Johny Vieira has travel and art running through his veins. He was born in Lausanne, Switzerland, to Portuguese parents. His father creates artwork from tree roots, and his sister is established sculptor Fanny Vieira. When he was nine, his parents decided to give up Swiss comfort for family’s sake and returned to Portugal. The family settled in Santa Cruz, where Johny started surfing and where, in his early twenties, he began creating art inspired by surfing.

“After high school, I tried Material Engineering at University for one year, but it was not for me. I remember a strong feeling like I didn’t belong there and need to move. It was a strong moment. Then came the idea of making some wave sculptures with plaster and wood. And I started to create that more and more and see that I could live off it. And I thought, okay, I want to keep creating things like that.”

Credits: Supplied Image; Author: Johny Vieira;

Big impact

“I went to a technical drawing and painting school, where I started to seriously learn. It was the school of Duran Castaibert in Torres Vedras. Duran Castaibert was already like 80 years old, so my friends and I were the last students to learn from him there. When I was going to the lessons, there was a window on the door, and you could see him on his table with the books open. He was studying all his life and going further and further just for his own pleasure. I learned a lot from him. He had a big impact, not only on me but on all the artists in this area.”

“At school, I learned that with watercolour, you can play with the paint and make it flow in a way that you control, but you also don’t control. When you paint with watercolour, it’s like you and the water are both working on that painting, a collaboration that comes naturally. The water has its own weight to play with the pigments or with gravity. The water will take its paths like it takes in nature. That’s that part you cannot control. Like the ocean, you don’t control the water, but you co-live with it, respect it, and just try to enjoy it. There is something magical about drawing water with water.”

Credits: Supplied Image; Author: Johny Vieira;


Johny´s art, based on dreamy ocean moments, drove him to travel in his van along the coast in search of inspiration.

“I started doing this last year. So it’s all fresh, but I always had this idea. I started in the South because I love Sagres. You can surf there, and you don’t see the buildings or houses, and that’s the kind of place where I like to be. Sagres, for me, has something very special, and that’s some attraction I have for end-of-the-road spots. Like, these places where it’s not a travelling area, it’s just a corner that only people who want to go there end up going there. So it doesn’t have much movement, doesn’t have much people. It’s people coming for the waves, which creates this surf culture around it. That´s your tribe at the end; wherever you go, it makes you feel connected and part of something.”

Credits: Supplied Image; Author: Johny Vieira;

“I like to look on the maps, see the conditions and try to figure out, like, maybe this coast, there’s no one, maybe there exists a wave, and to go, try to find it. And sometimes you find little gems, sometimes not, but I like this search.”

“I think it is the adventure and this feeling of aliveness; it’s a bit of an addiction. The search for the perfect wave is not about the perfect wave in size, shape and speed, but it’s the search itself- to go.”

The question “What comes first, Surfing or Art?” makes Johny smile.

Credits: Supplied Image; Author: CliffSurfhouse;

“I think surf comes first. Because if the wind changes in half an hour, you lose the moment. If it looks perfect now, you go now. First comes the experience with its level of energy. After surfing, you get your smile, and it feels good to paint on that state of mind. And then the painting is timeless.”

More information about Johny´s art can be found on his website,


With a passion for surfing and writing, Yariv Kav moved to Portugal´s wave capital from his native Israel. He was awarded a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Manchester back when Oasis was still cool, and a diploma with distinction from the London School of Journalism in Feature and Freelance Writing. Loves travel, languages and human stories.

Yariv Kav