Camila Rosa’s vibrant – often purple, red, and pink – socially conscious work may inspire you. Between prints that read “You Are Strong,” “Be Powerful,” and “Nobody’s Free Until Everyone’s Free,” the 28-year-old Brazilian-born illustrator is simultaneously cheering on women and encouraging them to do better.
“For me, my art is a way to try to change the world, like it’s a small way, a tiny way to try to to change the world,” she says. “When I do my works, I have the liberty, the freedom to do whatever I want, and I think that it’s my way to put all my thoughts on my drawings, and it’s the way that I feel like a person that is doing something for the world.”
Rosa hasn’t always had this creative freedom. In Brazil, she worked as product designer and graphic designer. That meant working with different clients and carrying out their visions. And those pieces didn’t always resonate to her, they didn’t make the kind of commentary she hoped to make. She also worked eight hours a day and she couldn’t dedicate as much time as she wanted to her own work. But moving to São Paulo to work in illustration set her career onto a new path.
“This helped [me] understand how the illustration work happens and what I needed to know,” she says. “So after that, I start to do some prints, some illustrations, start to sell some things that I did.”
By the time she moved to Brooklyn, she was ready to make illustration her full time job. And this leap of faith has paid off. She’s now able to dedicate herself fully to her art, and people are recognizing her. That’s how publishers like Bust Magazine and Refinery29 came calling.
One reason Bust wanted to work with Rosa – whose work is partially inspired by current events – is because her pieces are so powerful. Take her “No One Is Illegal” piece as an example. As more vilify the undocumented community, activists have used the words “No One Is Illegal” to challenge the dehumanizing language employed by the White House, several media outlets, and xenophobes.
For Bust, Camilla created images meant to encourage women to run for office. “They [said] to me, ‘Oh, we like your work because it’s so powerful, so we need to show to people that it’s important to run for office,’” she says. She ended up illustrating two women – one black and one white – standing beside each other arm in arm with their fists raised. On the opposite side of her drawing are the words “Don’t Get Mad, Get Elected.” Camilla, who called this collaboration important, proudly displayed that Bust printed the illustration in its June/July 2017 issue.
Working with Refinery29 has also been a positive experience. She has completed several illustrations for the online women’s publication, one about Pride Month and a few others about women of different sizes feeling confident in their skin at the beach. Unlike graphic design work – where clients may want so many little tweaks and the process can drag on – working with magazine’s has come with less complications, likely because Camila is illustrating the things that matter to her now.
Camila explains that they accepted her pieces as she originally drew them Refinery’s audience has given her a much bigger platform, which is crucial for an independent artist. And as a woman creating art to empower women, she’s on the right path.
“Actually, many women send me messages [saying,] ‘Oh my god, I love your work’ and ‘This means a lot to me.’ [It’s so important to me] because sometimes we feel like, Oh, I don’t know if I really want to do that, because it’s so hard. But when I receive this type of message it’s so important, because you know all illustrators feel sometimes like that and feel sad and not confident. So I received many, many messages [from] women, sometimes from men, but most are women. It’s amazing.”
Just as she’s inspiring other women, other illustrators are influencing her. Every day, she says, she spends about an hour scrolling through Instagram and seeing what moves others. She looks at the colors they use, the style, and everything in between. It’s a way for her not to become stagnant as an artist. Her goal is to always push her art forward, which is why she also draws every day.
Arriving in New York has helped her push her work forward. She’s worked with so many brands, made many connections, and changed her strategy as an illustrator. “New York has too many illustrators and amazing illustrators,” she says. “This helped me a lot to understand that people use Instagram [to market themselves] and this is very useful for us.”
Camila, who is living in the United States with her husband on a visa, isn’t quite sure what her next step is. She will return home in November, and then she’ll decide whether she applies for another visa or stays in her native country. “Actually, I’m very anxious about that, because we are here for one year,” she says. “I didn’t see my friends, my family, so I’m missing so much, but at the same time, I know that in Brazil, it’s more difficult to live by art.”
“We are in a moment that we have many problems with politics, so the country’s not in a good moment. It’s gonna be hard to live there and to make money with art, but it’s OK, I love my country. I know that Brazil is a good place to live, and I love to live in Brazil, but I will miss so much here, the space for art, the culture, the museums.”
Additional reporting by Itzel Alejandra Martinez. To purchase Camila Rosa’s prints, visit her Society6 page.