Illustrator Marta Nunes creates thought-provoking art inspired by Portuguese tradition, culture, and more

Today, we’re talking to illustrator Marta Nunes, best known for her thought-provoking art and depictions of Portuguese tradition and culture: now and then.

With a degree in Architecture, an extensive portfolio, and countless exhibitions and collaborations under her belt, the illustrator is a force to be reckoned with.

Since 2020, Marta Nunes has been entirely devoted to her craft as a full-time illustrator, creating inspiring (and, at times, daring) work after work that makes us reflect on the world we live in.

Keep reading for the full interview, and check out all of Marta’s work on her website and Instagram account.

Tell us about yourself. What do you consider your best work so far?

Marta Nunis book cover Pescadores
“Os Pescadores” (The Fishermen). Photo via Marta Nunes/Editora Página a Página

My name is Marta Nunes, and I’ve lived all over Portugal, from north to south, so in a way, I feel like I’m a little bit from everywhere in the country.

My main craft is design and illustration: I experiment with different formats, techniques, and mediums of various dimensions.

Marta Nunes_ work for Os Pescadores book
Work featured in “Os Pescadores” (The Fishermen). Photo via Marta Nunes

I can say I’ve done a lot of work that I like, but one of the more recent projects I especially enjoyed was illustrating for a special centennial edition of “Os Pescadores” by Portuguese writer/journalist Raul Brandão.

Tell us about your workspace

Marta Nunes workspace
Workspace and projects. Photo via Marta Nunes

Since I started working as a full-time freelance illustrator, I’ve been working from home.

I have a dedicated workspace featuring a large craft desk where I keep all of my essential supplies; this has been my haven since 2020.

My dream is to own a workspace that doubles as a venue to hold exhibitions for my artwork and that of other artists, which would also be open to the public.

What is your favorite material or tool to work with, and why?

Sketchbook_ Marta Nunes
Sketches for poetry book “Cada Gesto Essencial” (Every Essential Gesture) by Raquel Patriarca. Photo via Marta Nunes

The materials I use more frequently include graphite pencils, colored pencils, acrylic paint, and an iPad.

Currently, my favorite materials are graphite pencils and charcoal, although Chinese ink and watercolor are mediums I also enjoy and have used a lot in my work.

I’m all about trying different materials and types of paper; there are always interesting things to learn when you play with new textures, movement, and lines.

I still find oil paints and pastels out of my comfort zone, as I have yet to achieve the desired outcomes I’m looking for with these mediums.

How long have you been doing your craft? Who taught you, or where did you learn?

Marta Nunes_Postcards
“25 dias para a Liberdade” (25 days to Freedom). Postcards. Photo via Marta Nunes

I have a background and degree in Architecture (University of Beira Interior) and was able to work in the field for a while.

During this time, I kept drawing and exhibiting my work, but in 2020, I decided to focus exclusively on illustration, and I have been doing so ever since.

A lot of what I do is a result of what I learned while taking my degree (particularly skills I picked up in my drawing classes).

However, my curiosity and willingness to continue to experiment, study, and research all play an undeniable role in how/what I create today.

Did you always want to pursue art, or is this a passion that grew over time?

Marta Nunes_Final illustration for FEMINA podcast
Illustration for FEMINA podcast. Photo via Marta Nunes

As a child, I used to draw all the time and had a natural knack for representational drawing from an early age (or so I was told).

However, when I got to high school, I took an interest in science and considered pursuing this field down the line (in Portugal, it’s common to have to choose your area of study in 10th grade).

But as high school was ending, I realized I wasn’t that invested, so I went back to drawing and eventually decided to go into Architecture instead.

This was when I realized that pursuing an artistic path would be the most fulfilling option for me and make me the happiest.

What is the most challenging aspect of your craft or business?

Marta Nunes_carnations
Personalized work. Photo via Marta Nunes

The biggest challenge for me is being able to manage the numerous tasks and responsibilities that come with being a freelance illustrator.

My days are easily packed with taking care of bills, invoices, receipts, managing stock for points of sales, online orders, managing clients, commission work…

Finding time to create freely while juggling these tasks is where the real challenge is.

What do you most love about your craft or business?

Marta Nunes_brochure and workspace
Brochure for educational services for the Aljube Museum. Photo via Marta Nunes

I’m very passionate about my craft because it allows me to create freely, as well as be a voice, inspire, inform, denounce, and move people with my artwork.

All of this encourages me to keep creating every day.

Any advice for beginners to your craft?

Marta Nunes_color palette
Color palette. Photo via Marta Nunes

Be curious and work towards discovering your own artistic voice.

Experiment a lot — with different materials, mediums, and formats to fine-tune what feels right as you go along.

I also advise observing and learning from other artists.

Who/what inspires you?

Marta Nunes_work for Freedom and Rights
“Liberdade e Direitos” (Freedom and Rights). Photo via Marta Nunes

I believe that those familiar with my artwork can easily predict the answer to this question!

The central themes and sources of inspiration for my work revolve around the concept of freedom, the principles of the Carnation Revolution (Portugal, 1974), and the rights obtained through this historical event.

Peace, equality, social justice, and poetry are also very dominant themes in my work.

Where can people find your work?

You can find most of my work on my website: and Instagram account @martanunesilustra!

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