Meet Luisa, a freelance illustrator from Bogotá, Colombia. Luisa graduated as a graphic designer from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, when illustration courses were scarce, but was always convinced that’s what she wanted to do. Luisa also has a MA in Art and Design from the University of Loughborough and has been working as a freelance illustrator for 12 years.
She enjoys working on children’s books and from time to time she works on advertising, editorial illustration and animation. The most recent projects she has been a part of have been nominated for the Lápiz de Acero award, the most important design award in Colombia, and last year her work was selected to be part of the Iberoamerica Ilustra illustration catalog, a prestigious selection of Spanish-speaking illustrators working in children’s literature. Currently she lives in Bogota, Colombia with her boyfriend and her cat Nina.
You can read more about her practice below and see more of her projects on her website here:
What does your workspace look like? Do you have any collections or items you keep close to your workspace for inspiration?
I work from home, in a room that is half my studio/office and half my boyfriend’s fly tying bench (he’s an avid fly fisherman and ties his own flies). There’s a big window in front of the drawing table that looks onto the terrace and the city beyond, which makes for a great view when I need a break from the screen.
I’m a messy person, so there’s always a lot of stuff around. There’s a place for sketching next to the computer so I can work on paper from time to time, and I have a growing collection of picture books (my favorite thing in the world!) so there’s always one or two around depending on what I’m working on at the time. I also keep a box on the table for the cat, who has to see what I’m doing all the time.
Where do you look for inspiration? Do you have any favorite movies, TV shows or books? Are there any blogs that you follow, which ones? Are there any artists you look up to and why? What do they do?
I love children’s books of all kinds, but most of all picture books. The unique combination of text and image makes for exciting new ways of telling stories, and there are some amazing authors/illustrators working on these types of books right now. These are the artists I can think of right now, that I’ve been coming back to for inspiration:
They all have books worth investigating!
Shaun Tan, Beatrice Alemagna, ATAK, Isidro Ferrer, Blexbolex, Laurent Moreau (genius!), Isabelle Arsenault , Jon Klassen and Carson Ellis.
There’s also Flying Eye Books, the children’s imprint of Nobrow Press, for great modern picture books.
Could you walk us through the process of how you create one of your illustrations? Ideation, sketch phase and final illustration? Do you have a preferred media, or a favorite/indispensable art tool?
I usually spend too much time thinking. When I start sketching I already have , more or less, a clear idea of what I want the illustration to look like, and if I have the time I try to develop the concept a bit more on paper. If not, I do everything on the computer. After I manage a decent thumbnail I work on the full size sketch, defining details. Then, I work on flat shapes and final color - every shape a separate layer. Finally, I add lines and shading/texture. I cannot live without my tablet, but I like pencil the most, when I have time and freedom to choose.
Thinking about duality and the juxtaposition in artwork, could you tell me about what you created for the Never Odd or Even exhibition? Why were you interested in this subject, and what inspired you to create this piece? Do you have any in progress photos of this project that you could share with us?
I’ve always wanted to make a variation on a playing card, a piece that works upside down but with a more complex concept than just a reflection of the same image. At first I wanted to work with different patterns and two opposite ideas, but in the coloring stage I decided to keep it simple and use a limited palette. One side represents day/human nature, and the other night/wild or animal nature. In the end you can put either face up, it’s just two sides of the same thing.
A lot of your work creates a very adventurous narrative, does that come from your life experiences? Does your traveling and living in different places inspire some of the settings and landscapes you create? Do you have any favorite children’s books that inspire you to create narratives in the magical and fantastical?
I’ve always had a bit of trouble living in the real world. Ever since I can remember I’ve loved stories and books of all kinds, and I used to raid my parent’s library looking for things to read, even if they weren’t age appropriate. When I was in middle school, I discovered fantasy (The Lord of the Rings and such). It was a revelation that immensely complex worlds, completely different from our own could be built and shared, and we could be a part of them even if only for a bit inside our heads.
I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to travel and study abroad, which is not something a lot of people get to do, and it has opened my mind to the way other people live, and to their different stories. I think one of the reasons why I love fantasy and adventure so much is that it’s an escape from the usual narratives and experiences of violence and injustice that permeate Colombian society, even though as an upper-middle class woman living in the capital I’m shielded from the harsher realities of living in this country.
As for books, I have to obviously mention the original escapist fantasy, Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Right now, I’m a fan of Laurent Moreau's Jour de Pêche and A Quoi Penses-Tu? and it seems I’m close to attaining every book illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault.
Could you tell me a bit more about what your creative community is like? I’d like to hear about how you reach out to other artists and collaborate either in Colombia or in other parts of the world. What have your experiences in different communities around the world taught you about collaboration? Do you have any particular experiences that are special to you in the collaboration of books or other projects?
We have a flourishing illustration community here in Bogotá, something that did not exist years ago when I was in college. There are a lot of initiatives, workshops and events that pop-up around art, illustration and literature, created and cultivated by young people that take advantage of social media and new spaces like galleries and such around the city. I think something that distinguishes us from other communities is that we manage to produce so much with quite little, most of the time resources are limited and there’s not a lot of institutional support.
I can think of two examples of collaboration: One, I was happy to be a small part of this project called Color Piel (in English would be “flesh tone”), a collection of stories put together by Wilson Borja, a fantastic Colombian illustrator and artist. It highlights the experiences of people of color, and the different ways in which systemic racism affects their everyday lives. These kinds of projects are not possible without collaboration and people coming together. And two, a couple of old friends and I have made this tumblr page: Three Human Beans, where we do mash-ups of two different concepts and see what comes out. It’s been funny and weird and a good exercise, even if it doesn’t work every time.
Do you have a favorite project you have previously worked on and why? What makes it unique from the others? What would be your dream project? Is there anything you haven’t done yet that you would love to work on?
Actually, the embroidery piece I did for LGAL’s Patches + Stitches exhibition comes to mind. I would not have discovered embroidery and how much I like it if I hadn’t been a part of it! It was fun to do something in a completely different medium.
My dream project would be the picture book I’m starting to work on and I’m hoping to finish by the end of the year. It would be my first book as an author and something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.
Can you talk about any upcoming or current projects you are really excited about?
Sure! Aside from the book I just mentioned I’m working on an illustrated version of Snow White for a British publisher; I was very happy to be given the chance to do a fairy tale, they’re always fun to do. I also just finished illustrating the Spanish edition of a MG book from a well-known American writer, and I was quite pleased with how it turned out, which doesn’t happen so often.
Anything else you would like to add?
I think that’s about it! Thank you!
Where can people find your work?
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lupencita for photos and everyday stuff
Tumblr: http://lupencita.tumblr.com for a bit of everything
Thanks a ton, Luisa!