Saturday, September 18, 2010

Featured Artist - Paulo J. Mendes

It feels like Christmas.

Yesterday I received this BEAUTIFUL painting in the mail:

And this one is next on my radar:

"Tiny White House"

About a year ago I discovered Paulo Mendes's "Postalguarelas" and immediately fell in love with his artwork. I knew I would own one of his paintings one day. I am a sucker for paintings that portray real life, every day activities, especially when they include dogs and/or cats, tiny houses, watermelons, clothes on a clothesline, and the combination of any or all of the above. Paulo is a wonderfully talented, imaginative artist from Portugal.

"Back From the Market"


I hope you are as inspired by this interview as I was.

Tell me a little about yourself
I could be labeled as an introvert: I have a simple life, don't see many people in a normal day, like to be undisturbed in my corner; I'm a big saver of the spoken word, and run from social events like the devil from the cross. Apart from this, I'm a normal 45y.o. guy with its passions, expectations, joys and disappointments. I try to live one day at a time in the most down-to-earth and positive way as possible, overcoming occasional clouds and storms. In general, I cannot complain how life treated me so far, quite the contrary.

When did you recognize your talent as an artist?

Never had a point from which recognized myself as an artist, because I liked to draw since child and spent much time doing it, so it was something natural since ever. Always received much encouragement from people around me, and had all the opportunities anyone would dream, including in what concerns to studies, which did not stop me from wasting them, because I've never been a good student, always had some kind of disorder on keeping attention and focus, as well as a huge tendency to want things my way, with all the entailed defects.

What is your favorite medium?

I really like my current combination of sharp-pencil and watercolor, it's how I feel better working; It's very pleasant in terms of "tactile sensations", and is also what allows me to have more quick results, because I'm not very patient and dislike lengthy preparations or staying too long around the same work. It's curious that until very recently I did not like working with pencil, something that is changing with my daily sketches, the ones that later become watercolors. Sometimes I enjoy the spontaneity of those pencil sketches much more than the rigid final work in watercolor, and despite not knowing how the future will be, I think it would be a must if I could gather the qualities of both in the final result.

Do you support yourself with your art? (Is it your vocation?)

It has already filled some shopping carts, but not enough to live exclusively on it. Sure I wish it would, but to be honest I doubt if that will happen anytime: I live modestly but free from significant financial pressures like kids to grow or big mortgages, so I can afford a non-professional and carefree approach to my work that would cause creeps to any “learn-to-sell-your-art” guru: I decided to work only on my own ideas, no longer accepting commissions or deadlines. My art is probably my biggest pleasure in life, and I know from experience that if one of those stress factors comes into play, the pleasure is killed and the final result compromised. We are not all equal, some people get along quite well that way, and that's wonderful, but doesn't work for me, so I prefer to sacrifice part of my time being "stuck" to other activity that helps me to pay the bills, provided it can keep my freedom and integrity on the art side. I'm not desperate for things to change, my immediate goal is to be happy with my next work: Things will happen when and if they have to happen.

Tell me about your process when starting a new painting?

It starts with a pencil sketch from memory and imagination. I try to make at least one or two everyday, so I always have dozens to choose from, there's always something to fit my mood. Then I re-draw it on a transparent paper with a fine pen, and re-draw it again in the reverse with a sharp pencil in order to transfer it to the watercolor paper by pressing with a hard object. Next step is to enhance the transferred lines with the same sharp-pencil, and this is when the work becomes more pleasant and starts taking its final shape. Everything is finally ready for the first colors, the last and most exciting stage. All this process could be done in one day, but is usually divided in more than one session, so a new work comes out every 3 or 4 days.

Do you have a favorite painting you have done?

I have several, so it would be difficult to name one in particular. They are not necessarily the most elaborate or time-consuming, actually is quite the opposite. Also they are not always the ones other people liked best, and I've been surprised after seeing works I really enjoyed to make not getting the acceptance of others with whom I'm not entirely happy... At the top of the “satisfaction pyramid” are those I call "happy paintings": They were born at the right time with the right inspiration, made at a glance and with an ease that one would say the only trouble they gave was to let the hand follow the brush. It isn't something that happens often.

Do you have a studio? Tell me about your workspace.

My works are very small and that's an advantage when it comes to a working space, because they can be done almost everywhere. There's a corner in my little apartment that has plenty of light, especially in the morning, and that's where I have a desk bigger enough for my work, my laptop, and my cats... After dinner, all the stuff – cats included - is moved to my dining table, under the remaining bulbs of an old chandelier, where things can become very snug especially in the cold months, with my wife's company, a hot tea and the fireplace on.

What is your main inspiration?
My greatest inspiration is the countryside around the area I live, in Northern Portugal. Despite living in the city, I am fortunate to be a couple of hours drive from truly breathtaking places, seeming far from everything. There are mountain landscapes, incredible villages and vintner valleys of intoxicating beauty. I have a special fascination for the vernacular architecture of these villages, and their ancestral ways of life. Unfortunately, my country is being ruled by inhuman technocrats for whom all this means nothing: They look to the countryside as an obstacle to their tortuous notion of progress where you must save money by closing schools, medical posts, railways, and then plundering the resources by flooding with dams some valleys of a unique beauty and biodiversity. The villages are getting empty, unattended fields and forests burn like straw in Summer... The world that inspires me is not declining, it's being murdered at a breakneck and demential pace, and it's not unlikely that soon I'll have to rely on pictures and memories to get inspiration, or move elsewhere.

What artist (past or present) most influences your work?

My eyes rejoice with the works of many artists in many periods and styles, but I have to love especially all those who knew how to convey the beauty and intimacy of a rural courtyard, the grandness of a mountain or an horizon, the glorious light of a sunny day, the balanced complexity of a tree... They have been our “eyes” to a dreamworld that in many cases already does not exist. Three real favorites, each one with his own style, are Peder Mork Monsted, Carl Larsson and Isaac Levitan.

What is your dream goal for the next 5 years--where will you be and what will you be doing?
I don't have plans, my goal is to go bed tonight with no worries and the satisfaction of some work advancing well. But there are things I'd like to do in the future: I would like to learn, improve and overcome my actual countless limitations. There are lots of future works in my head I can't put on paper because still feeling unable to; Everything in a landscape, a village or a mountain top has a reason to be there, I would like it to make sense in my works. I would like to paint a recognizable tree, not just a "green meatball"; To paint the water of a stream and the labyrinth of foliage around it; To paint the clouds, the light of any time of the day, under any sort of weather; To summarize, I'd like to solve many visual equations around me. Maybe the best way to learn it is to pick up the material, go to places, draw them and learn from them... Plein air sketching and painting is something I never managed to do despite a few attempts, and failed so far to overcome this inexplicable block. Once done, I think it will be like opening a gate to a new wide world. Maybe could make this an important priority for the next five, fifteen or fifty years.

What is the most encouraging advice you have received as an artist?

I keep getting the most wonderful feedback and encouragement from my family, my friends, all the great fellow artists and visitors that take the time to see my work on the web, but the most priceless advice came almost 30 years ago from a dearest old teacher in high school that always insisted I should proceed with my Art studies. I didn't; “Too bad you didn't”, he keeps saying, shaking his head everytime we happen to meet in the street.

What is YOUR best advice to offer someone who wants to be an Artist?

-Don't miss your chance to study if you're still in your teens: The most important decisions in your life have to be taken in your most silly age;
-Learn from everything, observe everything: a backyard can be more instructive than a cathedral;
-Enjoy and appreciate the work of your favorite artists, learn from them but don't try to be like them: Be yourself and let your own style take shape.
-Work to be happy, not to be rich or famous: Plant the wishes in your head by the right order, and rewards will flourish.

-Don't be discouraged by failure or frustration, happens to all: Some days will come in which nothing seems to work. It's just a storm that goes away, do something else until sunshine is back. -Work a lot, as much as you can, until it gives you so much pleasure that you could skip this advice;
-Accept and try to learn from the criticism of the constructive people; Accept and try to learn from the criticism of the destructive people, and then write their numbers in a public restroom. -Finally, adopt one or more cats: They will be happy to have a home, and you'll be happy for having the best of all companies during those long working hours, even if your watercolor box will be full of hair.

"Two Houses and a Cow"

I can't believe he paints from memory!

Learn More about PostalGuarelas:
-Paulo has an awesome BLOG he faithfully updates with progress pictures.
-Also go shopping in his etsy shop HERE.


  1. Great interview! I enjoyed it very much! :)

  2. This is a great interview. I can really appreciate and identify with the notion of a simple unfettered life. I keep nodding my head as I read thinking, "I can really see it in his work!"

    The advice to burgeoning artists is priceless. This is so funny and yet really rings true, "Accept and try to learn from the criticism of the constructive people; Accept and try to learn from the criticism of the destructive people, and then write their numbers in a public restroom."

    Fantastic artist and excellent interview. Thank you so much for sharing!