Meet Vancouver-based illustrator, animator, and art director, Rafael Mayani. Though native to Mexico City, he spent his early years in Canada, before returning years later. He studied Industrial design in Mexico City for six years, and then began working at a product design firm. Rafael eventually left his product design job to really focus and dig into illustration!
Rafael then moved to Barcelona to study Visual Arts, and almost immediately got hired at Giant Ant in Vancouver. He is now an Art Director by day and freelance illustrator by night. Rafael's work is bold, colorful, and dynamic incorporating interesting characters and shapes. You can find his illustrations in picture books, editorial articles, and animations. Recently, he has been working with publishers like Usborne and Hinkler.
You can find more of Rafael Mayani's work on his website here.
We've had the pleasure of working with Rafael on the current exhibition: The ROBO SHOW and we are very excited to give you an inside look at his inspirations, process, and much more in the interview below!
What is your studio practice like and where do you work? Do you have any favorite materials? favorite resources?
I work full time at Giant Ant , but during the evenings and weekends I work on personal projects and freelance stuff. Since moving to Vancouver, I haven't really bought any furniture so my home studio is pretty much just a desk and my computer. Until recently, I worked only digitally . . .but lately I've been trying out some india ink as well.
You are originally from Mexico and now in Canada. What is your creative community like? Do you see influences from both cultures in your work?
Definitely! The places where I live have shaped the way I work and the things I illustrate. Although, I feel like it's not so much about the place itself but about the people that I've met in every city and they way they've influenced me.
Now that I'm working in animation, I think that my work has shifted into something a bit more graphic. I try doing more geometry-based imagery and try to do the most things out of very simple shapes.
Your work is so smart and playful! What are some of your main sources of inspiration/motivation?
A lot of my inspiration comes just from seeing other peoples work. Its hard to go through Pinterest and not feel the urge to do something of my own. I do a lot of stuff based on people, movies and books that I like. I started out doing almost 100% fan-art, which I still like doing every once in a while.
Do you often get to work on personal projects/challenges?
I believe that personal projects are the most important part of growing as an artist. Most of my favorite projects are ones that Ive done for myself. I almost never show stuff that I do for clients. I like to set challenges for myself when I create a series of illustrations - that way I can develop a style for that specific project.
What is your favorite project to date?
The Disney Challenge I made (when I was starting to illustrate) is very important to me. It took me a year and a half to finish it (all 52 animated films) and I learned a lot about animation and illustration working on it!
Can you tell me more about the piece you made for the ROBO Show? What was it inspired by and what was the process like?
For the ROBO Show piece, I wanted to have a robot placed in an environment that wasn't where everyone would expect to find a Robot. I found this photo of an enormous Buddha in a mountain in China and was really inspired by that. I wanted to include an explorer that would eventually be the one who finds the robot and tries to bring it back to life. The idea of of Frog Girl (the explorer in the piece) came while I was already working on the final colors, so I had to change her design a bit.
Have you always been interested in Robots? What sparked this interest? Who is your favorite robot?
My brother is really into science fiction books and through him I started to learn about some of Asimov's books and their plots. I've also read a lot of Phillip K. Dick, I just love his short stories and how he can establish an amazing plot within the first paragraph!
My brother has also written a couple of science fiction stories and I absolutely love them.
Also, being an animation fan, I'm gonna say my favorite Robot is a tie between the Iron Giant and Baymax.
Do you have any upcoming projects you can tell people about?
I'll be illustrating the unabridged version of The Jungle book this year. So I'm really excited and nervous about that.
Where can people find/follow your work?
Thanks, Rafael, it was an absolute pleasure sharing your work!