This Valencia-born, Barcelona-based artist, who is also a new mum, is one of the best illustrators on the international scene. Her unique style and distinctive technique grace the pages of numerous books, are displayed in exhibitions worldwide and form part of major brand campaigns.
As one of the artists included in Volume 5 of Taschen’s Illustration Now! series she has gained international recognition for her work and secured herself a place as a world-class illustrator. Not that you would know it from meeting her, she still has her feet firmly on the ground, remaining true to the little girl who signed her early drawings as Mariasso and dreamed of being able to make a living with her pencils. We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to hear her story!
Maria, define yourself in three words.
Empathetic, sincere and restless.
Tell us a little bit about your career path.
I was hyperactive as a child and was only quiet when I was drawing or reading. I signed my ‘work’ as Mariasso (Maria + Picasso) and was the artist for my class, for my group of friends… I knew that it was the only thing I wanted to do. Once I’d finished school I carried on pursuing my passion and, despite limited advantages and things being hard at times, I think that perseverance and having faith have been instrumental in getting me to where I am now.
What are your influences?
Sergio Leone, Alice Neel, George Condo, Yasujiro Ozu, Virginia Woolf, Kanye West…
And your sources of inspiration?
I like to look for them in other disciplines such as film, photography and music.
How do you go about developing a project?
I’m very inquisitive and when I’m passionate about a subject I do lots and lots of research… That’s where the ideas I want to convey come from.
What kind of jewellery do your characters wear?
Two extremes: either something very decadent and baroque or something minimal and Japanese.
And you? Are you a jewellery person? What do you like?
I like wearing very simple things, but I do, for example, have seven earrings in my right ear… And for special occasions when I go for something eye-catching, I go all out.
You’ve recently had a baby; how do you think becoming a mother will influence your work?
Naturally my interests haven’t changed; if anything you put a bit more emphasis on the emotional aspects of life.
Is the world of children’s illustration something that interests you?
Not particularly. I know they do beautiful things but it’s not for me. I would do (and have done some) children’s illustration if I was able to do the same type of work I would produce for an adult audience. I think children can cope with much more ‘complex’ graphics than we make available to them.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I work hard so that I can go away and travel and then I make the most of the time to squeeze in everything I possibly can. I love sunbathing, visiting bookshops, looking for crafts and second-hand treasures, hammocks, reading…
Do you have any particular favourites in your portfolio of projects?
Once I’ve finished a project I tend not to analyse it too much; my mind’s always on what I’m doing now. To give an example, the portrait I’ve exhibited for the second year at the Illustration and Contemporary Life Art Festival at the Beijing Royal Palace in China.
Frank, by Jim Woodring.
A person to draw.
I’m not bound to any specifically. Right now, yellow.
A work of art.
Mother and child by Alice Neel.
Which of the pieces in our SS18 collection do you particularly like? Why?
I love the entire Pebbles collection because it looks like a drawing at the same time as being organic. I also think the Magnolia necklace is especially beautiful because it reminds me of the garland of flowers they put around your neck when you arrive in Nepal.