The only thing cooler than Camila Rosa’s woke af illustrations is the artist herself. Rosa has been working on her illustrations for seven years now, but since coming to America last year, her artwork has taken on a new meaning and several movements.
“I like to talk that I have a life before New York and after because now my work is more consistent and has more identity,” Rosa said.
Originally from Santa Catarina, a small state in Brazil, Rosa’s artwork started out as illustrations of birds and other animals before she transitioned to creating more meaningful images that address topics like veganism, racism, body positivity, feminism, gay pride and education. “It’s important to me to show that we are different, but everyone has your role in the world,” she said. “We need to show to people… to change the standard of woman. We have different bodies and different colors.”
Mariê Balbinot, Rosa’s friend and soul-sister of 15 years, said “we have lived a very similar background, so every time she shows me something she’s producing I feel that deep. I get chills! I get excited when she translates her opinion through art and she does that perfectly!”
Rosa has been lucky to have free time to work on her art since coming to America. In Brazil, she worked full time as a designer, leaving little time and energy to focus on her art when she came home each night. “It’s difficult to live two lives, work and drawing,” she said. “Here I have the time to dedicate just for that.”
Rosa’s husband, also a designer, is able to support both of them while they are here on a temporary work visa. When Rosa moved to New York last year, she decided not to work because of the tough language barrier. “I don’t want to work in New York because I don’t know how to talk in English,” she recalls saying to her husband. “It’s impossible for me… I’m going to New York just to learn English and it’s that.”
Now, after a year of taking free English classes for immigrants through New York’s public libraries, she speaks clearly and cautiously to ensure correct grammar. Although she does admit she sometimes has trouble keeping up with fast-talking New Yorkers and American slang.
Since she’s learned English, she’s been able to send her portfolio and cold emails to different publications and ended up getting her work published in Refinery29, Mic and Bust. “In the past I always feel insecure, it’s not good enough,” she said. “Now I feel like I’m a real artist. I have consistence and I feel secure about my work. I feel safe.”
Right now Rosa is unsure if she will remain in the country because she will need to apply for a new visa in a couple months. “It’s been crazy for me. It’s so different because six months ago if anyone called me… now I’m not sure about the future and what’s going to happen,” Rosa said.
If Rosa goes back to Brazil, she’ll likely move to São Paulo, where she and her husband moved for work before coming to America. She’d also be reuniting with her street art collective, Collective Cha, a group of friends that drink tea, draw and post their art on the street. Balbinot, who is a graffiti artist and member of Collective Cha, said “although I know New York is a very enriching, nice experience, I’m very excited to have her back soon. I really miss hanging out with this girl!”
One thing that Rosa is looking forward to if she goes back to Brazil is doing graffiti, something she hasn’t been able to do in New York because she said it’s not safe to do when you’re not a citizen. “For me it’s important for me to put my work on the streets,” she said. Spreading her art and the messages behind it are becoming more and more important to her because she believes, like America, Brazil is struggling politically. “I should have been in Brazil right now because they need me,” she said. “Me and my husband have this urgency to go back to doing something because it’s not that good of moment. I want to use my art to change something.”
She’s also planning on teaching art classes for children, something she and her collective used to do at public schools. But before she leaves, her goal is to get one more illustration in a magazine. “I want to try to live just by art so I will try to find a way with just that,” she said. “I don’t know how, but I will try.”