What I am Thinking: Architectural Fantasies with Mister Mourão

While at the 2016 International Conference on Structures and Architecture, we had the opportunity to meet Mister Mourão, a highly creative mind who describes himself as “an architect turned illustrator with a tendency for obsessive drawing.” In this interview, he shares his beginnings in drawing, his productive workflow, and his inspiration (or lack thereof).


When, what, how and why did you start drawing?

Drawing was always one of my favourite things to do. There’s something in the effort, dedication and loneliness of the work that resonates with me.

One of my first memories is being on my parents’ living room floor drawing, so I guess I started pretty early… And for some unknown reason I was obsessed with horses. That’s basically what I drew from 4 until 18 years old. Horses!


What was your formal training and how does it relate to your work now?

I studied and worked as an architect so my lexicon is deeply rooted in the city, structures and urban environments.

Basically, I learned how to design and build through architecture, and now I can distort, exaggerate and repeat all those architectural elements that make up a building or a city and rearrange them in my drawings.


What is your process?  

First I have to confess something about myself. I (obviously) love to draw but I’m quite lazy and restless, and it’s very hard for me to focus.

In order to deal with these shortcomings, I had to design a strategy in order to do the work that is important to me.

I’ve set up a few simple and easy to follow rules to keep me where I want to be. Drawing.

This is my humble attempt to design my workflow.

  1. Simplicity
    I (mostly) use a black pen and paper.
    This way I don’t wander off looking the “right” tool or color.
    It’s just me, the pen and a sheet of paper. With nothing to decide, I just draw. It can’t get simpler that this!


  1. Silence
    As we all know too well, we live in the age of distractions… so I put my phone on airplane mode while I’m working. It’s a cheeky trick but it works!
    No calls, no pings, bing or buzz! I have enough trouble trying to focus by myself without all the notifications luring me to that rabbit hole!
    After doing this for a while, it was fun to realize that there aren’t many things that can’t wait for 4-5 hours. And no, you don’t need to reply to that Facebook comment within 2 minutes!
    Oddly enough, after creating this silence, I fill it with some nice music or podcasts.


  1. Routine
    It’s easier to get the work done if I have a fixed daily schedule, this way my brain know when it’s time to draw.
    So everyday I divide my time in big blocks and try to do the important work from 10am until 3pm. I’ll defend these 5 hours of uninterrupted work against everything! Because I know that the first hours are usually worthless and I need to keep working through it non-stop until the final hours when things starts to happen.
    To mark the end of a work day, I post a photo of the day’s progress on social media.
    This gives me the feeling that I’m accountable to be there the next day and keep going.
    How’s that for a productive use of social media?!


  1. Mistakes
    Probably the hardest thing to figure out for me was to learn to deal with mistakes.
    Being a perfectionist is a curse in disguise because it’s very easy to get lost in a endless loop of do-undo and never get to the end of a piece.
    That’s why I decide to work on a medium where I can’t erase or undo. With pen and paper, there’s no backdoor.
    Sure… I scream and kick the wall when I make a mistake but at the end I just have to carry on and finish the drawing.
    Now I cringe a bit when I look at the mistakes in my drawings, but I can see them as an important part of the process.


Where do you get your inspiration?

There’s a great quote of Chuck Close that really rings with me. “Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work.”

Surely my background, the places I visit or the people I meet are important and fuel me subconsciously but I don’t really believe in getting inspiration from some other place besides the work itself. The challenges and decisions inherent to working on a piece are inspiring enough.

How do spectators respond to your drawings?

Sometimes they believe to recognise a specific part piece of the drawing from a city or building that they know.

I have a friend that swears that I drew her doorway (which I didn’t) in this drawing that I’ve loosely based in the city of Oporto, Portugal.

What is your greatest accomplishment so far and why?

I guess to be able to make a nice living from drawing is something that makes me really proud (and a bit surprised).

To make something so personal that gives me so much pleasure and getting paid for it feels like a magic trick.

Also the opportunity to work with AppleThe New Yorker & to create a 12 meters mural in my alma mater are surely among my professional highlights.

Which question would you like to be asked (and never get asked) and what would be the answer?

Do you think anyone can draw? Yes, if you really wanted it. Because grit trumps talent any day. So if you want and love to draw, you CAN draw.

mourao3 edit.jpg
We loved meeting Mister Mourão at ICSA 2016! Here we pose with his work-in-progress: a mural at the School of Architecture of University of Minho, his alma mater. He completed the mural during the conference in 10 days! Left to right: Sigrid Adriaenssens (Form Finding Lab), Giulia Tomasello (Roma Tre University), Mister Mourão, Stefano Gabriele (Roma Tre University), Lukas Ingold (ETH Zurich)

Visit Mister Mourão:

mistermourao.com | blog.mistermourao.com | shop.mistermourao.com

Author: Sigrid Adriaenssens

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