Antonia Figuerido, known as @af.illustrations online, is a Brazillian visual artist living in Lisbon whose work has amassed nearly 40,000 followers on Instagram!
Antonia's work has been recognized by many for her ability to attach herself to an existing portrait in a way that is creative and fun. She started taking social media seriously in 2019 and has been posting around three times a day every day for more than a year now. She has amassed nearly 40,000 followers on Instagram and currently has two other accounts that she manages: @af.studio.8 and @colourpalettecollective.
She moved to Lisbon from Tallinn, Estonia. When asked if her art is a reflection of her surroundings, she stated that “it is an inevitable effect. I am very receptive and responsive to my surroundings, so it’s important for me to be in an environment that stimulates me and my creativity in as many ways as possible.”
Her average work day typically consists of freely creating in the morning and serious work in the evening. When asked to describe what her workday is like, she stated that it is all over the place. “I am an early bird, so I like to wake up at around 7 am. I start my day with journaling and meditation to ground myself. I am currently working on a series of commissions and a solo exhibit for the end of the year, so the first thing I do is paint while enjoying my coffee. Breakfast comes way later. In the afternoon, I do the majority of my digital work and administrative work which follows all the way to the evening”.
Her inspirations are derived from references as broad as possible, “by surrounding myself with things that can trigger that lightbulb moment. I am a visual person so I spend a lot of my time searching and researching online for images that I find beautiful". At the moment, she has been super interested in contemporary traditional artists such as Delia Hamer, Peter Kraustropf, and William LaChance.
A lot of her work feature portraits of celebrities. I asked how this came about, and she mentions that it began as something that she could do that was quick while “allowing me to exercise my creative brain so I started playing around with symbols, colours, shapes, and sizes. Since I get inspired by seeing beautiful things, I had all these images of photoshoots by amazing photographers and all my references saved on my computer so putting the two together was a quick and easy decision. And it worked!” She emphasizes that her work is really not about celebrities as much as it is about the photographers, set designers, fashion, and so on behind the photograph.
Music plays a large part in her process of finding inspiration. “Every artist’s creations are a reflection of their environment, and I believe that music plays a big part in this. The sounds we listen to, and how and why they move us are connected to how we create. How I create!” Recently, she illustrated the album cover of musician Alice Caymmi which she described as “one of the coolest projects I have had the pleasure to work on”. She states that “we worked so naturally together and I would love to collaborate on more projects like this in the future.”
Literature is another love of hers, which she expresses in her newsletter titled EGGOTRIP. “Oh, I am at my happiest when I have a book in my hand! I don’t go anywhere without one, just in case I have a couple of minutes to spare to finish a paragraph! I can and will read anywhere. Supermarket queues, cab rides, brushing my teeth, walking…” She loves books about history — especially art history — and psychology. She grew up with a fascination for mythology so symbols and their meanings hold an important place in her heart.
When I asked her for a book recommendation, she states that “one of the best books I have read in the past couple of years is Rachel Cusk’s memoir, The Last Supper. It is a very intimate read about her years traveling through Italy with her family. The way she speaks of her changing perspective and her references to famous Italian artists and their artworks were very unexpected yet captivating.”
She comes from a family of artists and has always been into drawing and illustrating; “I remember my mother had this set of drawers in our living room that was full of art supplies, divided into categories and organized by colors. It was heavenly!” Though the foundations of being an artist were set, “it took me nearly 22 years to realize that this is what I wanted to do for myself and as my profession.”
Her Relationship with Social Media
Social media is a tool that she uses to share her artwork and keep in touch with her audience and other artists she admires. She states that “it’s easy to fall into the pressure [of social media] but once you shift the perspective and see it as a helpful tool, things get a lot easier.” The relationship she has with her audience is led by the fact that she adores people. “I love conversing with my audience and having their suggestions and ideas [through our shared Pinterest board]. I am incredibly grateful for all the interactions I get to have with them and I’m happy to have the opportunity to share and experience my work with an audience.”
The transparency she has with her audience is demonstrated through her posts wherein she posts the beginning stages of what a portrait is planned to look like versus the final product and its various iterations. Similarly, her process reels have gotten thousands of views. This allows her audience to get inside the mind of Figueiredo to a certain degree, furthering the sense of vulnerability and openness in her work.
She has various avenues online wherein she shares her work. One of them is her Instagram account, Colour Palette Collective. “The main reason why I began this project was very simple. There are just too few places where you can find a selection of curated palettes on the internet. I want this to be a place by artists for artists.” When asked what her favorite pairing is, she raves about the pairing of pink and red: “my favorite color pairing is pink and red and I find it very hard to move away from them. There is just something so strong yet delicate about the way the two colors work together. It’s my version of black and white.”
Her creative background and her strong sense of play create a new way to view the world, one that is fun and interactive through elements of text, collages, and illustrations. The two mediums that she utilizes are digital and traditional forms of art in order to translate her point of view to the world. She moved from digital art to full-scale paintings relatively recently which have become a way for her to open commissions. She reflects on, what she proclaims, as an intense but beautiful journey. “It has opened my eyes in so many different ways. I feel like I am now a much more confident and complete artist. With this new medium, I have discovered a way where I can get my hands dirty (literally). I cannot wait to see where this journey will take me! It feels incredibly exciting.”
To Figueiredo, art is life and life is art. Though cliché, she believes that art is a language. “It can be a form of expression that we artists use to translate how we see the world. The process of getting the final product is a result of the relationship we have with ourselves, society, and the world. It is an active exercise I do to look for beauty everywhere and relay my perspective to the world through my work.”
It is evident that she illustrates her perspective on social issues through art because of this: “It is hard to not be affected by the current state of the world and all its social issues and conflicts. To a certain degree, my art also gets influenced by that. Spreading the messages I believe into my audience is as important as having these conversations with the people around me.”
Of all the illustrations she's made, her favourite is her alphabet series which “was an incredibly fun exercise”. However, in terms of portraits, she states that the one she did of Andrew Scott is something she uses as a reference quite often. “My art is almost never subtle and I tend to aim for maximalism! Doing such a minimalistic illustration and it turning out so beautiful was a first for me.”
Figueiredo has a collection of mobile accessories, such as phone cases and AirPods cases, with Casetify as a part of the brand’s group of featured artists. When asked about the process, she states that it has been so fun. “I am actually working on the second launch of products to be released at the end of the year. There is some really good stuff coming out this time and I am so excited! I have never had phone cases until I designed my own; I used to glue things like stickers directly to my phone, and this is kind of the vibe I want to bring to my collections. It’s personal, fun and aesthetically pleasing, like an accessory! My idea was to translate what Jane Birkin did to her Birkin bags on phone cases.”
The biggest advice she said she had to learn and actively remind herself is “maintain a beginner’s point of view. I think art demands this from artists, to have this childlike perception of the world and its challenges. Things didn’t work out? That’s cool, I’ll just try again. And then, I’ll try again until it works.”
Her plans for the future consist of expanding and solidifying her work on both digital and traditional fronts. She is currently working on her first solo exhibition, though she stresses that her focus is “to keep growing and learning”. It is exciting to see her journey as an artist through her exploration of new mediums, simultaneously showing us a different part of her each time.