With our series “An artist’s life.” we want to share the stories of the people behind the art.
“I met Rafa on one sunny day in Lisbon in a clothing store, she was working there, and I was just looking around when I saw her. She immediately made an impression on me – so vibrant, so open and positively charged. I always get drawn to people like that and I know that I just need to approach them. So I did. At that time I had in my mind that I want to photograph an artist creating at his/her “safe space”, the whole process of bringing something to life and the stages of it and of the person itself. We started talking and it turned out that she is actually an artist, and was thinking herself of the same project. We knew this was not just a coincidence. A few days after our idea came to realization.” – Julia Dimitrova
The life of an artist
“From the beginning. I don’t really remember the beginning, I would say that the starting point was when I was still living at home, in Salvador. I remember drawing many characters in scenes that my mind created. Indigenous. Living room. Family. Forests. That’s some of what I remember. It was very simple, pencil, paper. My grandmother loved it. She was already saying I was an artist at the time. Even now I can remember her commenting on my drawings, noticing every detail. The manner, the posture, the shape of each object. For a while I think drawing was not important enough to me. But I was a child, I didn’t imagine I would become an artist then. Judge. That was the profession that a child at that time said they wanted to have when they grew up. And then it changed, of course. I was going to be a lawyer. Then it changed again, architect. And so it was, I took the exam and applied for an Architecture degree.
“I let my hand flow. I don’t worry about the line, about what’s right or wrong. The line is not wrong, it is the way it wants to be. After I internalized this I didn’t worry about it anymore.” – Rafaela Sales
At the same time I was realizing that art was becoming more important to me, but I still didn’t imagine I would become an artist. It was then that I moved to Portugal. I learned a lot at the Beira Interior School of Architecture. During the pandemic and in a very natural progression, I started looking for ways to entertain myself at home. Papier-mâché was the first of them. It was enjoyable. I always liked to be hands-on with the dough. From there I started to mold everything, men, chairs, slippers, even a skateboard ramp I made as a gift…It was interesting to shape things by hand. One day I decided to paint. I bought some acrylic paint and some yellow cardboard to try it out. The first face I made, I felt joy…I knew I could improve and develop further. And in the end, I was surprised with what I was able create. I ask myself how I create certain things. I let my hand flow. I don’t worry about the line, about what’s right or wrong. I learned this once in an undergraduate drawing class. The line is not wrong, it is the way it wants to be. After I internalized this I didn’t worry about it anymore.
For a brief period I painted less because classes had resumed. When I moved to Lisbon, I started painting more again. Of course, it came back naturally. I was observing life in Lisbon. The way people live catches my attention. Their postures, their day to day actions… people inspire me. People who really live. People who wake up early to go to work. People who struggle, who work hard. People who know how to enjoy life as well. People who drink their beer at street corners. People who hug. People who touch, who sit and cross their legs. My art is about people and for people. It is a story. These are stories that I see in my day to day life. Or that I have seen throughout my life. They are memories of trips. Of Bahia. Where I lived. People I talked to. And it is very rewarding to portray this.” – Rafaela Sales
“I’ve always loved just observing humans around me. We are all fascinating on our own, even in the smallest-routine-daily-life details.” – Julia Dimitrova
“After reading what Rafa has written, I was really moved. It was crazy to me how similar she sees the world around her, the inspiration she draws from people. Same as me. I’ve always loved just observing humans around me, how they move, act, talk; how they show their feelings; most importantly – exactly those normal activities like just reading a newspaper or drinking a coffee on a corner table under the bright sunshine. We are all fascinating on our own, even in the smallest-routine-daily-life details. How beautiful is to see the world through eyes like these. The best thing is we all can.” – Julia
Art direction & Photography by Julia Dimitrova @julieewildd
Model & Artist Rafaela Sales @salesrafa_ Paintings @_rafaela_sales