Rita Gomes A.K.A. Wasted Rita


Interview and portrait by Judith Carnaby

Wasted Rita’s black and white images and text are scrawled, almost scratched onto the page, dripping with sarcasm and challenging you with their explicit content and strong emotion. Some are short sentences, some are simple drawings, but all are angry, honest, abrasive and emotive. Ideas about sex, love, life, heartbreak, and the banality of existence are screamed at you, and then softened by making you laugh. Compared to her often bleak illustrations, in person Rita feels warm, quiet, reflective and quick to laugh. Restless and easily bored, she has a thirst for new people and places, hurling herself into new experiences that inspire her in creating her work.

Following the explosion of popularity for her daily drawing blog Rita Bored, Rita has become a successful illustrator in Portugal as well as internationally. Although based in Lisbon, she likes to be constantly on the move, living in different cities and exhibiting her work throughout Europe, including a couple of shows in Berlin. Rita was one of the Portuguese illustrators invited to create work at the 180 Creative Camp. As well as giving an evening presentation, she pasted a number of simple black and white posters around Abrantes, and created a black and gold text work on a brick wall among the rubble of a building site. Chatting to her on one of the last days of the camp, it is clear that Rita has a deep passion for what she does and no desire to learn from her mistakes.



Illustration by Wasted Rita


How and why did you decide to pursue art and illustration as your career?

I think it had two phases. The first one was when I was a child. I was always drawing, it was my favourite thing to do. I was a bit antisocial so when the other kids were playing around and experimenting I was sitting in the corner drawing, so it has always been my escape from the world. Then in high school, the only possibilities in my head were medicine and art, but because medicine was my parents’ choice, not mine, I decided to pursue the arts. And from there everything happened naturally.

My career kind of started with my blog, Rita Bored. It was something I started just for myself to upload some daily drawings and words, but then I started being featured on a lot of websites and it become internationally known. From there it developed to where I can live from what I do, which was a quick step.

So you can live from your illustration work alone? Is it your full time job?

Being myself is my full time job! It is not that easy because I am always abusing myself emotionally. I have to try new things because I hate to get bored. It’s difficult to be me sometimes! I sell most of my original pieces online and I have a few clients for illustration as well. Also, I do exhibitions almost every month. This year I have shown work in Skopje in Macedonia, Zagreb in Croatia, Ljubljana in Slovenia, in Paris and next I have an exhibition in the north of Portugal.




Illustration by Wasted Rita

Your work is deeply personal, a sort of record of your emotions, thoughts and experiences. Is your work like a kind of personal therapy, or do you hope for resonance with a wider audience?

It all starts as therapy. It is like going to a shrink, but with myself and for free! But I think my work is still very relatable and everything that I say sort of turns out to be what other people think as well. The magic, if I can call it that, with my work is that it is so human and authentic that it is easy to relate to. So I think it works both ways.

Your illustrations are very sketchy and hand-drawn and look like they have been made quickly. How did you develop your style, and do you have people that influence your style of illustration?

No, I think the style is a natural consequence of my life. Because I move all the time I always carry small sketch books with me and I usually do things when I am on trains or on buses, or when I am sitting outside, so the visual part of my work is a consequence of that. But, in any case the visual part of my work isn’t important. I care about it, but sometimes even if it doesn’t look good, if it’s really sincere and honest then I’ll keep it like that.

Your works are based on strong concepts and direct language and it is interesting that for you the content of your work is more important than the visual representation of it. Do you have a process for developing your ideas?

My process is basically not having a process! Most of the times I walk around during the day, just searching and observing, so ideas can come at any time. I just need to be prepared, to have my tools with me. Usually the most difficult part of my process is having the right tools at the time that I have the ideas. My tools are usually just a sketch book and a pen so somehow it works and is very low budget!


Illustration by Wasted Rita


A lot of your works reference pop culture and have a punk influence. Can you talk to me a bit about the things that influence your work?

I think punk rock is my biggest influence, even though now I am not a huge fan. I grew up listening to it and being super involved in the punk rock scene. I think my honesty, straight-forward, direct, short messages are influenced by this time. Nowdays I can be influenced and inspired by anything, such as talking to people or just being outside. I don’t really believe in inspiration, I believe in being open to anything that is happening around you.

Through your use of social media you have developed a fan base and raised your profile. Did you do that intentionally or was that a consequence of the popularity of your blog?

It was again a consequence of my blog, but when you see that you are getting a lot of people’s attention you have to start being more organised and take social networking more seriously, because it really helps you do what you love. If I didn’t have such a large group of people following my work I wouldn’t be in Paris, or Skopje or places like that where people are really interested in my work.

Is this partly why you create works in English? Do you ever create anything in Portuguese?

No, I have never done anything in Portuguese because I have never felt my work was welcome here, so I wanted an international connection.



Illustration by Wasted Rita


What is it like for people who live in Portugal and want to try and develop a career in art and illustration here?

I would say that if you don’t work for international clients it is very difficult or almost impossible to work as an illustrator or artist in Portugal. But I think it is easier when you don’t have an attitude like mine! I think clients can be very restricted when you have such a strong attitude. Actually, I think it is possible but you have to give up many things in your life. I remember in my first year I wouldn’t go out, I didn’t have a social life because I was just working. I was really focused because I knew that this was what I wanted to do, I didn’t want to do anything else with my life. So if you really want it you can get it, but make sure you realise that you will be giving up on a lot of basic things.

What do you have planned for the future?

Well, all I want to do right now is have a vacation! I have a few exhibitions coming up and the first is a solo show in the north of Portugal. Then I have an exhibition in Lisbon where I will be showing some text works, and some photographers were invited to portray my statements, so I think it is going to be interesting. And after that, who knows!


Posters by Wasted Rita, pasted in Abrantes, Portugal as part of 180 Creative Camp

Thanks Rita! To see more by Wasted Rita check out her blog, website and webshop.

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