Mantraste’s illustrations draw on the culture of his childhood in rural Portugal

Mantraste explains that he thinks often about these relationships, about the connection between the audience and the work, and especially between the work and himself. He is interested in “how we let ourselves be defined by what we do”. At its core, his creative practice is so clearly driven by his own experiences and understandings, that it comes as no surprise that he views his art as an integral part of his identity. “It was very important for me to discover that I do not even see myself as an illustrator and that I don’t want to do the best illustration ever or to be the best illustrator in the world,” he says. “I just want to be able to inspire someone and help the world to be a better place. I realised that I don’t need to be an illustrator to do that. But for the moment, it is where I find my voice.”
Other than the physical appearance of the characters in his illustrations, he also incorporates elements of nature and popular mysticism, which he was surrounded with as a child. “I grew up very close to these two things… to popular celebrations, fairs, pagan home remedies, and religious rituals – it’s hard not to be influenced by that,” he explains. This world finds its way into his work through classic symbols of flora, fauna, the sun, tools, tinctures, and sacred objects. According to Mantraste, this may at first glance appear to be representative of Portuguese culture and tradition, but in reality, it speaks more to his own history, background and emotions. “Even when this is not really visible, I think it can be felt, and the ones who feel it are those who identify more with my work, maybe because they feel in very similar ways without being able to express it.”

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