The man behind the painting: João Saldanha

Were do you come from and in which places/counties did you grow up?

Born in 1974 I live and work in Lisbon Portugal. Until I was 26 years old I used to live in Cascais (30 km from Lisbon) and just 5 km from Estoril Formula 1 race track. 

After the first editions of Grand Prix of Portugal from 1958 to 1960  Formula One returned to Portugal in 1984. Motorsport was popular arround my family and friends so my dad took me with him to see this great event and as you can imagine the impact of seeing and listening (it was the Turbo era) to the Formula one cars arround the Estoril race track on a 10 year old boy was huge.  Eventualy I was fortunate to have attended all 13 Grand Prix (from 84 to 96) but that was not all… In those days several F1 teams came to a sunny winter Portugal for testing the new cars before the begining of each season and very frequently I was there after school and I could just walk arround the track and get really close to the rails!!! By that time i had all eyes on Ferrari since I had an uncle who first showed me books and magazines about Formula one and Ferrari and my bedroom walls were covered with all kinds of images, from the 80´s road cars to 70´s and 80´s Formula one to GT race cars of the 60´s and i started a model car collection. Of course only Ferrari.. 

From which age did you became interested in drawing and painting?

At a very young age I knew what observational drawing was and cars were there almost from the beggining. One of my first hobbys was to illustrate with pen and pencil on A4 paper all the Formula One Ferrari I could know of, looking at magazines and books I started to collect. I never had many doubts about my academic life and I eventually went on to study Product

Design thinking about car design but i mostly designed furniture…

In my teenager years I used to go in the summer for a vacation in the mountains to the north of Portugal were relatives of mine manage a classic car and art museum in the little village of Caramulo. This is probably the best classic car museum in Portugal and it was there that i first saw a Bugatti, a Rolls Royce from the 1930´s or a Ferrari F40. I must had been 13 years old when i first entered in a Ferrari and whent on a ride, in this case a 195 Inter from 1951. Some years later I was lucky to hop on a F40 driven by the museum long time curator and owner João de Lacerda and went along the Caramulo Hillclimb, a mountain road famous for hosting many touring car competitions. What a rush!!

Drawing was always something very present in my life as was cars and motorsport. The observation of shapes and space are a fundamental part of the work of a designer wich I developed throughout my first years after college and almost by chance I started to illustrate cars… Ferrari what else!! And suddenly I discovered new techniques and materials which allowed me to relive but most importantly to go far beyond my adolescent achievements. Soon enough I was starting to take private commissions wich allowed me to spend more time to my work and to develop my techniques much faster than if I was still doing as just a parttime hobby 

What are the techniques you use?

The techniques that I use now are very much derived from the ones I started developing as a teenager, illustrating with watercolor, color pencil, wax crayon and gouache on paper that work together to reproduce the harmonious lines and shapes of the classics. After working only on paper in the first few years naturaly I started to produce paintings on canvas mostly as a way to diversify my work and show myself more versatile to the market but also to improve and explore new techniques.

How do you promote your work?

I attend on a regular basis the major Portuguese classic car events, like MOTORCLÁSSICO in Lisbon, AUTOCLÁSSICO in O´Porto or the MOTORFESTIVAL in CARAMULO showing my latest works live. In 2014 I first visited RETROMOBILE in Paris wich is famous for it´s Galerie des Artistes. This was very important to see were I could fit in the automotive art market but also to get new inspiration and stretching my horizons. Also I could establish new connections with possible clients and art galleries. In 2018 I met Peter Ribbers at Brussels Interclasscs and we kept in touch until this moment. I am very happy that Vintage Speedworks will also promote my work. I am eager to see what the future will bring..

What can you tell us about your far-east experience in Macau and Hong Kong?

Already as an effort to promote my work to new markets outside Portugal in 2015 I travelled for the first time to the far-east specifically to Macau where I have some relatives there who were kind to invite me to stay for some weeks. The reason for this was the MACAU GRAND PRIX and it´s more than  60 years of history  so even before arriving to Macau I started to conceive a series of paintings related to the most significant moments of this motorsport event. The MACAU GP LEGENDS paintings (15 in total) were exhibited in 2016 and 2017.

What happened in Hong Kong?

Already when arriving in Macau in 2015 I tried to explore new possibilities regarding the Hong Kong automotive art market. In fact the very first time I was in HK (November of 2015) I was already attending a classic car event and drawing live in Chater Road (Central). Almost by chance I found new audiences and new clients in the enthusiastic petrolhead Hong Kong community. I have been to China every year from 2015 to 2017 working in new projects and taking several commissions (mainly for Hong Kong) and even got some media exposure specially in HK both in print and online media.