About Madeira Desouza
What attracts you to men?
Madeira Desouza: I depict what attracts me to men very clearly in my illustrations and stories: Men who have a strong and clear masculinity. Confidence. Personality. Physicality. Vulnerability. Mystery.
Are you aware of why you tell the kind of stories that you tell?
Madeira Desouza: When I was 16 or 17 I wrote my very first science fiction story. As I read it printed out on paper, it hit me that I had storytelling talents. But, the process of being a storyteller is something I cannot explain in a logical way. Nor do I fully understand why I tell the stories that I do. My stories come from “somewhere” but I am not conscious of where that place might be. I do not sit down and tell myself that I’m going to “be creative” and “write a story.” My storytelling “happens by itself” even if that may sound mysterious. When I reached adulthood I created an illustrated science fiction time travel adventure entitled BAJA CLAVIUS. It “came from somewhere” that I cannot point to. BAJA CLAVIUS is a science fiction about time travel that also happens to be faithful to the bara genre of art and storytelling that originated in Japan during the 20th century.
How did you get started doing illustrations?
Madeira Desouza: I happened to see the compelling drawings of Dom “Etienne” Orejudos and Tom of Finland. Both men lived and died in the 20th century, but we still have large collections of their unique underground art. I was inspired by their work and felt compelled to produce visually stunning images like they did. Technology helps me express myself and my sexual orientation. In 2007 I started using a computer and software that gave me the chance to create similar works to those two underground artists that inspired me. I use technology rather than pencil or pen upon paper to express myself. Every image that I create tells a specific story in very visual and very emotional ways.
Do you care about the differences between those who create using digital technology versus those who use old-school methods?
Madeira Desouza: I was in an Apple store once when I saw a store employee wearing a T-shirt that proclaimed, “I paint with a computer.” That really impressed me! I believe as many people nowadays do that “painting with a computer” is the new normal. The traditional, manual methods will always be available to those who want to create using those methods. But, I prefer using the 21st century methods because that’s just how my mind works. Martin of Holland once criticized me in a personal email to me in which he expressed his strong opinion that those (like himself) who used traditional methods were the only ones who should be considered “real” or “authentic” artists. He’s gone now and I don’t speak ill of the dead. But, considerations of who is “real” or “authentic” as an artist belong solely to past centuries.
Do you consider yourself to be an artist or an illustrator?
Madeira Desouza: I choose to define myself as a digital illustrator. What I do is also called 3D digital art. So, it is true that I am a 3D digital artist. But, by whatever name, I want other gay men around the world to have the opportunity to see the visual works that I create and read the stories that I write. That’s why I use digital technologies to share my creations rather than brick and mortar art galleries or physical books.
What have other gay men said about your work?
Madeira Desouza: One gay blogger wrote that I am a philosophical CG artist. I take that to mean that my works demand that one think about what’s being shown or revealed as compared to passively viewing it. The observer gains a lot if he puts in some mental work during the viewing experience. Because viewers are invited to think about what’s being shown, I accept that what I do is not necessarily going to appeal to any so-called “mass audience” out there in the world. Yet, I get emails from guys who obviously “get” what I’m trying to do. One comment explains what I mean. The guy wrote this: “Never have I been so aroused. I always feared to delve into my darkest fantasies but with you, I feel supported and understood. Your stories are a perfect blend of light and shadow, to put it in very simplistic terms. I confess that what also arouses me is a detail that most would find insignificant but which holds tremendous eroticism. Curled toes. That’s a soft spot of mine. I associate it with violent orgasms, when pleasure wracks the body, makes it convulse and twist right down to its toes. Thank you for your amazing work and your willingness to share it with us. I do hope to see more and more of it and praise you for your lack of fear regarding a subject most would not dare to broach.”
Do you deliberately seek to provoke?
Madeira Desouza: Guilty as charged. However, all that I create is intended strictly as fantasy and not to be misinterpreted as advocating violence against men or any antisocial or unlawful behaviors in the real world we live in.
Why do you aim to be provocative?
Madeira Desouza: When I look around me at the straight world, I regularly notice straight people who do not feel comfortable seeing masculine men showing affection towards one another. Not sure why that is, but this is a basic truth that I have come to accept about United States culture in the 21st century. In contrast, straight men and women will accept drag performers like RuPaul Charles, whom I greatly admire as a genius and always enjoy watching. Straight people derive pleasure from enjoying laughs at the satirical comedy and the sexual ironies that RuPaul excels at. I think that major Hollywood comedies featuring men in drag such as the Mike Nichols film The Birdcage are also “safe” and “unchallenging emotionally” for straight people. That nonthreatening kind of gay man is what seems to find a “mass audience” at least by Hollywood standards. I choose to depict masculine men who connect with one another emotionally, physically and sexually. Because I work within the bara genre, I use cruelty, violence, and exploitation as core themes. I have come to a high level of acceptance that my illustrations and stories are considered provocative and challenging. There is no turning back now.
Is there a story behind your name?
I’m a citizen of the United States, born in California. My heritage is Portuguese from both my parents. Madeira is the Portuguese word for wood. The surname comes from one of my old country grandparents.
When I was a boy, I had an irrational fear that I would turn out to be merely an ordinary man.
During journalism school, I grew to admire writers who distinguished themselves through their professional works. But, I also must confess that I developed a very strong attraction to the well-known practice of writers who use a pseudonym. I discovered in those days that Mark Twain was the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Filtered through the perceptions of a teenage boy, that was the coolest thing I had ever come to know about the writing profession.
No surprise that Mark Twain has remained my favorite American writer of all time. Not that I think I am as good as he was or ever will be. But, I seek to be humorous like him, to tell vivid and imaginative stories like he told, and, yes, to have a memorable nom de plume like his. I created a pseudonym for myself that would sound considerably more Old World ethnic compared to my own birth name while being a name that everyone should recognize no ordinary person would ever have.
It does not really matter whether someone with a pseudonym is prominent and globally identifiable like Mark Twain or Stephen King or J.K. Rowling or Jay Z. The simple reality is that having a pseudonym is a timeworn way of differentiating yourself from everyone else.