We enter the world of Portuguese abstract expressionist Pedro Sousa Louro at his Chelsea apartment and studio.

When did you realise you wanted to be an artist?

Always. I have always been painting and drawing. All my aunties at Christmas time used to give me colouring pens and I’ve always been addicted to Filofaxes as well. Since I was a kid I have always written down my ideas.

When did you sell your first artwork?

In 1999, it was a coincidence really. I was drawing and a friend showed it to a friend who bought it from me and got it framed. It was a drawing of some Roman statues, in a Picasso style. I have always been obsessed with Picasso. Especially his drawings of the human figure, because he is not perfect. His imperfections take control of his art and I like that. Back then I knew my drawings weren’t wrong, but I didn’t have the tools to be comfortable and show them to people. It was because of Picasso that I learnt that art doesn’t have to be perfect.

From which artist’s work do you take the most inspiration from and why?

I’m obsessed with Francis Bacon. Bacon is here [Louro points around the room]. I study Bacon constantly, and for me he is the artist of the 20th century. I was very proud in my second degree when I persuaded my teachers to show the recordings from Sylvester to the new students.

David Sylvester was an arts reporter and he was obsessed with bacon. He used to record Bacon speaking when he was drunk. Sometimes I need to listen to these recordings to ground myself. He never admitted that he could draw the perfect figure and he relied on the nature of the brush marks. He would always paint on a hangover after one hour’s sleep he would wake up at 5am and paint until 2pm the go to the bars in Soho.

Do you paint on a hangover?

No, I’m completely the opposite. If I am hung-over or if I’ve had a joint out with some friends then my hands don’t work; my brain doesn’t recognise its tools, so I have to be clean. My brain has to be clean, and my studio has to be clean. It’s strange. If I had another studio, which wasn’t in my house I would leave it messy.

I think that if I didn’t clean my studio before going to bed, the next time I went into the studio it would be better, because with a mess your brain will connect to where you finished.  You can pick up where you left off.

Also, I don’t paint one painting at a time I do two or three. When I jump between works I allow myself to lose control and I think when you are not in control you produce your best stuff.

In the absence of consciousness. Very surrealist…

Yes, and for an artist your subconscious is the pilot. It’s the one you should be connected to and you should trust it. When we are busy jumping from one piece to another we don’t have time to think, “Oh, now I’m going to be very attentive to this one” you just start straight away and lose that inner control freak. This is how my brain works. I cannot deal with perfection in art.

I can’t deal, for example, with these artists who paint famous people. It’s out of control these days. It’s a sort of marketing and very short-term, but they sell. I think as social media has developed it has increased this type of artist and you can find them more and more in cosmopolitan cities. I read an article the other day in an established magazine of art; the author said it’s a sign of a lack of creativity. The subject matter is already there, you don’t want to have to fight with your subject matter; it’s already popular, so you don’t have to make it cool.

When you fight for your subject matter, you’ll come back with amazing ideas because you will have pushed your brain and when you do that the best ideas come. An artist should never run out of ideas otherwise they shouldn’t be an artist. If you believe you are an artist your ideas will never finish. Never.

Also, right now I am totally absorbed by Robert Rauschenberg. He was an American with very powerful art in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s.

What do you think has been the most pivotal moment in your career?

I did an introduction lecture to Bacon for Kensington and Chelsea arts school. It was to say don’t worry if you can’t draw a hand or a figure. Art is not only about perfection. You have to be careful in art school; they will either build you or destroy you.

Louro converted his hallway into a studio space

Louro converted his hallway into a studio space

What do you think the hardest thing about being an artist is?

I cannot separate my brain from my studio. I am going to end up with mental problems because I think about colours; I think about geometry; I don’t stop. I actually have to knock myself out. If I spend 24 hours in the studio working I have to knock myself out with pills. My brain is full of images and is too active. I wish I could stay awake for forty-eight hours and not get tired.

Also, space. I suffer a lot for my space. It hurts me inside. I want more space. I have a big studio in Portugal, but I live in London. I feel more connected with my world in London, my brain associates with art from the 20th century and especially English artists. This is my artistic home.
I have to walk to think; even when I am deciding between two colours I walk for hours and my friends call me and say, “be careful, it’s too late.” but I walk. I need to walk to clear my head and make decisions. I love to walk in London.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to make a career in arts?

Anyone who loves art should understand why he or she loves art. You have to study why you have a passion. Studying is the most important thing. What we have in art is legacy, without this we are nothing, so study other legacies and understand why specific artists touch you.

You have to be careful with social media as technology is advancing too fast to keep up with. It will destroy us because we are humans. We have bones and tissues and are too sensitive to go side by side with technology. You have to use it and I do, but I don’t mix my private life with my art on social media; I make my audience take me seriously. You have to be intelligent, and you have to be bitchy in a good way. Learn to play with them. Don’t be an artist because on social media it is cool. Darling, that’s not worth it and that is not art. 

I say this because online people open up to their audience and they say, “I don’t know what to paint.” You cannot say this. The only thing that happens is sometimes you create a great subject matter and sometimes you make a bad subject matter, but it’s always there and it’s inside of everyone.

You have to paint without fear. Paint for yourself, not for anyone else. Everything is inside of you. Understand why you want to paint and why art invades your brain. If it invades you then you are meant to be an artist. 

Pedro will be exhibiting his art in Focus LDN’s inspiring autumn exhibition The Londoner’s Compass, this October at The Strand Gallery.