I met Diogo Freitas recently on a night out in London- we are both Portuguese and we have mutual friends. As I’m interested in illustration I immediately reacted like a little meerkat when he mentioned that’s what he was doing. We exchanged contact details and agreed to do a short interview for Hello The Mushroom, so here it is. I love Diogo’s collages, they are very surrealist and the Portuguese references on some of the work makes it especially dear to my heart. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
What made you want to change your career from design to illustration?
First of all, I’m not sure if I can refer to myself as someone who aimed for a career in graphic design in the first place. Choosing graphic design as a potential professional occupation, though, was a conscious decision at the time I started the BA in Visual Design in Lisbon as I was sure about my need to communicate through images since I was a child. Still, as time passed by – and due to professional experience in the field – I soon realised that from a market point of view, the design process fails to neglect the sense of authorship of the designers themselves and they end up becoming technicians of a much wider universe that they cannot control through their work.
I’ve never expected to be an exceptional graphic designer either because I’ve always been aware that you can’t be among the best if you don’t believe you’re actually one of the best and so I also knew that at some point I’d have to give a nudge to my career in order to have a voice through the images I produce. In that sense, illustration offers me the chance of digging into a much deeper sense of opinion and personality and I still get the chance to communicate through someone else’s words, making the years of graphic design that I have behind my back an important source of experience and accuracy when it comes to finding a bridge between creativity and objectivity.
What is your main source of inspiration?
I’ve always been attracted to the idea of how objects’ significations can change based on the era and the context they originally belong to. It’s funny to realise how Kubrick’s interpretation of the year 2001 is even more futuristic than the reality we faced about 13 years ago or how Frank Lloyd Wright imagined Broadacre as an apotheosis of the modern city…
I feel like my most basic creative instincts are based on self-appropriation of pre-existing images and the will to attribute them a new conceptual context by crossing elements from different sources and creating an interaction between them. A shampoo ad from the 50’s is as much of a mockery target today as reality tv will be in the future. This is a process of semiotic readaptation in itself – almost like natural selection, in a sense.
Anyway, I like my work to be self-explanatory in order for it to be as concise as possible and avoid parallel interpretations. In that sense, I guess I’m still ‘designing’ in a way. I don’t consider myself as being an artist.
What would be your dream job in illustration?
Do as much CD/Vinyl covers as I can (do you hear me Sufjan Stevens?) and illustrate an Alain de Botton’s feature in a magazine. He’s the ultimate genius.
How long have you been in the UK for and what do you miss the most about Portugal?
It’s been 2 years and a half now. I miss my family and some of my best friends I left behind but I most definitely miss the fact that Portugal is a country where everything is much more reachable. If living in Lisbon, you can get to the beach in about 20 minutes and the sudden change of scenario can be quite inspiring and stimulating, especially for someone like me who needs some battery recharging and thinking gaps from time to time. I guess that coming from a small island plays a major part in that process – the idea of being isolated has never scared me. In fact, being away from London is therapeutic in a way and every time I get back I feel like a new range of possibilities are ahead of me.
What’s your favourite place in London?
This is such a difficult and unfair question…! But well, if I really need to be honest then Columbia Road (E2 7RG) is the answer. For too many whys, whats and whens.
What is the advice you’d give to anyone wanting to change their career into illustration?
First of all, never doubt of your potential. There will always be someone better than you but there will also be someone who’s potentially much worse. The more you read, discover and contact with other fellow illustrators, the more you get conscious about the industry and how can you fit in whether through your style or approach. Everyone has something that defines themselves – it’s just a matter of being available for some self-analysis.