Vitor Santos:
Drawing as meditation

"I don't think I chose to be an artist or a designer. Drawing is something I can't help doing even if I don't have a purpose. I draw to be mentally sane."

Art as a remedy for mental fatigue is something most artists and designers could speak at length about, but Vitor Santos is right at the heart of it in Japan. Inspired by Japanese art and calligraphy, his daily meditation comes in the most unusual shapes, as he lets his mind flow freely and watches the lines appear in front of him. It's clear from the fine detail in his work that each single line is expressed mindfully.

"I'm Portuguese, born in the south of Portugal, but lived in Lisbon for 7 years before moving to Shanghai and then to Tokyo. I studied Advertising, Graphic Design and Digital art direction for my job but later I studied drawing and oil painting at an art school in Lisbon for 4 years."

How does your creative process begin? Do you get inspired by things in particular, or do you start on a piece and see what happens?
Every day we see millions of different things, some of these we consciously keep in our memory others we keep in our subconscious, like textures, shapes, lines, shadows, etc. What I try to do is to put all these visual memories on paper without manipulating the lines to look appealing or specially beautiful together. The main goal is to let the ink flow organically even if it looks weird and meaningless in the end. My greatest inspiration is nature and it's elements - the texture of a tree trunk, the shape of a leaf, the sunlight reflected on a river stream, for example.
Your art is so beautifully detailed and intricate, could you tell us about the mental state that you get in when working on a piece?

Usually I try not to think at all and abstract myself from everything that surrounds me. It's like some kind of meditation where you let your thoughts flow and focus only on the movement of the lines. Most of the times I listen to music with no vocals so I don't get distracted.

“I believe drawing is some kind of therapy where you release your feelings and thoughts and create art with them, some days you draw something harmonious others something dark and ugly but what matters is that you’re honest and don’t fake your emotions while you’re drawing.”

How did you end up in Tokyo? And have you found that being there influences your work?
Tokyo is one of the most inspirational cities I know. Everywhere you look you see different people, colours, buildings, habits, objects, etc. It's a multi-layered city so you can find something new and different everyday. It almost seems unbelievable how peaceful you can feel in a city that has 37 million people, one of the most populated in the world. Japanese care a lot about how things look and pay attention to all details that makes my attention even sharper than before and makes me appreciate how simple things can be strong and beautiful without any ornaments.

What made you want to become an artist/designer?
I don't think I chose to be an artist or a designer. Drawing is something I can't help doing even if I don't have a purpose. I draw to be mentally sane.

You talk about drawing being a type of meditation for you. Do you do any other type of meditation, or have you learned about things like Zen, or the Enzo in your time in Japan?
Unfortunately I don't meditate as often as I would like to, but I try to compensate that by drawing everyday. I learned about about Zen (ensō) even before arriving to Japan. Japanese art and calligraphy has always been an inspiration for me for its simplicity, the perfect balance between body and mind and how you can use art to help you focus and calm your mind on a daily basis.

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