João Neto is a funny, skinny guy who finds fun in every little thing he stumbles across. Walking along the street he jumps to hang from traffic signs, cracks jokes throughout any conversation and confidently taunts himself. João takes a similar approach in his work, using his illustrations to mock himself and people he meets.
Born in Aljezur, south-western Portugal, João began drawing aged nine by observing his mother designing costumes in her spare time. In school he would scribble all over his notebooks and make funny annotations on historical figures in textbooks, finding his voice within the wacky figures. As he grew up next to the sea, the twenty-two-year-old illustrator who goes by the name of Capitão Neto, draws a huge amount of his inspiration from surfing culture, as well as skateboarding. He sketches haphazard, contoured figures in black pencil with a ludicrous style that mirrors his own personality.
Capitão Neto showcased his drawings of whimsical surfers and goons at Sagres Surf Culture, an event that exhibits some of Portugal’s raddest independent crafters and artists who dedicate themselves to the surf lifestyle.
What have you brought to Sagres Surf Culture?
I’ve brought some new artworks and other older illustrations, all in a similar style and referencing surf culture.
How would you describe your work?
I’m an illustrator who draws figurative subjects, although not similar to urban art or graffiti; it’s more like animation or sort of comic strips inspired by the 1990’s. Many come from surfing culture, which is one of my biggest influences, but this is not the only topic in my illustrations.
When and how did you start?
I started professionally about three years ago, when I went to study design. From that point onwards I became an illustrator and invested in myself as an artist. I wasn’t finding what I wanted in design, so I realised that what I really like is to draw. I have more freedom within illustration and art than in design. Drawing and art have always been with me since I was a kid. I remember watching my mother drawing and I would do it with her. She wanted to be a fashion designer, so she’d draw costumes. She actually still does it.
What motivated you?
It was spontaneous, I began drawing on my school notebooks and class books. Later I would post them online after copying the drawings to clean sheets. My teachers were always saying I wasn’t attentive in classes, which was true. I loved drawing shit on figures in the books, like the Roman statues, or I would put a big moustache on Mona Lisa, for example.
What impact do you want your work to achieve?
I want the groups of people I caricature to get angry at my depiction of them. I like teasing people with swaggers and those guys who say how great surfers they are but just go to the beach during summer. It’s really great for me when those guys get upset as they review my work. It’s a clear sign that the message got through. Above all I want people to have fun with my drawings, to understand them and laugh about them.
How do you would you describe your style?
My style is dirty! I like black-inked blurs and grotesque figures. I don’t want people to be afraid of them, but to laugh at their weirdness. I don’t care much about the harmony of things. I celebrate debauchery without criticising, because that would mean I’m saying to people how they should be. People do what they do and I make fun of them just as much as I mock myself when I draw.
What are your influences?
Above all, punk and American folk music. I like punk’s exploding, boshy and mad feeling, which I try to convey in my own work. I’ve been listening to a lot of Black Flag lately and I like the neuroticism of their music. I also like 1980’s and 1990’s album cover art, which inspires a lot of my work. I really enjoy folk, especially Bob Dylan because I adore the stories he tells and his critical voice.
When and how did you start surfing?
Surfing came into my life because all my friends were surfers. I began skateboarding when I was nine and that was always my thing. I used to hate surf, I couldn’t stand watching it on television, with those rad, powerful images followed by slow reggae. It didn’t make sense to me. But then I found Lost’s films and they were insane, blending the power of surf and punk with those freaks killing it in the water. As I’m from Aljezur [south-western Portugal], I was basically the only guy skating everyday. I had a friend who would follow me, but I was the only one investing in it. Later, all my older friends were surfers, so I fell deeper and deeper into it.
How does the influence of surfing come through in your work?
It’s just another subject I like drawing. Surf and skateboarding are two of the most creative movements of the previous generation. Surf art has been around since the 1950’s, but it was only in the 1980’s and 90’s that we saw a great boom. Without a doubt skateboarding and surfing are movements that have influenced a lot of artists, just as jazz has done in the past.
What other projects are you working on?
I’m producing some boards for Ementa SB, the Portuguese skate brand, and I am part of the Vans and Rythm teams as an artist. I’ll be doing a tour around the country showcasing my work and doing some live painting.
What does the future hold for you?
I’m thinking about issuing a fanzine and continuing to showcase my work. I’d like to do a personal exhibition, but that probably won’t happen this year. I want to tour around Portugal, presenting alternative surf stores and illustrating as much as possible.