Mariana Rodrigues: Music for the eyes

Living in a new city, surrounded by exciting sounds, smells, sights and tastes has inspired independent illustrator, Mariana Rodrigues, to launch her new project Music for the Eyes – an enterprise that involves interpreting songs through illustration.

Portuguese-born Rodrigues, who moved to Tokyo, Japan in early March, decided she needed a new challenge to help her grow as an illustrator and has challenged herself to draw one image a week.

Currently in week four of the project, her latest illustration depicts the song 'Mer Du Japon' by French duo Air. Living in Tokyo, and being fully immersed in its crazy yet attractive culture, she feels a deep emotional attachment to this piece. Her illustration is equally moving and is even more powerful when admired while listening to the song.

Mariana Rodrigues Underwater Love

Mariana Rodrigues Underwater Love

She admits the hardest part about the project is not being repetitive. “It's hard to choose the next song and how to approach it. I do have a list of songs I want to illustrate, but if I don't feel a song in that particular moment, I just skip to the next one. I need to visualise it right away. The basic elements and metaphors have to be there. If I don't see and feel the song, it does not honour the composer. That makes the illustration shallow and hollow,” she says.

Rodrigues says the best thing about this project is how it feeds into her client work. “Here I can experiment with new techniques and crazy ideas before I apply them into commercial work. Quality comes with experience, and experience comes from trying, failing and improving,” she explains.

This is what she was looking for when she first started the project; a space where she could try and fail without fear. But ultimately she would love the artists, whose work she is illustrating, to see her work.

Mariana Rodrigues Noah's Ark

Mariana Rodrigues Noah's Ark

“I would love to get their feedback on how close, or how far, I was from what they saw when they wrote the songs. Although my interpretation is tied to my own personal experiences, I'm always trying to visualise what the artist meant, what they experienced,” Rodrigues shares.

When illustrating the songs, Rodrigues tries to capture the big picture the first time around, although this is sometimes quite difficult. Then, gradually, the details emerge: the references, the hidden meanings, all tucked away between the notes. This reflects on how the illustration is composed as well.

What other songs can we look forward to? “I'm a big fan of Bon Iver, Feist and Kings of Convenience, so there are some specific songs I want to illustrate. I'm always trying to find something different though, both musically and lyrically, as it forces me to come up with different approaches. Also, listening to something for the first time is completely different to something you've listened to hundreds of times,” she says.

Mariana Rodrigues Crystalline

Mariana Rodrigues Crystalline

Rodrigues loves to inspire others with her work and has been working as an independent illustrator, after a number of years working as a graphic designer. “My work is very inspired by nature and Japanese motifs,” she says.

“That’s why I'm in Tokyo right now. I love intricate patterns, combining organic forms with geometrical elements. I’m simply obsessed with symmetry; my portfolio is full of it! That's why I love to illustrate nature, discovering connections between simple elements and the beautiful shapes they create,” she says.

To see more of Rodrigues’ work, head over to her website:

Author: Margaux Smale

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