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Vanessa Teodoro is an illustrator and street artist based in Lisbon, Portugal. She finds that her academic and professional background in graphic design and advertising, as well as her South African upbringing, play an important part in the creation of her visual identity. Having dedicated herself exclusively to her art since 2009, she has worked with numerous renowned international brands. Vanessa takes a special liking to street art projects and finds the challenge of painting large public murals very rewarding. Her style is defined by a complex battle between graphic patterns, figurative elements and strong contrasts, all with a touch of chaos and humor.
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LEARN MORE ABOUT VANESSA
1. WHERE ARE YOU FROM ORIGINALLY? WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO PORTUGAL? WHEN WAS THAT?
I'm originally from Cape Town, South Africa. I lived there with my mom and sister until I was about 10, then when my mom remarried we all came to Portugal.
2. DO YOU HAVE ANY ARTISTIC INFLUENCES?
I love the pop art movement, artists like Keith Haring, Milton Glaser, the Memphis art movement, African patterns (influence from by my south African upbringing), comic books and bad ass super heroes.
3. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WALL THAT YOU HAVE PAINTED? WHY?
I'd have to say it was the last one I did, in Entrecampos. It was a total "get out of my comfort zone" job. I painted 800 square meters of walls, floors, lifts and also had to find a way to help fight the illegal tagging that made that spot super creepy and dangerous. Not only did the "face-lift" help with illegal paintings, but we also added more lighting at night and people are starting to feel safer and use the passageway more.
4. WHEN DID YOU BEGIN DOING STREET ART AND GRAFFITI? WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE THE CITY AS A CANVAS AS OPPOSED TO PURSUING A MORE TRADITIONAL FORM OF ART?
I started doing street art in 2009. My first experience was a mural painting competition for the municipality of Lisbon in collaboration with a friend of mine that already belonged to the street art/ graffiti world. I wanted to try out new mediums and a larger scale, so I challenged my friend to help me out with the project. From there it just snowballed and I started to get commissions to paint more and more murals. I guess the fact that I was a woman in a man's world also put me in the spotlight. Another thing that I like about painting public murals is the fact that it reaches more people than a normal gallery and that it makes a direct impact on peoples lives by "infiltrating" their environment (hopefully in a positive way).
5. WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A FEMALE STREET ARTIST IN PORTUGAL? HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FOR MEN?
Sometimes I feel like I'm swimming against the tide and sometimes the fact the there are so few of us actually helps us get more exposure. It's sometimes frustrating to see most of the street art festivals being 90% male artists, if not 100%. There's no excuse now not to have more women painting and getting gigs, maybe a few years ago (in Portugal) there were about 5 of us that were actually making a name for ourselves in the art scene, but now finally there are much more women and it's inspiring to see. I guess the fact Portugal being a latin country still has a very male-focused view on life and culture. I feel that every time I'm painting public murals, people take a second look at me "oh it's a woman painting" or when I have a guy friend assistant and people go talk to him to congratulate him for the awesome job.... (eye roll moment).
6. WHERE DOES THE INSPIRATION FOR YOUR PIECES COME FROM?
I guess I sort of answered that in the previous question, but I try to add strong female icons to my work as much as possible (when I'm doing a more figurative approach), I also see myself a lot in some of the pieces I create like the "Floating ladies". I also usually add a message in my work abstract or more literal like my moto "Art is for the brave". I think that I have a lot going on in my head, that's probably why my artwork is very dense and chaotic most of the times. I'm just trying to make sense of things, trying to accept all the vulnerability that comes with making art, putting myself out there and hoping that it will make people feel something.