, neither too cold, usually just warm and sunny. We have the most beautiful mountains and waterfalls, and if this isn’t enough, they say we have the most beautiful women.
The disadvantages are that there is not much to do here… Most people get wasted in bars… We don’t have a whole lot of cultural events, the art scene is pretty restrict and conservative; and violence and crime is increasing everyday.
How hard is it to make a living as an artist?
Well, most of my income comes from my commercial works as an illustrator/designer. Last year, I had an art show in LA, where I showcased my drawings on panels… The thing is when some of the remaining artwork was shipped back to me, it got stuck at the Brazilian customs. They were charging me $1000 to get my OWN drawings back! Somehow they thought I was importing the artwork. I got a lawyer to help me out, but things here are so bureaucratic, lazy, disorganized that I did not get a hold of my artwork yet. This pretty much upset me to the point that I didn’t draw a whole lot ever since…
I know that you started off as an urban artist, I suspect graffiti was involved. How influential was this phase and experience to the formation of your current art style?
I wasn’t really a graffiti artist. I liked tagging walls, such things that I regret… But I was very much into graffiti and the alphabets; I just wasn’t competent enough to work with a spray can. At this point in time I developed a passion for type and all the different kinds of alphabets. Later on, I discovered the grunge type scene on the Internet and it was love at first sight. I identified so much with it, that in 1997, I started to create my own alphabets and typefaces for my personal use.
Your art is characteristic for its old era style. What inspires you to reuse worn out objects, faded photos, and misplaced and broken stuff?
I think old graphics were unbelievably more beautiful than what we have today. It was more poetic, and the colors were more attractive. Throughout my whole life I’ve liked old stuff. When I was younger, I used to get worn clothes and shoes from my older cousins, and I loved it! Even today, I am really fond of vintage (second-hand) t-shirts, etc. Besides all this, I think that the vintage, worn look gives a sensation it was touched by the hands of time or by the artist. Somehow clean lines from the computer bother me, because it feels so cold and mechanical.
Most of my digital collages are processed by hand: creating textures, stains, scratches, doodles, and more. I want the computer to help me compose—not to slave me between the mouse and the chair.
“Panic! At the Disco” is an interesting band with kick-ass t-shirts designed by you. How did you meet them; get this project started?
In 2006, I received an email from their label commissioning me to design some tees, but things were so hectic then that I couldn’t work on it. So I asked them to contact me for their next line of tees; they did contact me again and it was a pleasure to work on their t-shirts. They were very receptive about my work and they gave me complete creative freedom. The whole process was dealt with me and the label, and not directly with the band.
You’ve grown up in the so called “Copyright Era”, which establishes rules on what can be used or what cannot. And because Collage Art relates to reusing images, many of those printed and copyrighted. Have you had any problems with the images put into your artwork? Are you careful about your selections, or do you disregard and create freely?
I believe in common sense. I do not use the latest magazine ad in one of my collages. This is also one of the reasons why I enjoy using vintage material. I think once you completely change the intent of the image you’re using as a source in your work, it makes things more “acceptable”. I often try to modify, add and manipulate a little bit the images. But so far I have not had problems.
You’ve stated that you “do not sketch”. What is your creative process like?
I do sketch sometimes… But what is upsetting is that collage makes the end results almost unpredictable. It truly depends on the images you’re going to work with. I rather have an almost formless idea in my mind, and then let it develop as I find the graphical resources for it. Once started on a collage, I don’t change much of the layout afterwards… I don’t like the 2nd version as much as I like the very first design. I believe a clear concept is more important than a sketch of the image. I like the moment of creation to be spontaneous.
Much of your personal art is similar to newspaper comics, short witted statements such as “You were very happy when you didn’t know” and “If you have nothing to say then don’t say anything.” All of this beautifully scripted by hand. How important are words and typeface, and what inspires these plots?
The themes of my works usually related with thoughts that cross my mind. Releasing the thought into an image is almost cathartic. All of my writing is spontaneous… I sit and write, it’s as if they were in my head just waiting for the right moment to be written. There is no effort in this… So it’s normally a short message that communicates with the image, one completes the other.
You’ve been generous to give free downloads of your custom fonts. Why are you this nice?
When I first started creating typefaces it was just for my personal use. Later on, I decided I would share them on the Internet. I could have placed them as shareware or even commercial, but it was great to help students with no money. Students were able to use them into their work… I remember I liked so many commercial typefaces and I literally couldn’t buy any. Some people say I’m stupid for not charging my freeware fonts for commercial use. They say people are making money out of my work… I rather think that I’m helping people somehow. A few years ago, I put some commercial fonts online as a way to support the freeware section. But the freeware ones are going to remain FREE!
It never hurts for you to brag a little bit during an interview. What do you consider is your best artistic talent?
Throughout the years that I’ve known you, you’ve done web site designs and you don’t know any technological languages. How do you get these sites up and why have you gotten involved in web?
I created the first version of Misprinted Type by myself. I don’t know how but it worked. I had no clue about what I was doing. It was trial and error and persistence. Since then I’ve worked with programmers from the second version of misprintedtype to all other websites.
Let’s talk about flea markets. I love them, and I know that you do too. How many do you visit per month, and what do you normally look for?
I used to go every month to an old book store in my city. I would come out with tons of magazines, old books and sore throats… But the thing is that there is no flea market in my city… So I get my material either when I travel, or from gifts or finding some stuff online. I usually try to control myself in these situations, I try to really think about the things I need… It’s tempting, but I keep my eyes only on magazines and books, which will have good use in my work.
Please fill out the following sentences:
I’m happy, when… I see others happy.
I dreamt the other day… about a gigantic moon.
My family… the people I love the most.
Love is… everything.
I want to be… freed from desires.
Goodbye, next time I’ll… hopefully have new things to show you!
Credit: Images courtesy and © of Eduardo Recife.