Interview to the illustrator Marta Bellvehí: Free Walls, long-lasting paintings

Marta Bellvehí came to Barcelona to study graphic design but soon she realised that what she actually loved was drawing and painting. Today she makes a living by illustrating songs, books and persons. She recognises that it is difficult to earn a decent wage, so she has to combine different works at the same time.

The very big inspiration for Marta is the music and that is the reason why now is working for Enderrock, a music magazine. But, indeed, what she loves the most is drawing people. When she is on the train, in the street… Wherever she is, she takes out her pen and her notebook and she starts capturing people around her. In spite of that, her favourite technique is water-colour and it has become a distinguishing feature of her artwork. An other thing that characterises this artist is the female gender. Marta’s drawings and paintings are, almost always, women. The reason, she says, is that she has “always been surrounded by a very feminine entourage”.

Marta had a very few experiences with graffiti. Actually, she lived those experiences as a new way to illustrate and a different perspective to see her own work. The first one she did was in Poblenou, on a wall which belongs to the initiative Murs Lliures, a platform that frees different spaces of Barcelona. She decided to try this technique with a friend of her, who uses to paint graffitis. Marta was inspired by a music band from Valencia, Zoo.

Starting from this idea, she painted a girl with a flower on her head, in relation to the lyrics: “And a flower grows up on the wall, she wants to be future, she is present, she is memory”. Marta confesses that she decided to illustrate this phrase because “it is very powerful and it can be related to the graffitis”. In that sense, she thinks that it is normal to paint “images that makes you think, because we all walk on the street and it is not a gallery, where only a specific kind of people go”. 

This was the first time that the illustrator made an artwork of such a big size and that changed her perspective. She says that she was a little bit afraid of the result. Although the day when she painted the graffiti the street was empty, the repercussion of her work was very big. When she published a picture of the graffiti on the social networks people started to share and comment it, even the music band. Then, she started to have more and more followers. When I asked her if that could be a way of making an artist known she replied that “it depends on what do you want make people know about you”. In her case, she affirms that she is “not specially interested on graffiti, even thought it is cool to do it sometimes” she does not want the graffiti to become her work.

The second graffiti was, indeed, a mural painted on a base of wood. The technique was at the beginning graffiti but she also used acrylic painting and paint brush. This time, Marta had a political intention: she talked to the local government of her village, Palamós, to paint a mural based on the 27S. She wanted to make the artwork interactive and paint it in the  middle of the street, where everyone could see her. At the beginning the idea was to do it on a wall, but the village council thought that it wasn’t a good idea because it was considered as a political expression and the electoral campaign had already started. In addition, they said that if she painted on a public wall, then they would be obliged to allow other’s people paintings too.

Marta confesses that, in that sense, she was a little bit disappointed, because the mural should have been shown for a longer time and the diffusion hadn’t been how she expected. Otherwise, she admits that she might have started to organise the whole thing with more time. In relation to what people said, the public opinion was very positive and nobody felt annoyed about it. This time, she says, she chose a phrase with “an optimist message” and that is why, she thinks, the mural had been so well embraced. In spite of that, the mural was placed in a very visual position, she had been removed in just one week, and what Marta actually wanted was to place it until the 27 September.

Finally, her third big-size artwork was also a mural made with paint blush and not graffiti. In fact, it was ordered by the local government to cover a wall that separated a zone of remodelling works and a zone of offices. In this case, the painting was purely aesthetic and decorative. Marta was totally free to paint whatever she wanted and she decided to combine her style with the idea of the sea. As I said, the figure of the women is one of the main treats, so she painted a girl who makes us think about the Little Mermaid.

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