Ana Ventura is a Portuguese artist and illustrator based in Antwerp. Her unique style is found in a wide variety of media, from illustrated books, postcards and photos to screenprints, decorative wall stickers, clothes and accessories.
Ana Ventura has had solo and group exhibitions in Portugal and abroad since 1996. All Star sneakers for the centenary of Converse being her most internationally recognized project in 2008.
She likes not only making art but also teaching in art workshops and giving lectures to people who are interested in discovering their creative voice.
Q: Tell a little about yourself.
A: I'm a visual artist and illustrator, always looking to collaborative projects where two or more people could work and share experiences together. I'm a 45-year-old woman, born in Lisbon, Portugal, married and mother of 2 kids and currently living in Antwerp, Belgium.
I'm a dreamer and a fighter. A gravity challenger. Head in the clouds and feet on earth. But I'm not that tall so the fight is always there.
Taking photos is one of my favorite hobbies and I'm also a chocolate lover!
Q: What is creativity for you? How do you define your style?
A: Creativity is like a garden. It’s constantly growing in an organic way, although we all try to tame it, to steer it into our own way. Like in a garden where the nature plays its game creativity plays it in our mind. It’s not only about having ideas is how to turn these idea into something readable and understandable to your public.
How do I define my style? Difficult question. To make it simple I would say there’s always nature, roots and people on my work. The relationships are always there.
As João Paulo Cotrim, one of my publishers, once said: “Ana’s vocabulary is made up of members from all the kingdoms of tradition, plant, mineral, animal and dreams. Ana embroiders myths, prints on fabrics and draws with needles. If she had the talent for genetics she would mix plants with animals. Not being able to do so, she applies a finely detailed art where the rays can become branches, stalks become the streets of a map, stains on the wall become abundant hair. This alchemy of transfigurations, which makes the bodies into threads with which to knit liveable places, things of comfort and “disconfrontation”, approaching her to poetry’s gaze.”
Q: What do you like the most about creating?
A: The process itself is the most challenging and interesting thing while creating something. The blank page syndrome turned into a real book or picture is very rewarding. The research, the back and forth process and the constant loop of ideas and doubts coming and going. This is what I like the most.
The smell of a brand new project, with my name on it, makes me smile and cheer.
Each project has a different approach so it has to be thought as unique.
Q: What is the most important part of your creation process? What tools and techniques do you use?
A: Research and sketching. I use to walk outside, collect nature elements, take a lot of pictures, collect urban patterns like ceramic patterns or details on a wall. I also browse the internet for ideas and inspiration. My tumblr page is the result of my collection.
The influence of my life experiences and my dreams, all combined are the best tools to work out creative ideas.
I sketch a lot on my paper notebook, if possible with a bit of chocolate aside! I also use computer assisted software.
Q: Tell us about TILED. Do you like working for fashion? What colours do you like the most? Why?
A: Once again the creative process was the most interesting. The management of the business was not so interesting. It is the idea coming true what excites me the most.
The idea of using the tiles’ patterns came up on 2005 when I was collecting images for another work. I looked to the Portuguese beautiful buildings, where the facades are covered with patterned tiles and I realised they were very similar to textile patterns. I thought they could work as clothes to protect the building like the clothes we wear. A bell ringed in my head and I asked myself: “and if I could “undress” the buildings and dress up the people with these patterns?”
Later on, together with two other friends, Cristina Barradas, a fashion designer and Catarina Furtado, an engineer, the brand TILED© was launched. The process took some time and it started in the beginning of 2014.
Fashion is not an easy market but I really like it. Especially if you see someone, unknown, wearing a shirt or a skirt drawn by you it’s very rewarding.
What colours do I prefer? I can’t say I have a favourite colour. Looking to my work or illustrations I’m very sparse on the use of colours. You don’t find a lot of flashy colours. One thing I could say: I’m a bit allergic to purple.
Q: You have also illustrated books for many foreign publishers. Where do you get your ideas from?
A: It’s a bit the same usual process. The story gives you the hint. The little details are very important to me. While reading a book we always tend to see ourselves in the position of the characters and compare it with our own experiences so it all starts from there. Then there’s a bit of research if the environment is new, the timeframe, the location, etc... I’m very inspired by nature and the people’s relationships. Distance versus proximity, being it physic, geographic, psychologic and cultural.
Travelling is also very inspiring and a wonderful source of ideas. I’ve been moving and living in different places since 2001 so this also helps the ideas to come.
Q: What is the artwork of yours you are most proud of? Why?
A: That it's a very difficult question. I'm proud of all of my work, but maybe, if I had to pick up one from the shelf I would say the illustrated book “Nine stories about love”. This was my first experience as a children’s book illustrator. Right after this book my career, as a book illustrator, popped up. To make it real, the story and the pictures aren’t enough. The role of the publisher is of the most importance and in this case Topipittori was essential to bring it to life. It was also the first time I had to work with a professional publisher, with all its ups and downs, it helped me a lot on a professional way. At that time I was also pregnant of my second child so I felt a very fertile woman with roots and flowers all over my body. This book helped me a lot to find my own language and, in a sort of speaking, my own style.
Another completely different project was the All Star-Converse shoes I’ve designed. This makes me fill also very proud more due to the fact I was picked by Converse from a huge amount of designers to create my own Converse, All star shoe for the product RED campaign. This was in 2008. It was a pro-bono work but it gave me a lot of publicity and again experience with big brands.
Q: You also teach in art workshops.Tell us about your experience. Do you educate yourself by working with other creative people?
A: Working with people in workshops is one of the things I like the most. Once again it’s the chance to share ideas and also guide creative minds to expanded territories. Helping them on how to think outside of the box and letting them feel comfortable with it is very rewarding.
I also learn a lot while pushing the people to step out of their comfort zone. Every time I have the chance to work on a 3 or 4 days’ workshop I realize that there are a lot of creative and very talented people in the world. They just need to be given the opportunity to show up.
Q: When and how did you discover that you were a creative person?
A: There’s no day or event which I can point out as being the moment. As a child I spent most of my spare time drawing and painting. I had a grandfather who was a self-made painter who inspired and specially supported me a lot. So it was very soon when I realised that I would never become a lawyer or engineer or an accountant. It’s more by narrowing the choices towards a creative profession than the other way around. I’ve never been a very good student in other less creative subjects, like chemistry, mathematics, physics, etc... so it also helped to define my career. My parents, off course, also played an important role, They’ve been supporting me to keep following my dreams since I was young. When the time to go to university and pick a course I made my mind and went to fine arts. That’s the moment, in a sort of speaking, that I can point as the moment when when my career was shaped.
Q: How is your personality reflected in your work?
A: It’s always there. Even if it’s something specific ordered by a customer my personal touch is there. The type of drawing, the colours, the shape of the characters, the flatness of the colours and the elements used are a reflection of my personality. I can say that my work is very “clean” and graphic with lots of organic elements inside. I'm always saying “less is more”. I like simple spaces but love to get lost in a big forest or an organic park full of amazing details where I can spend time looking at them. You don’t get to know me by my creations but you get to recognise my personality on my creations.