If it weren’t for his parents, who discovered this toddler’s intrinsic artistic abilities and gifted his pens and pencils, when he could barely talk, Lucas Levitan wouldn’t have been the celebrated illustrator that he is today. These art implements became a medium of communication for this baby, born in Porto Alegre in southern Brazil.
Although Levitan’s father wanted him to take up music in a big way, this 10-year-old, had a mind of his own from the very beginning. He conveyed his desire to become an illustrator, as music didn’t interest him. Knowing his son’s passion for art at such a tender age and his eagerness about what he wanted to pursue in the future, his father bowed down to his wishes and allowed him to develop his artistic talents.
According to Levitan, his father, “…didn’t argue about that, thinking if a kid had this clarity at such a young age, it should be respected. I don’t remember this event, he told me 25 years later.”
Levitan pursued his interest with full gusto, studying arts with an art group called Torreao in Porto Alegre, Brazil. He was guided in this field by his mentor, Jailton Moreyra, with whom he did a few art projects in partnership. After completing his BA in advertising, he arrived in London in 2005 and, a few years later, he enrolled in MA in Art and Design at Camberwell College of Arts, London.
Although he has been into advertising for the past 20 years as a designer and an art director and now holds the enviable position of a creative director, he has been a closet artist his entire life, keeping his drawings under wraps, while he carried out his advertising projects.
According to Levitan, his passion for illustration has been a great support for his advertising endeavours. Says he, “Illustration has been the thread which connects all disciplines together, from storyboards for my short films to scamps in design and advertising.”
Today, Levitan likes to define himself as a ‘visual storyteller’, a multi-disciplinary artist, known in common parlance as a multimedia artist. His line of art is not confined to illustrations alone, he keeps changing it, where his heart takes him. So, he may be an illustrator today, filmmaker last week, photographer last month and a conceptual artist last year! For him, this cycle may start all over again.
On being asked, who all have influenced his works, he says, “There are many people who have influenced my work since I was young. I’m still a huge fan of Gary Larson, the American cartoonist and Laerte, a Brazilian one. They are genius in finding stories in almost everything. And, of course, I’ve to mention Bill Waterson, Saul Steinberg and Quinn (all equally important).”
Levitan gets his inspiration from everyday happenings and his ability to visualize such situations allows him to turn ordinary objects and scenes into intriguing images that may take varied forms ranging from illustrations and paintings to sculptures, installations and video art.
Surprisingly, he also gets his inspiration from his not-so-rigid daily routine, that he terms as ‘organized mess’! He gets up in the morning, takes a shower, prepares and drinks coffee or mate, a traditional South American caffeine-rich infused drink, and reads a bit.
He considers reading a few pages or chapters of a book in the morning as a day saver, in the sense, that it won’t go wasted. For him, reading is also an aid to counter anxiety. Once inspiration strikes, he begins to sketch and plan the day ahead.
Giving a little twist to reality through his visualization is the hallmark that has endeared him to the public. He de-contextualizes the real-life scene, as it is perceived by all, into something unexpected in a playful way that hooks the audience to his works of art.
One of his favourites is the project he calls ‘photo invasion’, a comingling of his two passions – illustration and photography. He began by illustrating his own photos but later went on to ‘photo invade’ works of other photographers to make them more interesting. It entails picking up any photograph that inspires him and drawing his cartoon in a humorous way on it.
Of course, he does give credit to the photographer, whose photo he has picked up by linking it to their Instagram accounts. The ideas for such interesting mix and match does not come easy. He spends hours searching for the right photograph by visiting galleries and collecting ‘inspirational’ images. For him, it is not the quality of the photograph that inspires him, but the image itself. The whole process appears like a game to him.
When asked, what defines his work, he answers, “I’d say it’s the ‘playfulness’. I like to find stories, ideas or a concept that makes people smile or think. Perhaps that’s what connects everything I do.” And rightly so, his work highlights his wild imagination that seems to invent alternative stories for everything he sees. Little wonder his photos turn out silly, inventive and sometimes awkward.
After spending 12 years in London, Levitan has shifted base to Madrid, Spain in 2017, where he is currently enjoying the animation. This medium allows him to tell stories in movies and not just in single frames. He finds this form most challenging and time-consuming, but ultimately quite rewarding in terms of creative satisfaction. He himself is not sure when he will switch from animation to other platforms of artistic expressions.
Want to know which incident has intensified Levitan’s passion for his art? It was in 2015 that while standing on Redchurch Street in East London, under a building being constructed, a brick fell from its fourth-floor scaffolding and missed him by millimetres. At that instant, being so near to death, he thought he should be doing more of what he loves to do, that is, drawing. It was a turning point for him that pointed towards his future.
Today, his unique creations are being lapped up by one and all. It is no wonder that he enjoys over 178,000 followers on Instagram and over 35,000 on Facebook. He also has a keen following on other social platforms.