Meet Vítor Raposo, the man who creates “art that the sea washes away”
Praia Maria Luísa in Albufeira is used as a canvas for amazing (yet ephemeral) artworks created in the sand by artist Vítor Raposo.
When he lost his job several years ago, Vítor Raposo thought that “the world would come crashing down” on him. Now, he thinks it may have been the “best thing” to ever happen to him.
In the last three years, Vítor has become one of the Algarve’s best known and most beloved artists. His work, created by drawing amazing images in the sand at Albufeira’s Maria Luísa beach using nothing but gardening tools such as rakes or small forks, has gone viral and been shared across the world, from Japan to Brazil and USA.
From tributes to local police forces and firefighters to world famous icons such as Kobe Bryant, Vítor’s work has amassed thousands of fans in just a few years.
Every one of his artworks is eventually washed away by the sea, which is why he has named his Facebook page as ‘Vítor Raposo – A Arte que o Mar Apaga’ (Vítor Raposo, The Art that the Sea Washes Away).
Beachgoers who see him in action are amazed by what he is able to do. But for Vítor, it’s almost second nature.
“I don’t have any training in art, or architecture, or anything of the sort. If you give me a pen and pencil, I don’t really know how to draw anything,” Vítor told the Resident when we visited him on Thursday (January 26).
“I worked for a company that provided electrical services. So my professional career had nothing to do with art or drawing,” he explained.
Born in Mina de São Domingos in the Alentejo but living in Barreiro near Lisbon for nearly 35 years, the 59-year-old started exploring his artistic side when he’d come visit his brother and sisters who live in Albufeira near Maria Luísa.
Vítor – who has always loved beaches despite never having lived near one – started out by making ‘mariolas’ (artistic piles of rocks) at Maria Luísa or using rocks to create images of flowers or anything else he could come up with.
But it was between 2019 and 2020 that he decided to start using washed-up bamboo canes to begin drawing in the sand. He walked up to the nearby cliff, took photos of the drawing and was pleased by his work.
“When I started out, I’d share the photos online and I wouldn’t even post by name. Many people would ask who the person was, and there was even a bit of mystery involved. Eventually I started signing the works with my name and started using tools and taking it a bit more seriously,” Vítor told us.
It didn’t take long for Vítor’s work to start turning heads – both in person and online.
His Facebook page, where he posts pictures and videos of his work almost every day, is already followed by over 23,000 people.
He has a backlog of requests for his work, from wedding proposals to happy birthday wishes, which means he is no longer accepting any requests. When he turns 60, Vítor is planning to retire and dedicate himself officially – and professionally – to his craft.
One of his fans, Ana Maria, was delighted to find Vítor at the beach on the day he created his stunning tribute to the Portugal Resident (see photos).
“I’m so happy to see you. I didn’t know if you’d be here today,” she told Vítor.
“I love his work. I’m Portuguese but live in Switzerland and discovered his work on Facebook. Every time I log on, I check to see if he has uploaded anything new. His work is just fantastic,” Ana Maria told us.
Indeed, Vítor has received praise from all over the world, as well as invitations to draw at other beaches. But for Vítor, there’s no other place like Maria Luísa.
“This beach is beautiful. It’s like a postcard image,” explained the artist.
“It has huge potential. Apart from the quality of the sand – which is very thin and hardly leaves any footprints, which las led some people to question whether my work is Photoshopped – it also has the perfect setting with the sea, the sky and the cliffs. It has everything I need to create my works and register them,” he said.
No matter how beautiful his creation, the sea washing away his work is as certain as the day turning into night.
But while some question how he can spend so much time every day – three to six hours for a single drawing – creating such wonderful drawings only for them to be erased hours later, Vítor has found the beauty in the process.
“Some people tell me that it is such a shame for the sea to wash away my work. But I like it. I feel pleasure in making it, registering it and then seeing the sea take it way, meaning the tomorrow the sand will be ready for a new one,” he told us.
“We have to have strength to follow our dreams”
For Vítor, the key to following our dreams is simply taking the first step.
“A friend once told me that he would like to have my strength to follow his dreams. And what I tell him and everyone else is that we have to take the first step, even if it doesn’t mean we will begin doing what we want to right away. Then we take another step. We cannot leave it to tomorrow. Before we know it, we’ll be doing what we wanted to, and things will start happening,” he said.
In fact, Vítor says he has a dream that he has yet to accomplish: to have his work displayed at the arrivals and departures section of Faro Airport.
“My idea would be to have an image of my work welcoming people to the Algarve or thanking them for their visit,” said Vítor, who added that he is always open to “collaborations” as well as to teaching people his art.
“I don’t want to keep this all just to myself or hide what I do. Anyone who wants to see me work or learn how I do it can simply send me a message to arrange it,” he said.
“I always have to take into account the tides, the weather and other factors,” the artist told us, adding that he doesn’t want people travelling from far away to see him only to be disappointed and not find him there.
For example, Vítor is unable to work during the busy summer months – particularly July and August – as almost all Algarve beaches, particularly in the Albufeira area, become jampacked with tourists.
But if it were up to Vítor, he’d be at Maria Luísa working on his craft every day.
“My office is the sea. And whenever I leave here to handle other matters, I cannot wait to come back. I can’t stay away from the sea, it’s my passion.”
You can follow Vítor on Facebook (Vítor Raposo – A Arte que o Mar Apaga), on TikTok (@vitorraposo 17), or on Instagram (@vitinha_rr).