Arthur Ortega - From São Paulo to Japan
Arthur Ortega is an illustrator from Sao Paolo Brazil, capturing the rugged and rusty architecture of old Japanese houses. For Biancissimo, he gives us an insight into his life and art.
Dear Arthur, could you please introduce yourself to Biancissimo? Who are you, and what are you doing?
Olá! My name is Arthur Ortega, a Brazilian born and raised in São Paulo - a city with a big influence from Japanese people. I am recently graduated in Computer Science and even more recently decided that drawing rusty Japanese houses is what I am really passionate about.
When did you start to illustrate? And did you always draw buildings or did you focus on different objects in the beginning?
I started drawing back in 2016 on a trip to Los Angeles when my girlfriend bought me a basic Pentel watercolour set as a gift, and I decided to test it out. In the beginning, I really sucked at it, but as a good Brazilian myself, I didn’t give up so easily. I really enjoyed drawing the buildings from the trip - the Griffith Observatory, for example. Back to São Paulo, I tented my focus on drawing old Brazilian houses from the ’60s, which are very popular around my neighbourhood. I used to draw the houses on my old sketchbook, all of them were front facing the page, and above that, I would draw the exact position of them on the map, as a memory for the future because they might get disfigured or demolished to a poorly designed building take its place.
What has Japan and its architecture to offer that you can’t find somewhere else? And what does it mean for you personally?
I’m a city boy and always was. I love being surrounded by a lot of people and buildings, I love how special and different they are. Here in São Paulo, we have the highest number of Japanese people outside of Japan, and we also have one place called “Liberdade”, which is basically the Little Tokyo of São Paulo. When I was a teenager, and in love with Japan, my mom took me there for the first time, and I remember looking at the buildings (that are all Japanese inspired) and imagining that I was in Tokyo and how would it be to actually be there one day. I guess being in touch with all the culture, and its way of living through the city I was born in and the friends I made from Japan so far moulded my personality and me feel a really deep connection with the Tokyo, especially the old Tokyo and that’s what I try to express with my drawings.
There seems to be a connection between illustration and photography in your work. In what way do both arts play a role together for you?
Yes, for sure. I always was very passionate about architecture, but I didn’t fully recognize it until I bought my first digital camera (a Canon Rebel) and started taking photos of buildings in downtown São Paulo. Also, in 2016, on my trip to L.A., I bought my first analogue camera, and it was a turning point, I started taking pictures of old skyscrapers and old Brazilian architecture. Photography became a very important part of my life. I think photos are so special and they carry so much emotion when you look at them, and that’s what I always wanted to transmit with my drawings, I want people to look at them and imagine “who lives there?” “what’s the story of this place?” or just feel something. I guess that’s the point of all art.
From Sao Paolo to Tokyo and beyond, what does fascinate you about Japan, old and rusty houses and storefronts so much? How did this curiosity come into your life?
It’s actually funny how my love for Japan started. For most people, the first contact they have with the culture is through Animes, video games, Mangás, etc. But not for me and that’s the funny part. My first contact was through a movie, Tokyo Drift (yes, Fast and Furious) when I was 11. I got really impressed by all those cars, those buildings and the shiny lights of Tokyo. The more I grew older, the more I wanted to know more about Japan and its exceptional way of living. There was a moment in my life when all I did was open Google’s Streetview and just “walk” by in Tokyo while listening to Japanese songs. I still do this but not quite often. My bedroom was full of Japanese stuff like flags, signs, lanterns and all you can imagine.
Anyways, taking back to 2018 and how everything started: I tried to put both of my passions together, which are drawing and architecture. Then I thought that maybe Google’s Street would come handy again, so I could find not only places to visit but also buildings to draw. That’s how I found all those rusty houses and how I also found out how beautiful they are and how their style and architecture made me feel at home. It’s like that weird and comfortable sensation you get when you visit your grandparents. I like that.
What’s next and what can we expect from your art after coming to Japan?
I’m never fully satisfied with my drawing, there’s always something to improve, in the near future I want to maybe start drawing backgrounds for the houses or using real-life scenarios, make a Youtube channel showing my workflow and the technics that I pretty much learned by myself and pass on the knowledge to inspire people to start drawing. I also want to open my own website to sell my art, so I can get enough support to go to Tokyo in person and not thought Google’s Street anymore.
Thank you a lot for your time
Thank you, Biancissimo, for giving me the chance to share a little bit of my world and art