From architect to artist: the creative journey of Tiago Galo

The Portuguese illustrator uses bold geometric shapes in his highly-stylised depictions of bizarre everyday situations.

We first discovered Tiago’s illustrations when the Lisbon-based illustrator sent us some examples for our Affinity Designer v1.6 update. Since then he’s worked with us on the Affinity Designer for iPad beta, creating his compelling editorial style of illustration.

Losing my head.
You originally trained as an architect, how has this influenced the work you produce today?

My architecture training introduced me to a great amount of artistic expressions, not only from the architecture field, but also from fine arts and design. Artists from the early 1920s, especially the Cubists and Surrealists, as well as the Bauhaus group, have played a great part on my visual imaginary.

Their use of solid colours and big geometric shapes have always drawn my attention since studying them in my art history classes at architecture school. After I decided to quit architecture I think I turned to all these references to build my illustration career.

What are your biggest influences and inspirations?

I guess I am influenced by the early 1920s artists like Joost Schmidt, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, Stuart Davis) and Jacob Lawrence, just to name a few. They have played a great part in my visual imaginary. But I also get references from different areas like movies, especially the ones of Wes Anderson, Jarmusch or Buster Keaton where there is a dose of surrealism in the way reality is presented.

Looking at grass.
Your work predominantly depicts people. What is it that keeps bringing you back to this subject matter and what themes do you find recur in your work?

People have strange ways to live their lives and the way each one lives fascinates me on so many levels. I’m always getting odd ideas in the most common places and everyday situations. I tend to observe people everywhere I go and there’s nothing more surreal and fascinating than the way people behave.

“I tend to observe people everywhere I go and there’s nothing more surreal and fascinating than the way people behave.”

How do you go about creating one of your illustrations?

Usually I tend to keep ideas for an illustration growing in my head for a while before grabbing my sketchbook. It’s important to think and question what I can and can’t use. I also look up for references and it’s not unusual to build a mood board when the ideas are not so clear. It’s only after all this process I scan my sketches and start working digitally.

What are the advantages of creating illustrations digitally?

The perks of working digitally are huge. I get an almost infinite toolbox of textures, colours and brushes. It’s a process that I find easier and faster to achieve and to try out new things without making a big mess on my work space.

How did you hear about Affinity Designer and what inspired you to start using it?

Actually, I got interested in Affinity Designer when I heard it was given an Apple design award a couple of years ago. I got curious about it and gave it a try. Ever since I use it as my favourite tool.

How has using Affinity changed the way you work?

I guess it improved the way I work now a lot. The hybrid pixel/vector mode made all the difference in comparison with having to use two different software tools. That made my process of working faster and snappier.

‘Rush hour’ created by Tiago in Affinity Designer for iPad.
You recently worked with us on the beta for Affinity Designer for iPad, how did you find it?

I immediately had a familiar feeling when the logo popped up. At first I had some trouble finding some of the tools I used on the desktop version of Affinity Designer, but after some exploring I found all the menus I got used to on the Mac. The really big plus was to have my custom brushes on iPad and to use the Apple Pencil. It’s a fantastic companion, and on some levels it makes it a lot easier to create work once you get used to it.

I will definitely use Affinity Designer for iPad on the go, especially when I have to meet clients and when I’m out of the office. It’s amazing to think I can continue something I started on the desktop on the iPad wherever I go.

Your illustrations use beautiful textures, how do you create this textured look in a digital illustration?

The trick is to use real textures made by analogue tools. I then scan them and apply to the vectors. That gives the look and feel that gets the best of both worlds.

End of the day.
How do you approach composition when you’re creating your work?

The sense of composition is really important to me and I’m somewhat picky on that. Sometimes I get lost just to get a specific shape the way I imagined. Colours also play an important role on the dynamic side of illustration and I always spend some time searching for the right palette.

It’s difficult to have a favourite client since I always get a lot of new insights from each one of them that always push my work to other levels. And it’s really funny to see my work at the eyes of other people and what they expect from my illustrations.

Where would you most like to see your work published in future?

I guess I’d like to get challenged by more inspiring briefs in the future. It really doesn’t matter where just as long as it gets me and the people who see it intrigued and drawn into it.

Thinking on holidays.
Where do you see yourself and your illustration work in three years’ time?

I hope to continue my work as an illustrator and to get my work and style recognized by anyone who sees it. I also hope it continues to reflect my own experiences and my personal views of the way I see the world.

What tips would you give to aspiring freelance illustrators?

I guess believing in yourself and work a lot. It’s important not to quit at the first drawback. Developing your own style and identity is crucial to stand out in their competitive world.

“Developing your own style and identity is crucial to stand out in their competitive world.”

Knowing the work of other illustrators is also an important part of the learning process of any illustrator. More than to just appreciate the drawing techniques and visual languages of their work, it’s important to learn about their backgrounds and how they got there.


You can see more work by Tiago one his website or Instagram and on the Affinity Designer Welcome Screen as in-app Samples.


Artist relations
Charlotte is an illustrator and arts lecturer who is passionate about the creative industries and is now part of our artist relations team. Her interests include mid 20th century inspired design, comic books, board games, movie memorabilia, baking cakes, feminism and yoga. She shares her 1960’s home with her graphic designer husband and her toddler son who likes to hide her iPad. Get in touch with Charlotte if you have work you have made in Affinity apps to share with us, or tag your work with #madeinaffinity in the usual places.
Credits & Footnotes

Illustrations are copyright © of Tiago Galo