Carpazine: Doug, It’s been awhile since our last interview and we're happy to have you back for another. Tell us what you have been up to?
Doug Firmino: First, thanks for the invite. It is very important for me to participate in Carpazine again at this time. Well, in the last two years I went through the chaotic eye of a hurricane in my life and also in my path as an artist and researcher of drawing. During this period, I spent days in hospitals due to the treatment of my mother, who had cancer. She died in 2022. And in March 2023, my father also died suddenly. Therefore, this period has been an avalanche on my mind, but even in this situation I realized that drawing and my artistic practices were outlets to keep me alive, following my journey and overcoming obstacles. My productions in the last two years have focused on drawing in diaries (sketchbooks) about these experiences I've lived, an activity that I see as a method to purge the infection of pain and feelings that cause agony in my heart.
Carpazine: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your artistic journey? How did you get started as a visual artist?
Doug Firmino: My first steps were due to my childhood fascination for drawing, but what attracted my gaze were objects considered ugly. I remember in childhood, at the age of seven, a cousin put a resin skull in my hand, however, my childish mind believed that it was real bones. Since that episode my captivation with trying to draw skulls started. Along the way, drawing was always present in an anarchic way in the school environment, I didn't like how things were in public school, so I spent classes drawing in my notebooks. This type of behavior made me fail a few times and the drawing became the witch that plagued me, according to my family. In addition, strange, bizarre, grotesque and ultra-violent themes were manifested in these notebooks, which were considered pseudonomicons, causing disgust and disgust from my relatives, teachers and even friends.
Carpazine: What mediums do you work with, and why did you choose them? Do you have a favorite medium, and if so, why is it your favorite?
Doug Firmino: I usually work with traditional materials: pencil, mechanical pencil, graphite, paper, India ink, watercolor, gouache, and some other media. What I like the most is using graphite and pencil on paper, I like the rustic and ordinary power that these materials present. I believe that this medium takes me back to the first phases of my work, a moment where irresponsibility reigned without aiming for any exquisite result, which is why I believe that using these materials in everyday practice in my diaries invokes this feeling of freedom, so that the drawing expresses its power more raw and genuine.
Carpazine: How would you describe your artistic style or approach? How has your style evolved over the years?
Doug Firmino: My work has a poetic charge that is the result of the experiences I've lived, my artistic approach is based on my curiosity to understand the world around me. I try to dissect and untangle everything that catches my attention visually, subjectively and objectively, because I actually try to formulate notions in my mind about these experiences. Since my childhood, the work I produce is soaked in a grotesque aesthetic. And my goal in recent years since entering university has been to understand this aesthetic and understand how it impacts my creative process. Academic research was a mechanism that catalyzed the evolution of my work, as the research and studies I carried out during my undergraduate and Master's degrees in Visual Arts revealed new layers of my poetics and the creative process I carry out. Some of these nuances that infect my production were examined, which revealed gaps and needs for the organism of my work to be strengthened through new approaches.
Carpazine: What themes or subjects inspire your artwork? Are there any recurring motifs or messages in your pieces?
Doug Firmino: My work is heavily influenced by medicine, forensic science, and other subjects that relate to the finitude of bodily matter. As a child, I was greatly influenced by video rental horror movies, then my curiosity for true crime cases, serial killers and other bizarre personalities. As time went by, I began to understand the deeper layers of the subjects that fed my visual production. By saying this, many people start to see me as a brave guy, not afraid to deal with or investigate these types of matters, but this is not true. It is exactly fear that motivates me to understand and study these manifestations, this makes my investigative process a type of mithridatism, which is the action of taking minimal doses of poison progressively to develop immunity in my mind and body. Art was the only way I found to deal with the terrors that plague my life.
Carpazine: Are there any particular artists, art movements, or historical periods that have influenced your work?
Doug Firmino: I was influenced by several artists from different movements, due to academic research I came to know and understand the different phases of Art History. The first artist who impacted me and transformed my way of thinking was Leonardo da Vinci, as cliché as it may seem, I heard about Leonardo in the seventh or eighth grade, I don't remember for sure, however, when I met his way of work I identified myself intensely with the fact of applying drawing as a means of absorbing knowledge. From that moment on, my life was transformed, as I, who was just an angry teenager from the periphery, began to condense my creativity to unveil the subjects that interested me. This attitude took me out of the limitation of the neighborhood I grew up in, which is P.SUL, a violent neighborhood that is part of a dangerous city called Ceilândia, located and designed for low-income populations not to contaminate Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. As I developed as a student and researcher of the Visual Arts, I got to know other historical artists, however, at the present time, the artists who influence me and motivate me to continue are artists close to my reality, friends such as: Lourenço Mutarelli, Sergio Rizo, Ferréz, Liana Falcão, Dona Dora, Ebá Lima, Rafael Trinco, Carlos Freitas, Romáryo Roma, Jim Dura, Moisés Crivelaro, Flávio Soneka, Flávio Maravilha and a few others, who with their attitudes teach me to be a better, more human and more empathetic- Necessary impulses so that I can continue my journey.
Carpazine: How do you typically approach the creative process? Do you plan your artwork meticulously, or do you embrace spontaneity and improvisation?
Doug Firmino: The creative process that I carry out in my works is born out of ordinary matters, very simple and even banal things, however, my mind aims to take hold of these ideas and work on their issues to express the message I want. The drawings I develop are worked on in different ways, sometimes they are more fluid, natural and spontaneously, at other times they are carefully planned to compose a series. I confess that I feel better when the processes are more natural, however, the fact of conceiving designs that are more painful is also necessary to purge the mind's infections.
Carpazine: How do you deal with creative blocks or challenges in your artistic practice?
Doug Firmino: I've never had creative blocks, it seems strange to say that, but it's true. I've always perceived the production of my works as a kind of addiction, that is, I need my daily fix to keep me going. This way of thinking led me to understand the complexities involved in my own artistic process and from there, I began to rationalize some conditions that keep me from creative block. The first evidence is that I don't believe in the enlightenment of the artistic gift or in inspiration, this has tamed my brain to believe that the process is a laboratory of experiences, a factor that makes me use and test possibilities in my sketchbooks all the time.
These labs aren't for making fancy designs, but testing as many things as you can, a place of purging, of unloading. This causes new questions to arise, for example, if on the day I don't have any idea to create a new drawing, I start drawing through observation, if I don't feel like observing anything, I can make collages, I can write something, I can merge images , I can work on old ideas, I can study any subject through drawing, even subjects that are not related to the arts.
Due to this variety of possibilities, the block does not reach me. This taught me that the practice of drawing is a two-way path, one for absorbing information and the other for expression, the days will vary the flow of these paths. I learned from my friend, Lourenço Mutarelli, that notebooks (sketchbooks) are tools to catalog and organize the world in my way, this is the synthesis of a thought that stimulates drawing in a continuous way, an empirical research that occurs at all times , without being trapped in the studio as the only environment to work. Thus, the traumatic ghost of blockage and exhaustion was exorcized from my processes.
Carpazine: What role does art play in your life? How does it impact your emotions, thoughts, and overall well-being?
Doug Firmino: Art is something that transformed my life, I grew up in an extremely violent environment, a neighborhood where homicide and other crimes were commonplace, therefore, this content involved all residents and their subjects, conduct and other aspects. Due to the design, I started to deal with this load and found a mechanism to survive in this swamp, but I was also contaminated in a certain way and this is noticeable in the themes of my works. Over time, drawing led me to the academic environment, which revealed the scientific characteristics that involved my work. Because of this, today I am an artist and researcher with a degree and a master's degree in Visual Arts from the University of Brasília.
About emotions, I repeat that drawing is an addiction that keeps me alive. Without the arts, maybe I wouldn't be around anymore, because this practice enables me to conceive a different look at life, a fact that leads me to a significant purpose in this passage through the earth. When I don't draw for a long time, I become a harsher, more acidic person, that is, a worse person. Therefore, this continuous practice is fundamental to my existence, something that goes beyond just formulating a professional career. I perceive drawing as a survival mechanism. That's why I continue, because it's the means that brings me physical and mental well-being.
Carpazine: Can you share a memorable experience or project that had a significant impact on your career as an artist?
Doug Firmino: One of the most complex and dense experiences that impacted my career and life as an artist and researcher of drawing was accompanying my mother's (Maria Fatima Ferreira da Silva) treatment, who fought cancer from 2016 to 2022. Experiencing this painful period in the hospital environment, showed me how the learning I developed in drawing was significant to better act and monitor the treatment and the bureaucratic dealings of procedures, from chemotherapies, transplants and other means. My study in the field of human anatomy, consolidated a framework of notions that allowed me to talk with doctors and understand in depth the necessary procedures and all their stages.
Another important aspect was realizing how drawing helped me purge my daily pains and uncertainties, this activity acted as a therapeutic process to deal with the fact of watching the body of someone you love wither away, because cancer is a disease that makes the person very fragile both emotionally and physically. Based on this perception, I was able to support myself in every way so that my mother could stay alive one day after another. The drawing was also a resource for mobilizing relatives, family, friends and even strangers, as I was able to make posters inviting people to donate blood to hospital banks and other collaborative actions. Living those years was the hardest experience of my life and career, but I'm still dealing with the remnants of that episode.
The only certainty I have is that the drawings I made during this period shared the density contained in the hospital environment, but also showed the strength of the people who fight there to stay alive, healthy and firm to return to their homes. In April 2022, at 8:00 AM, I received the call to come to the hospital. And just as I was the first to receive the news of my mother's illness, I was also the first to receive the news of her rest. And when leafing through my notebooks, the drawing also brings her strength and the good times we had together to my mind.
Carpazine: How do you handle criticism and feedback on your work? How has it shaped your growth as an artist?
Doug Firmino: This is a complex question, but I believe I read it well. It was already something more difficult for me, because I didn't have some understandings. My work was heavily criticized when I was a child and teenager, many labeled it as something ugly, bad and terrible. I felt out of place, to the point where I started to ignore opinions about my drawings, created a shell and started drawing just for myself, without expecting praise and celebration. Over time, this repression generated a rebellion and revolt, which I expressed in a short period of time through my works. That factor generated a refinement in the approaches that I develop. Nowadays I read very calmly and if the criticism is constructive, I will analyze and evolve in the aspect pointed out if it is something pertinent to my journey.
Carpazine: Do you have a favorite piece of artwork you've created? What makes it special to you?
Doug Firmino: I don't have a favorite work that I've created, but I'm very attached to my notebooks, all my diaries (sketchbooks) are very special to me, because there are the records of the path I traveled until I reached the moment where I am now. These graphic diaries are for me the foundation of all my other works, they are the most precious because my ideas and experiences are filling their pages.
Carpazine: What are your goals and aspirations as a visual artist? Where do you see yourself in the future?
Doug Firmino: My aspirations as a visual artist are several that intertwine to conceive a firm rope, the first of which is to do my PHD in the field of Visual Arts, as I want to increase my trajectory as an artist and researcher of drawing. Consequently, I intend to be a teacher, to promote the teaching of the Arts in the university environment and share the knowledge and experiences that have strengthened and developed my work. Another aspiration is to be able to explore the world and its possibilities to add more practical and theoretical knowledge about drawing and its grotesque emanations. I also aim to produce exhibitions in Brazil and elsewhere in the world to develop new experiences and learn about other cultures, to understand how this will catalyze my artistic poetics.
I also intend to publish some works in the field of Author Comics (Graphic novels), because this is a necessary factor of gratitude for this language, which kept me alive and strong in the periphery. Without comics, I wouldn't be the artist I am today, so this is a complex mission, but one that I've been working on for a long time. And I hope that once I accomplish this goal, I'll be able to come back and share with you guys in Carpazine.
Carpazine: How do you balance your artistic vision with commercial considerations, such as client demands or market trends?
Doug Firmino: Relating my work to commercial issues is something important, the works I developed for magazines, brands and other companies in Brazil and abroad, were very significant to understand this symbiosis. I confess that I like this challenge, but I also recognize that the brands or companies that hired me already knew my work and also my history, this makes it easier to meet the demands. I realized that what is important for these brands is not just my design, but also my image, personality and history. And that's exactly what I intend to work on, because I don't just want to be the hands that conceive ideas visually, what I'm looking for are companies that want to link my journey to their brands, to conceive a link of my representativeness as an artist with the brands . This is the type of commercial proposal that interests me, because my artistic manifestations do not fit just behind the curtains, because my job is to build stories, worlds, through images, texts and narratives. And all this cannot be disconnected from my own personality and image, I am the host of this parasitic agent that is my work.
Carpazine: Can you share some insights into your working environment and routine? What tools or materials are essential to your process?
Doug Firmino: Yes of course, my desktop is a small space in my own house at the moment, but I hope that someday it can be expanded. My routine is not very tied to this small studio, but I usually try to organize projects in a schedule, I try to fulfill it in the best possible way. I confess that it is something difficult, because there is always some new idea, or unfolding in the middle of these processes, HAHAHA. From there, projects begin to be born and unfolded. As I said before, my artistic production is born out of experiences, which is why I like to walk around the city, see friends and family, because it is in these banal conversations that my ideas arise. From then on I try to work and develop the idea, but most of the time it takes on a life of its own almost autonomously.
Carpazine: Have you faced any significant challenges in your artistic career, and how did you overcome them?
Doug Firmino: The current moment has been a challenge, after the death of my mother in (2022), and the death of my father at the beginning of this year (2023), things have become quite complicated. And this moment is being very difficult for me, because I had to sell several drawings to pay for some bureaucracies of the postmortem process. I feel like I'm starting my career from scratch again. I hope this new phase is good and significant for the evolution of my work and that new achievements are made. I also hope that new experiences will be lived, so that I can accomplish my goals as a person and also as an artist and researcher.
Carpazine: How do you stay inspired and motivated to continue creating art over time?
Doug Firmino: I keep taking my daily doses, it motivates me to keep going, even though in these last few months I've watched things fall apart around me, but the need to move forward made me start rebuilding my career, to mend the pieces with some precious material that resignifies what it was before. The only certainty I have is that the result will be something new and not what it once was.
Carpazine: Are there any upcoming projects or exhibitions you're excited about that you can share with us?
Doug Firmino: At the moment I'm working to finalize two projects in comics, the first is a work with my writer friend Ferréz, who is the author of the book Capão Pecado. This project is a revisitation of that novel through comics to tell a new point of view of the story. And it will be released by Comix Zone publisher. The second project is an authorial comic, called: Vilipêndio, which tells the story of a man who suffers from psychological problems and cannot overcome a youthful passion. Factor that leads him to develop his own Dantesque hell, to try to justify his obsession with a woman who doesn't even know who he is. I hope to finish these works soon and see how the public will receive them.
Carpazine: What advice would you give to aspiring visual artists who are just starting their artistic journey?
Doug Firmino: Don't believe in a magical gift, don't believe that you are unable to achieve what you want. And the main advice is to formulate strategies, take advantage of spaces in your city, such as: Universities, schools, galleries, post offices and everything that can collaborate with your journey of learning in the arts. Don't wait, start with what you have. Being an artist is constantly adapting.
Carpazine: Can you tell the readers where they can check you out…
Doug Firmino: Of course, I'm pretty frequent on Instagram these days. To find me, just search for: @dougfirmino. Follow me there and if you want to chat, just send me a direct.
Carpazine: Anything you’d like to add?
Doug Firmino: I would like to thank you once again for the conversation, it was very important and nice to revisit the traces of my trajectory in this moment of reconstruction. And I believe that participating in Carpazine is the first step towards this new phase of my career. Grateful!
Photo by: Pablo Henrique de Carvalho Botelho
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Carpazine Art Magazine Issue Number 39 Featuring Lana Gentry! More: Jeffrey Wengrofsky, Abdul Vas, Danny Licul, Akira Usagi, Ductape "Echo Drama", Fear at Brooklyn Monarch, Interview with Dar Stellabota, Perfect 10 at The Long Island Museum , 14th Annual Figurative Art Exhibition at Lore Degensten Gallery, and more!