Illustration from Basilisk Hills Hexcrawl, by Carlos Castilho.
Carlos Castilho is an illustrator whose work has graced books by a wide range of publishers. He has a distinctive, line-heavy style that is immediately recognizable, and he was kind enough to answer some questions for this interview.
Question. You've got such a distinctive style that is very evocative and captures the desperation of old-school dungeon delving. What's your background in art, and how did you get into illustrating for rpgs?
Answer. Well, first of all, thank you very much for inviting me into this conversation. It's a great pleasure for me. I have no training in the arts. I even started studying Visual Arts at the university in my city (UPF), but did not complete the course. Like every illustrator, I've been drawing since I was a child and the RPG has always been an engine for my drawings. I loved making characters just to be able to draw them, or draw first to think about the sheet later. I always illustrated the characters of the groups that I played and then posted on social media. One day a friend said to start posting in RPG groups on Facebook and as I ended up having a lot of time at home in the pandemic, I was able to illustrate enough to the point of catching the attention of some people. By the way, you were one of my first clients. Thanks a lot for that dude.
Q. What are some of your favorite subjects to illustrate? Do you have a favorite theme or topic? I've noticed some recurring characters in your artwork. Is there a story behind these characters?
A. Well, I'm a big fan of Classic D&D, more specifically BX. So I really like illustrating about crawling, investigating and exploring dungeons and wilds, always trying to show the dangers of the world the characters are interacting with. I like to think with verisimilitude when designing equipment that characters are carrying.
In addition, I like to show characters from other ethnicities in the role of Elves, Halflings and Dwarves, I think this is extremely important for representation. And always being careful not to objectify women or treat them as weaker sex. About the recurring characters. I get into the arts quite often, for the simple fact that I'm a quick reference when I need a character in a different pose or making a more expressive face. At first I tried to disguise it more because I thought it might convey an idea of narcissism, but over time I noticed that people thought it was funny to look for me in the arts, so I decided to embrace the joke and use it almost as a "Where's Wally?". Also, whenever a client asks me for a series of illustrations that involve characters doing something, I try to use the same characters to kind of tell a story.
Q. For people who may be interested in contacting you about commissions, can you talk a little bit about your creative process and how you prefer to work with clients?
A. Basically we start with a briefing where the client will explain to me what he needs me to illustrate for him. The briefing needs to be direct and objective, where the client will show me what is really important there. As I am a traditional illustrator (I work with paper and India ink), I will make a pencil sketch and send a scan for the client to evaluate if he likes the idea or needs me to change something. Once the sketch is approved, I move on to finishing it with ink. Then scan it again to send it to the client. All this is done by email, to make it easier to review the briefing. Speaking of which, here are my links: Portfolio: https://www.artstation.com/carloscastilho Email: email@example.com Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Mewe: Carlos Castilho (@crawlstilho)
Q. One of my goals with these interview is to highlight minority and POC-publishers. Can you talk about your experience as a Latin American in the rpg scene, as well as your experiences in the vibrant Brazilian Old School scene? There's *so much* creativity coming out of Brazil right now, and I'm always fascinated in hearing how the scene has evolved and the various people involved collaborate together.
A. I feel that Brazil loses a lot because it is the only country in Latin America that speaks Portuguese. Unfortunately, we are not used to consuming RPGs from our neighbors because we would have to learn a new language since Spanish is very different. And that's why I prefer to go to the market for RPGs in English since everything that is successful has to be in English. There is currently a project called RPG LATAM, which started as a jam to create content for Latin American RPG games. This project is amazing and I feel like it's already changing that a little bit. https://itch.io/jam/rpg-latam-jam The Brazilian Old School scene has been growing a lot and that makes me very happy. We have wonderful people on the front line like the great Diogo Nogueira, who needs no introduction. The guy does it all! He illustrates, creates games, does the layout and is a production machine. There's no way I can name everything he's done and is doing. He was the first person I saw talking about OSR Besides him we also have Rafael Balbi who is an Old School enthusiast. He had a podcast that recently ended at 1000 episodes. The guy was responsible for publishing a detailed study on Quick Primer and D&D BX in the last 3 years here in Brazil. Also the publishers decided to look at the OSR and that made a lot of people produce for the games. Mainly for the OSE, which is the darling of the community. The community is very strong and produces at a very high rate. Which gave rise to a wave of Zines. And I'm very happy to see names of friends of mine involved with cool projects.
Q. If there's anything you'd like to plug, or if you've got any upcoming projects you'd like to share or highlight, this would be a good time to do that.
A. Currently I and three other Brazilian illustrators are starting a Patreon where the illustrations will focus on good old Medieval Fantasy. Illustrating Monsters, Characters, Equipment, Items and Scenes. We are still at the beginning, but I imagine that in June it will be working. [Editor's Note: I will post a link to this once it is up and running] Once again, thank you very much for the space. It is very gratifying for me to be able to talk about my work and the Brazilian OSR scene.
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