Eclectic architect and illustrator, Vasco Mourao aka Mister Mourao talks about his world made of surreal cities and dense of buildings.
Hello Mr. Mourao, first of all, tell us a little about yourself.
Hello there! My name is Vasco Mourao. I was born in Portugal and lived in a small village called Cem Soldos until going to get my university degree in Architecture, at Guimaraes, a city up north of Portugal. Later on I lived in Rome, Oporto and now I call Barcelona my hometown.I’ve always enjoyed to draw and one of my first memories is to spend days drawing horses. I have a lot of drawings of horses from my childhood. It’s almost boring if it wasn’t so weird. It was my theme for years and years. :)
After studying architecture and some years on the job, my main theme shifted to cities and buildings.
Now I juggle between being an illustrator, architect, host/organiser of CreativeMornings Barcelona and some other things.
How would you describe your artworks style?
Obsessively detailed drawings about architectural meanderings would be an approximate definition. :)
Please, take us through your design process.
It’s quite simple and old-school.
For personal work, I usually just grab a good piece of paper, a pen and start drawing, while listening on my headphones to a good mix of podcasts and music (the Radiolab podcast and Steve Reich will do quite nicely).
For commissions, first I gather a lot of images to use as references on buildings or details and produce lot of small sketches on my notebooks, then some real size ones. After that I make a pencil draft for the drawing just to make sure I get the scale and proportions right before taking on the final piece but for personal work I just pick a spot on the paper and draw!
Let me show you with this commission about Barcelona.
I always carry a small notebook and that’s where I start thinking/drawing the commission and tinkering with the global image of the piece. ( Fig. 1 )
And here’s a quick real size draft. Now I start to see what should go here and get a good sense of the scale of the drawing. ( Fig. 2 )
And then I start to take on the final piece. Pick a spot and go! ( Fig. 3 )
As you can see I run a highly equipped workspace :) ( Fig. 4 )
Almost done! ( Fig. 5 )
Done! Simple, right? ( Fig. 6 )
Which kind of tools do you use for your artworks?
Good paper and a 0.1mm felt tip Stadler pen.
For other materials like walls or wood, I use Posca pens.
I also use a computer and scanner just to scan and process the drawings for the website or to send it to clients. Time and music are also important.
What historical or contemporary artists have you been inspired by?
Historical I have to say Piranesi, his ability to create a mood and ambiance are just incredible.
Contemporary artist that I admire would be Bill Watterson, Chris Dent and Feral Kid. These guys are amazing!
You’re a Portuguese artist who often works with American clients. Do you think becoming successful in Europe is more difficult than in the USA?
I really can’t say…
When your work is online, if someone likes what it sees it’s very easy to contact you and propose a commission. And it has nothing to do with the place where you live.
I don’t have an agent or anything like that so the commissions always came in a very organic way and I was lucky enough that magazines and people from the USA got interested in my work but I also worked with english, australian, german, portuguese and french clients.
The thing is that my american clients are a bit more famous. :)
How important is the way you draw your architectural projects and how much are they influenced by your illustrations style?
On my architectural projects I have obviously have different concerns than in my drawings but there’s an attention to detail and composition that in common to both areas.
I use the knowledge of the things I learned while studying and working in architecture, things like the way things are built, details of construction elements and distort that while drawing. That’s where the fun lies!
If you had to choose between being an architect or an illustrator, which one profession would you prefer?
I don’t have to choose. I can be both :) but I really enjoy to be an illustrator. To do a drawing and get paid for it is still mind blowing for me! I considered it a small miracle each time I have a commission. :)
If you could choose one artist to work with, who would it be?
Stefan Sagmeister or Javier Mariscal.
Apart from your job you’re involved in the organization of CreatingMornings in Barcelona, a series of monthly free informal meetings, based on the Q&A format, to learn more and better about a creative professional who has been invited to. Who will be your guest next month?
Our September guest will be Héctor Ayuso founder of the OFFF festival. It will be our first anniversary and we’re very excited about it. This year we would like to grow and became an important event in Barcelona’s creative landscape.
If you had unlimited resources, what kind of project would you like to develop?
I’m not trying to dodge the question but I really think limited resources are a good thing.
They keep you focused and make the work better. In my work I limited myself exactly because of this. I choose to only draw freehand, on paper, with a black ink pen because it doesn’t leave much space for questions/excuses. I can only draw and don’t have to waste time choosing between an infinite set of options.
These limitations leave me alone with the work. And shit gets done!
If I had unlimited resources I probably couldn’t do anything. :)
What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?
I don’t have some amazing advice to share… Just the usual stuff.
Work hard, do what you love, put your work out there, do it everyday, no excuses and have fun.
We all heard this ones but it works!
I would just add a couple of things.
You shouldn’t expect to get picked by some magazine, client, whatever…
If you don’t find work, make your own. Nowadays self-publishing is dead simple. I started with a quite awful blog. :)
And be very good at starting & finishing so you can produce a lot of work.
This for me only came with practice and failures.
Have you got any future plans you could tell us about?
Well… I have a commission for a big tryptic piece about the city of Genova, some new prints to release at the shop and an exciting and big project in Berlin.
Sincerely thanks to Vasco for his sympathy.