This month's Featured Illustrator is Débora Adachi, a Brazilian-Japanese Dublin-based Illustrator. After originally graduating in architecture, she now blends her design and technical skills with her passion for visual storytelling. Débora is a Pathways into Children’s Publishing 2022-2024 mentee, and a FAB Prize 22 Highly Commended Illustration Winner.

I was born and raised in a small town in Brazil, Araguari in Minas Gerais. In 2019 I moved to Dublin where I currently live. Both my parents came from Japanese families, so growing up in a mixed cultural environment was challenging. However, I found in that inspiration to create art which celebrates diversity. Family, belonging, heritage and identity are themes that I'm drawn to as a reader and as an artist.

Similarly to most illustrators, I've been constantly drawing since I can remember. I’d spend my afternoons after school with pen, paper and books. To me, drawing was a way of expressing love, so on festive dates I enjoyed making cards for my family and friends. During my teenage years I was very into fashion illustration, and I loved drawing garments from films I watched and magazines I read. I was also an avid reader. A book I read and remember fondly is Meu Pé de Laranja Lima by José Mauro de Vasconcelos, which tells a story about a boy who has an orange tree as his best friend. 

I have people in my life who supported me in pursuing my interest in art. My mom and grandfather were both very talented and nurtured my love for books and art, and I'm very grateful to bothThe first time I saw my illustrations printed I was 12, and I participated in a free local workshop run by two illustrators from my hometown. At the time I didn’t give much credit, but now I can see how meaningful it was for me. It was there that I had my first contact with indie graphic novels. 

 Myself with my brother, cousin and grandfather

First exhibition

Although I had support from family, working as an Illustrator never seemed possible within my reality. When I had to pick a college degree I chose Architecture, despite not being really sure of my decision. The preparation to get into a university included studying Architectural Drawing, which I wasn’t really fond of. Over time I learned to appreciate it, and now I am glad I was able to build something out of this foundation.

I kept illustrating during my time at university and the subjects that were most appealing to me were from the Arts Institute. I graduated in 2019, having done two years of internship along the way. When I moved to Ireland I started working as an Architect, but I was eager to give Illustration a shot. I was studying Illustration through online courses, and I discovered that I could use my technical abilities to design backgrounds and environments for animation. I pulled together a portfolio and started to look for a job in a studio. In 2021 I started working as a Background Artist for Animation at Boulder Media.

Since then, I was invited by DesignOpp to be part of an exhibition with nine other talented artists based in Ireland. The exhibition aimed to showcase what artists of colour are capable of. In the same year I was one of the FAB Prize 22 Highly Commended Illustrators. I was also selected to be one of the mentees of Pathways into Children’s Publishing 2022-2024, an illustration programme that supports a diverse group of talented artists hoping to be the next generation of children’s illustrators. I was also offered a place in HarperCollins Author & Design Academy, which I was pleasantly surprised by.

Piece exhibited at Creative Creatures

When I was a kid I used to read the Turma da Mônica comic. It’s very popular in Brazil and I remember that my grandfather used to buy me a copy every time we went to a bookshop. Later on, my mom took a subscription so I received the comics at home.

During my teenage years, I was inspired by artists Degas and Van Gogh, particularly by how they used light and texture in their paintings. One print I had on my bedroom wall was from one of Lautrec’s paintings called La Blanchisseuse. I loved that mysterious figure looking out the window. Edward Hopper and his lonely characters evoked a similar feeling in me.

Later on, I got to know Rebecca Dautremer’s work, which I absolutely love. Not only her work as an illustrator but as an author as well, The Rich Hours of Jacominus Gainsborough is one of my favourite children’s books. As Mais Belas Coisas do Mundo by Valter Hugo Mae is another children’s (but also for adults) book that I find lovely too. Jessica Love and Corinna Luyken are two other illustrators I discovered recently and whose work I’ve been admiring. Last but not least, a graphic novel that I found very touching and highly recommend is The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui. 

My work is predominantly digital. However, when I’m starting a project or drawing for fun, I enjoy sketching on paper. I've been using coloured pencils and watercolours lately, but from time to time, I like to experiment with different media/techniques. 

I usually start gathering references and briefs, and have a board for every project. It could be for pose, colour palette, lighting, or atmosphere. With a reference board, I start sketching ideas, very loosely, focusing on the overall composition. This part is usually on paper. When I have decided what I’m going for, I make a cleaner sketch on the computer. With the sketch approved I can start experimenting with colour palettes, always making sure the image can be read clearly. In this phase, I like to turn pictures in grayscale so I can see if the values are good. Once the colours are approved by the commissioner, I can start working on the final piece.

Here are some tips I learned along the way that might be useful to fellow artists:

  • Look for a community of like-minded people around you. Sharing similar experiences is helpful, and you’ll probably meet wonderful people along the way!
  • Observe, observe, observe. Inspiration is all around.
  • Show your work: share it on social media, ask for advice, and reach out to mentors.
  • Remember: your work is unique, and only you can do what you do. 
  • Even though it might be hard for some people, be open to change, experiment, and try new things. 
  • Keep in mind what motivates you to keep illustrating. Finding meaning will help you in moments of hardship.


* All images by Débora Adachi

See more of Débora's work here. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter


Tita Berredo is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures. If you'd like to be featured, contact her at illustrators@britishscbwi.org. Follow Tita on InstagramTwitter and find her work at www.titaberredo.com

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