Marina Esmeraldo Creates Defiant Girl Gangs with a Tropical Modern Twist

Posted by: Kevin Coyle

This post was curated from an article written by for AIGA

When illustrator Marina Esmeraldo wakes up in her Barcelona apartment each morning, the first thing she does—even before a crucial cup of coffee—is settle down at her desk and put pen to page. In a fluid half-slumber images from her subconscious pour forth: depictions of luscious palm trees, ripe chili peppers, rolling waves, and cheerful, dancing women, all rendered in the sun-kissed colors of tropical modernism.

Esmeraldo grew up in the UK but hails from northeast Brazil. She works between London and Barcelona, creating her colorful, ecstatic work for a variety of fashion and culture clients like Refinery29, Lenny Letter, and Wired, as well as Google and Adidas. In her spare time, she publishes and art directs a visually striking literary magazine called In Shades, and creates graphics in support of the women’s movement.

Her path to illustration was by no means direct: after studying architecture and the built environment in her home country, Esmeraldo moved to Barcelona to pursue mural making, eventually combining her interests in color and space into her trademark illustration style.

“Studying architecture at university has definitely shaped not only my creative approach, but also my worldview and way of thinking,” says Esmeraldo. “I learned how to see the world, how to deconstruct space and rearrange it on a flat surface.” This has palpably influenced her approach to portraits, which often consist of shapes and lines that “form a whole” almost like a sweeping postmodern construction, derived from her interest in “mixing the figurative and the abstract.” When drawing Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian or Grace Jones, Esmeraldo combines constructional thinking with an exuberant pop art sensibility.

“I also have a lot of experience with signage and wayfinding,” says the illustrator. “The spatial awareness helps me with mural painting, in knowing how to blow up scale and having a holistic approach towards the medium.”

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