Interview with Joao Paulo Alvares Ruas by erraticphenomena

From his aerie high above the city of São Paolo, João Ruas has been exploring a haunting world swirling with strange energies and spirits, populated by enigmatic women and a host of unusual creatures. Although his work is intrinsically contemporary, it simultaneously evokes the timeless verve of turn-of-the-century master illustrators like Leyendecker and Rackham. Having appeared on the scene only a year and a half ago, he has already made an indelible impression on our visual landscape.

Though João is feverishly preparing for "III," his solo show which opens in the Thinkspace project room on May 7th, he graciously spared some time to answer a few of my questions. If you're hungry for more background on João, you can also check out my earlier profile of him.

Erratic Phenomena: Tell me about your experience of growing up in São Paulo, Brazil. Was your childhood full of adventure, or did you spend it with your nose in a book? What gave you the most pleasure when you were a boy?

João Ruas: I only recall good things from my childhood. I grew up in the suburbs of São Paulo, in a true mixed-class neighborhood. I had richer and poorer friends, from all ethnic backgrounds, and we used to spend our days outside, flying kites and playing soccer. My interest in drawing was always present, but I didn't really focus on it until early adolescence, when I discovered comic books. My family never really stopped me from choosing art, and I am extremely grateful for that, even though at times they didn't know what I was doing, since no one in my close circle has any artistic background.

EP: Your earliest artwork was inspired by comic books. Tell me a bit about those early pictures, and how drawing made you feel when you were a child.

JR: In Brazil, there's a series of comics that's been running since the '60s called Turma da Monica ("Monica's Gang"), which every kid knows about and reads avidly at some point in their early life. It really appeals to the eyes, with a colorful pop and weird style. I was totally amazed how everything was so other-worldly, and how the characters had their own personality – it was like they were my real friends. I think that was when I realized the power of creating images had no boundaries, and it could reach unique realms. I used to draw them all the time in school. Then, one day, Peanuts was on TV and I got addicted to that. They were even more believable and fantastic.

My interest in drawing was always present, but it wasn't above the level of an average kid – I'd rather play than draw. That changed when I was 11. I found an issue of Spider-Man and actually read it... from that point on, it's easy to imagine what happened.