We found Regina Pinto de Oliveira’s work online, while looking for an illustrator who’d be a good fit for Azul’s adventures. Regina is a Queens, New York, based artist and her love and passion for art are made clear in her work. Below, she shares her inspiration, and thoughts on diversity in literature.(Edited for brevity and clarity)
1. What are your thoughts on the lack of diverse books in children’s literature and the growing movement for the need for diverse books?
The lack of [diverse] books in children`s literature and also the lack of other basic needs of some human beings are because of the lack of equality. Literature is one effective vehicle for sharing knowledge, culture and information around the world. It is my desire to be part of this positive movement.
2. What were the biggest challenges working on the illustrations?
One of the biggest challenges faced by me was to bring the energy that surrounded each scenario, both from Brazil and the USA. It was like taking a “voyage” by imagination from the tropical hot weather to the cold weather.
When I was doing these illustrations, I had the pleasure to be connected with the Brazilians Music and folklore such as Capoeira, Maracatu, Samba de Roda, and especially the very Carioca charm that is “Bossa Nova”. All those wonderful things gave me great inspiration.
3. What were the most rewarding things about working on the Afro-Brazilian book?
In my opinion it was very rewarding to bring back to me memories from my own childhood in Brazil, specifically that I lived in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro. I could see very clearly how much Brazil’s culture was influenced by African culture. I consider that African culture is the mother of other cultures. It was also very rewarding for me to explore new techniques of drawing and painting with different materials and get different kinds of effects.
3. What illustrators or illustrations have been your biggest inspirations and influences as an illustrator?
Monteiro Lobato was an important and memorable person for Brazilian literature. His wonderful and unforgettable work was full of the Brazilian atmosphere that enhanced my imagination.
4. When did you decide that you wanted to pursue illustrating?
The taste of doing illustration came to me as a child. I used to write and draw special notebooks with some pictures from my imagination. I used to show those notebooks in my school, to my teachers and my colleagues. I just loved and still love to do these drawings and pictures. It makes me feel much more alive.
5. What is it like in the daily life of an illustrator?
My experience as an illustrator enhances my attention for details and focuses me full time on anything that can improve an illustration. I like any activity that requires the capacity of creation but sometimes I need to remember to take time for meals,breaks and time to relax because at any moment a surprise can suddenly appear that gives me new inspiration and new ideas.
6. What is your all-time favorite book?
My all time favorite book is"The Biography of a Yogui’ by Yoganada.
7. What is your creative process like?
First I need some silence and to be connected with my inspiration. It is one very natural process and in the very beginning my creativity needs some adjustments until I get the artwork. When the work is completed the sensation is really amazing. It is very nice to follow the development of this process. I always try to give one hundred per cent into what I am doing.
9. What are your thoughts on the state of Afro-Brazilian literature for children (or in general)?
I have not seen too much literature on this subject!
10. What are you most excited about with the launch of “Azul Meets New York Sam” with One Moore Book?
I am very excited to promote Brazil and our culture. This book shows in some way a realistic perspective of childhood in Brazil, such as the case of children living in slums but at the same time shows the happiness. They are happy and they can be full of life and shine and we can see one smile in the face of Azul and Carioca. I am sure Sam is very lucky to meet such kind of friends. Sam will not be the same!