Our Featured Artist: Mariajo Ilustrajo, World Illustration Awards winner

Mariajo Ilustrajo

Winsor & Newton recently had the pleasure of partnering with The Association of Illustrators to sponsor The World Illustration Awards. Hundreds of entrants at all levels took part from all over the world. We were inspired by the sheer talent showcased, so we decided to get to know some of the artists better.

We’ll be bringing you a selection of our favourite illustrators, sharing stories from their background, to what inspires them and how they have stayed creative in trying times.

Introducing Mariajo Ilustrajo, a Spanish illustrator and Overall New Talent winner.

Instagram: @ilustrajo

Tell us about yourself, your background, what inspired you to become an illustrator?

I have drawn since I can remember and all I did as a child was that. No one in my family was into art, but they always encouraged me to be whatever I wanted to be. Since I was very little it was clear to me that I wanted to become an “artist” when I grew up.

I graduated as an illustrator in 2011 from Arte 10, an art school in my hometown of Madrid. Since then, I’ve been a freelancer, completing projects for a wide range of clients. Illustrations for restaurant menus, websites, magazines, books, murals, you name it! Any project was a great opportunity to learn something new. This helped me to build an extensive portfolio and become more professional. I believe in constant development and improvement, so every experience has pushed me in different directions, learning new ways of working.

While freelancing, I moved to the UK and studied Graphic Communication at Bath Spa University. I always wanted to be a children’s book illustrator and author so completed a MA in Children’s Book Illustration at Anglia Ruskin University.

Tell us a little bit about your experience throughout this competition. What inspired you to enter? How did you create your winning piece?

Flooded is one of the projects I created for my Masters. During this project, I wanted to explore a new visual language, so I spent a lot of time exploring new ways of working, techniques and materials, such as acrylics, inks and collage. The one I chose, in the end, allowed me to recreate the freshness of the sketches, but it was a real struggle to find the voice I wanted to show. I think I am still working on it!

The idea started with a one-off lithography of animals walking at a London tube station. From there I started to develop my idea which ended up looking like a movie script. I was trying to tackle too many things for one project. So, if I wanted to focus on the visual language, I had to simplify the story working backwards to reduce it to a children’s book length.

The story could have some improvement, but I knew the artwork was good. So, I thought of entering. Why not? I never imagined I would win!

‘Flooded’ © Mariajo Ilustrajo
‘Flooded’ © Mariajo Ilustrajo

What is your favourite colour and why?

It depends, I’ve always been very attracted to Prussian Blue but I’m not sure why.

What is your favourite medium to work with and why?

It varies from time to time. Currently, I’m trying new ways of working using wet media such as watercolour, acrylic and ink. I especially like the freshness of the ink.

What would be your advice to artists and illustrators who are just starting out / learning?

Draw, draw and carry on. I think if you know the rules then it´s easier to break them. But most importantly enjoy what you do, allow for mistakes and don’t try to please anyone but yourself. If you keep true to yourself, exciting work will come up.

‘Flooded’ ©Mariajo Ilustrajo
‘Flooded’ ©Mariajo Ilustrajo

Do you have a typical routine you follow when you start a new piece; if so, what is it?

Every project is different but I tend to start with a sketch until I am pleased with the composition, proportions, shapes and then trace onto professional paper ready to add colour or directly adding colours and lines using a lightbox, as I did with Flooded.

Mariajo's studio set up. ©Mariajo Ilustrajo
Mariajo’s studio set up. ©Mariajo Ilustrajo

What inspires your work?

Colours, animals, old objects, architecture, travelling, the work of others, sometimes it can just be something funny or cute I saw on the street!

How did you stay active and creative through 2020?

It’s certainly been a rollercoaster of emotions, I struggled to keep my optimism at times. But I had a lot of freelance work so being inactive wasn´t an option! I have found it difficult to keep being creative at times, especially with the lack of social interaction, new experiences and not being able to draw in my favourite places, but I am trying to get back on track with my master’s experimentation and research of my new voice.

Mariajo's sketching at Borough Market in London ©Mariajo Ilustrajo
Mariajo’s sketching at Borough Market in London ©Mariajo Ilustrajo

What is your favourite W&N product to work with and why?

My Half Pan Watercolour Box! I’ve had it since the first time I came to visit London 10 years ago. The colours are lovely, and they last forever. I’m also in love with the Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brushes. I treated myself to a couple and it’s amazing how they retain the water and maintain the tip.

If you want to see more of Mariajo’s work, check out her website here.