The Storied Journey of Add Fuel: From the Streets of Portugal to the Global Art Scene | Graffter Gallery

Diogo Machado, known by his pseudonym Add Fuel, has steadily risen to prominence in the international street art scene with his distinctive style and flair.

Born and raised in Cascais, Portugal, Add Fuel has captivated audiences with his intricate, visually striking, and thought-provoking murals. This article delves into the life and work of the talented artist, exploring his inspirations, techniques, and the impact of his art on both the local and global stage.

Oren Rozen, add fuel street art
Mural: Add Fuel. Photo: Oren Rozen, Wikimedia Commons.

    Early Life and Artistic Beginnings

    Diogo Machado was born in Cascais in 1980, a coastal town in Portugal known for its picturesque beaches, historic architecture, and vibrant art scene. Growing up in this environment, Machado was exposed to a variety of artistic influences that would eventually shape his work. From a young age, Machado showed a keen interest in drawing and sketching, and as he grew older, he began to explore different forms of artistic expression, including graffiti and street art.

    Machado pursued formal art education at the Lisbon University of Fine Arts, where he studied graphic design. While he appreciated the skills and knowledge gained from his academic pursuits, he felt that his true calling lay in street art. It was during this time that he adopted the pseudonym Add Fuel, a name that would come to define his artistic identity.

    street art mural by add fuel
    Artwork: Add Fuel. Photo: r2hox from Madrid, Spain, Wikimedia Commons.

    Inspiration and Style

    Add Fuel's work is deeply rooted in Portuguese culture, drawing inspiration from the nation's history, traditions, and visual aesthetics. One of his signature elements is the reinterpretation of the azulejo, a traditional Portuguese ceramic tile used to adorn the facades of buildings, churches, and palaces.

    In his murals, Add Fuel uses the azulejo as a canvas upon which he weaves intricate patterns and designs, blending traditional and contemporary visual elements. His work often features bold, striking colours and geometric shapes, which create a visually engaging contrast with the intricate patterns of the azulejo. This unique fusion of old and new has become the hallmark of Add Fuel's work, setting him apart from other street artists in the scene.

    The fusion of traditional and contemporary elements in Add Fuel's work can also be seen in his subject matter. He often tackles social, political, and environmental issues, using his art as a platform to engage with audiences and provoke thought and conversation. This blend of cultural commentary and visual innovation has resonated with people from diverse backgrounds, allowing his work to transcend cultural boundaries and appeal to a global audience.

    add fuel street art mural on the side of a house
    Mural: Add Fuel. Photo: wuppertaler, Wikimedia Commons.

    Techniques and Innovations

    Add Fuel's creative process begins with extensive research and planning. He studies the history and culture of the location where he will be creating his mural, in order to understand its unique characteristics and significance. This research informs the visual elements and themes that he incorporates into his work.
    In terms of technique, Add Fuel employs both traditional and digital tools to bring his visions to life. He begins by sketching his designs on paper or using digital illustration software. Once he has developed a clear vision for the mural, he transfers his design onto the wall using stencils or freehand painting, depending on the complexity of the piece.

    One of Add Fuel's most significant innovations is his use of stencils to create intricate, large-scale murals. This technique allows him to achieve a level of precision and detail that would be difficult to replicate by hand. He often creates multiple layers of stencils, which he painstakingly cuts out by hand, in order to achieve the desired level of depth and complexity in his work.

    Projects and Collaborations

    Over the years, Add Fuel has been involved in numerous projects and collaborations, both in Portugal and abroad. Some of his most notable works include:

    • "TILE MILE" - This ambitious project in 2016 involved the creation of a one-mile-long mural along the walls of a pedestrian tunnel in London. The mural featured a series of intricate azulejo-inspired patterns, which paid homage to the rich history of Portuguese tile-making while simultaneously celebrating the vibrant multiculturalism of London.
    • "CRAFTED" - In 2017, Add Fuel was commissioned by the Swiss watch company Swatch to create a limited-edition watch as part of their artist collaboration series. The watch, aptly named "Crafted," featured Add Fuel's signature azulejo-inspired patterns and colours, encapsulating his unique style in a wearable piece of art.
    • "DIÁLOGO" - In 2018, Add Fuel was invited to participate in the "Arte Pública Leva-te ao Largo" project, a public art initiative in Lisbon. His contribution, titled "Diálogo," was a large-scale mural that depicted a conversation between two characters from different time periods, reflecting the city's rich history and diverse cultural influences.
    • "RETRATOS" - In 2019, Add Fuel collaborated with the Portuguese organisation "Muros Que Falam," which aims to promote social integration through street art. For this project, he created a series of murals in Lisbon's Quinta do Mocho neighbourhood, featuring portraits of local residents rendered in his distinctive azulejo-inspired style.

    Impact on the Art Scene

    Add Fuel's work has had a profound impact on the street art scene, both in Portugal and internationally. His unique fusion of traditional and contemporary elements has been celebrated as a breath of fresh air, offering a fresh perspective on the potential of street art as a medium for cultural expression and social commentary.

    Moreover, Add Fuel has contributed to the growing recognition of street art as a legitimate and valuable form of artistic expression. His collaboration with brands like Swatch and participation in prestigious art festivals and projects have helped to elevate the status of street art in the eyes of the public and the art world alike.

    In Portugal, Add Fuel has played a significant role in revitalising the nation's street art scene, inspiring a new generation of artists to explore the possibilities of this dynamic medium. His work has also helped to promote Portuguese culture and history on a global scale, as his murals have attracted the attention of art enthusiasts, tourists, and the media from around the world.

    From the streets of Cascais to the international art scene, Add Fuel's journey as an artist has been nothing short of remarkable. Through his distinctive style, innovative techniques, and thought-provoking subject matter, he has captivated audiences and garnered widespread acclaim for his unique brand of street art.

    As his work continues to evolve and push the boundaries of what street art can achieve, Add Fuel's impact on the art world is sure to be felt for years to come. His art not only enriches our visual landscape but also invites us to reflect on our own history, culture, and the world around us. In doing so, Add Fuel has cemented his place as one of the most influential street artists of his generation.


    Q: How did Add Fuel first become interested in the azulejo as a major element in his artwork? 

    A: Add Fuel was drawn to the azulejo because of its strong connection to Portuguese history, culture, and visual aesthetics. He saw the potential in reinterpreting and reimagining this traditional art form in a contemporary context, using it as a way to bridge the past and present in his work.

    Q: How long does it typically take Add Fuel to complete a mural? 

    A: The time it takes Add Fuel to complete a mural varies depending on factors such as the size and complexity of the piece, as well as the specific techniques and materials used. Generally, his murals can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks to complete.

    Q: What materials does Add Fuel use in his murals, apart from paint? 

    A: Add Fuel primarily uses acrylic and spray paint for his murals. However, he may also incorporate other materials, such as paper or fabric, to create texture and depth in his work.

    Q: Are there any recurring themes or motifs that can be observed in Add Fuel's body of work?

    A: In addition to the azulejo, Add Fuel often explores themes of identity, cultural heritage, and the passage of time in his work. His murals frequently feature elements from Portuguese folklore, as well as visual references to the natural world and urban landscapes.

    Q: How has Add Fuel's background in graphic design influenced his approach to street art?

    A: Add Fuel's training in graphic design has equipped him with a strong understanding of composition, colour theory, and visual storytelling. These skills have informed his approach to mural design, allowing him to create visually striking and cohesive works that effectively communicate his intended message.

    Q: How does Add Fuel view the relationship between street art and the communities in which it is created? 

    A: Add Fuel believes that street art has the power to foster dialogue and connection within communities, as well as to provoke thought and inspire change. He sees his work as a means of engaging with local residents and inviting them to reflect on their own histories, cultures, and shared experiences.

    Q: Has Add Fuel ever mentored or taught other aspiring street artists? 

    A: While there is no specific information about Add Fuel formally mentoring or teaching other artists, he has undoubtedly inspired many emerging street artists through his work, collaborations, and participation in public art initiatives.

    Q: What advice does Add Fuel have for aspiring street artists looking to develop their own unique style and voice? 

    A: Add Fuel encourages aspiring street artists to explore a wide range of artistic influences, experiment with different techniques, and remain true to their own vision and passions. He also emphasises the importance of perseverance and hard work in building a successful career in the arts.

    Q: Has Add Fuel ever created artwork for commercial purposes or advertising campaigns? 

    A: Yes, Add Fuel has collaborated with brands like Swatch and has created artwork for commercial purposes. However, he remains selective about the projects he takes on, ensuring that they align with his artistic values and vision.

    Q: Does Add Fuel sell prints or merchandise featuring his artwork? 

    A: While there is no specific information on Add Fuel selling prints or merchandise, it is not uncommon for street artists to sell prints, merchandise, or original artwork through their websites or social media channels. Fans of Add Fuel's work should check his official website and social media profiles for information on available artworks or merchandise.

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