The following is an interview that I did with the Portuguese graffiti artist Eskema. This is a part of the rough pieces of a larger article that I wrote for Cafe Abroad magazine about graffiti in Portugal. To find out more about the artist, Eskema, or to look at more photos of his graffiti please go to his website Eskema Stage 3.
What attracted you to the art of graffiti? Why did you start writing?
I don’t know exactly why, I was around 11 – 12 years old (1994 – 1995)
when I really took conscience about graffiti, I was living in
Switzerland at that time and in Geneva graffiti was everywhere. I just
started tagging. It was a way to be someone, to be knowned I guess,
but I don’t think I was thinking that back then. I was just doing it
because it felt good. I bought some graffiti magazines and there was
one that really influenced me. I think it was StyleWars #2 Frankfurt
issue and I stumbled upon the early works of Daim, Delta and Loomit
who definitely influenced me the most because they were doing
something completely different beyond just letters or characters, they
were creating dimensions.
At 13, I came back to Portugal for good, and I was living in the
middle of nowhere where graffiti didn’t exist so I was stuck with
sketches and random tags because in a portuguese little town everyone
knows what everyone does and messing with neighbours walls would have
me put in big troubles. It’s only at 17 when I moved to Évora that I
met people who was into graffiti, especially Puto who soon became my
best friend and graffiti buddy. We mostly painted everytime together.
He had a car accident 3 years ago and died, he being no longer here
was very hard for me and was probably the main reason for me to put
graffiti on hold for a time, it just wasn’t fun to paint anymore.
Why do you write graffiti? What does it mean? What are you trying
I write because it’s my way to express myself and just don’t give a
shit about what others think about it. It’s probably the only thing
that I do and only care about what I and only I think of the final
result. I only did one commissioned job and I didn’t like it because I
was conditioned to do something for another person, for that person’s
approval, and for me graffiti is not that. I don’t mean that people
who does commissioned jobs are wrong, not at all. What I mean is that
I chose graphic designer to be my career and kept graffiti as my
refuge to my true expression. It is something that makes me feel good,
if other people like it I’m pleased but if they don’t I couldn’t care
less either. It’s not a job for me or a career, it’s not stressful,
it’s just calm and quiet. I don’t think that I’m trying to communicate
something when I paint, I just paint for my own pleasure.
How do you do your big graffiti pieces? It seems as if they take a
long time, do you get the permission of land owners?
I never was into graffiti for bombing (yeah I did it too but it’s not
really my thing), I really enjoy to spend an afternoon doing a piece.
Most of them are ilegal but I always manage to find a quiet semi
abandoned place where I probably won’t be bothered.
Most of the times I go straight to the walls, no sketches, just
improvise and see what comes out.
What is the graffiti community in Portugal like? Do the artist work
together? Or are they in competition with each other?
The graffiti community in Portugal is quite big, and very talented.
There’s always competition but I think it’s a very united community
with artist always working with each other more in a friendly way than
a competitive one.
I was in Lisboa one month ago (I am in Milfontes now) and I was
really impressed by how much really good graffiti writing there was
all over the buildings. How do you think most people in Lisboa feel
about graffiti? Do you think they like it?
Only the youth mostly, Portugal is still a very conservative country
and most aged people still look at it as pure evil vandalism.
What are the legal issues that the graffiti artist faces? Is it
difficult to avoid the police?
Graffiti is considered vandalism and destruction of property so you
probably need a lawyer if you get caught. The police is manageable
depending on where you decide to paint but it’s always a good idea to
be prepared for a quick run…
Could you tell me a story from your experiences with doing graffiti?
Don’t really have a story to tell here… One thing that always make
me laugh was back then, I was painting for a year or so and I met Uber
who was one of the biggest writers at the time (he retired painting a
while ago) and he invited me to participate in Oeiras graffiti contest
2000. It was huge to me, you know being a newbie and coming to Lisbon
for a graffiti contest was scaring. I did the piece, it didn’t went
bad actually but I completely fucked up with my tag afterwards. I made
a huge signature tag that wrecks the whole piece (heeheheh). It’s
funny to remember that I putted so much work on the piece and paid
attention to tiny details and ruined it with a big ugly newbie tag…
But it was a fun experience and after that I learned to manage my tags
Interview by Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
Photographs of graffiti by Eskema: