By Janet Tappin Coelho
An eight-year-old Brazilian schoolboy has opened a makeshift art gallery in his hometown selling his paintings as he sets his sights on paying his way through art college when he’s older.
Rodrigo Mendes, who has been painting landscapes on white ceramic bathroom tiles since the grand old age of four, has produced an amazing 200 compositions in his short lifetime with more than half already sold.
The young artist, who has been scrupulously investing his money in his paints and equipment, has just bought his first computer with his earnings and on Monday he launched his Facebook page exhibiting and selling framed one-off original pieces from his portfolio of work.
Rodrigo said: “I’m really excited about going online because I’ve always wanted people to see my work, which is why I’ve put a lot of my paintings on show.
“I’m hoping my page will help to bring in lots of new customers who like what I do and who want to buy my paintings.
“My family have helped me a lot with buying the tiles, paints and equipment I need and I’ve started painting on canvases now which are more expensive.
“I’m also saving to be a professional artist because I know it’s hard to make a living doing what I love, so I’m starting now.”
Most of the fledgling artists’ collection is on display in a small humble roadside bar run by his aunt, Gisleide dos Santos, 38, in Sao Francisco, south east Brazil.
The place doubles as an improvised exhibition space holding dozens of Rodrigo’s fine art pieces that sell for between 35 to 60 Brazilian reais each (£10 to £15).
The tiles, which vary in size, are lined up on wooden shelves, laid out on top of a deep chest freezer and stacked along the serving counter with customers regularly picking up a painting with their beer and crisps.
Gisleide said: “Rodrigo started by selling his paintings on the pavement outside our house in 2013.
“He sold each one for between one and two reais at the time, and people were so impressed with his efforts they snapped them up.
“When I saw how determined he was to do what he loves, I decided to give him as much room as he needed in my bar to display his work.”
The landscapes depict colourful seaside and sombre riverside themes, with recurring images of bridges, sunsets and waterfalls.
Rodrigo, who is dubbed ‘o artiste mirim’ – meaning ‘the little artist’, has a good eye for perspective and is developing his use of light, shade and gradation of colour.
His compositions, which are mainly created by dipping his fingers into acrylic tubs of paint and daubing on the pigments, show a vibrant imagination and a spontaneous touch.
He has an emerging flair for mixing and applying a palette of hues and tones, and displays a confidence in his creativity that belies his tender years said observers.
Rodrigo, who is an only child, admitted: “I don’t know how to use a paint brush properly yet so I still use my fingers. I feel more in control when I’m doing it this way.
“I just see these images in my head and I have to let them out. I don’t know where they come from, but if I go to the beach then I paint what I remember.”
The budding artist produces his pieces nearly every weekend and normally sets up his stall outside his aunt’s simple bar. To date, most of his ceramic handiwork, which is glazed with a fixing spray, has been sold to family, friends and locals who support his passion.
According to his mum Rodrigo took up his first brush when he discovered her nail varnish collection at the age of two.
Gislene, 41, a teacher said: “I came home from work one day to find he had used all my nail varnish to paint what I thought were just pretty pictures on paper. He had also used my lipstick and made a real mess.
“I didn’t realise then that he was going to take it further because no one in our family, on his father’s side or mine, has ever shown this sort of talent.”
By the time he turned four, Rodrigo had progressed from painting on paper and on cardboard to ceramic tiles after finding a stack of them in his uncle’s house.
Dad Clicio, 54, a truck driver recalled: “We were refurbishing the property when the builder came to complain that Rodrigo had spoiled all the white tiles meant for the bathroom walls.
“We found my son sitting propped up against a wall, happily creating his little masterpieces. He had used at least two dozen tiles and covered them in a variety of scenes. We couldn’t tell him off because his level of concentration and his work was so impressive.”
Rodrigo’s uncle, Emerson Fonseca, 44, who manages his nephew’s Facebook page said: “Rodrigo is now exploring his skills on canvas and he is finding the material both challenging and interesting because canvas offers a different texture and different result from the ceramic tiles.
“We’re proud of his dedication because he’s so focussed on what he wants to do, so we’re all working together as a family to make sure he has the career of his dreams,” Emerson said.
Rodrigo’s Facebook page is: Rodrigo Mendes O Artista Mirim.