By any standard, this young illustrator is a citizen of the world. Raquel Aparicio was born in the World Heritage city of Ávila, Spain, which boasts one of the best-preserved city walls in the world, dating to the eleventh century, and was the birthplace and home of Saint Teresa of Jesus (she of the famous Bernini sculpture The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa).
Aparicio lived for a few years in Edinburgh, Scotland, and spent seven weeks in Florida, at the Illustration Academy in Sarasota where noted artists teach young illustrators in hands-on sessions. Afterward she led a collage illustration workshop at the Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid, and taught in diverse countries such as Serbia and Paraguay. Although residing in the coastal city of Valencia, Spain, at present, she claims she is still undecided about where she wants to live.
The charming 29-year-old, who likes “reading, drawing, cats and watching animated movies,” began her illustration career in 2006 and has created award-winning work for both advertising and editorial clients. Her international roster includes editorial work for the New York Times and The New York Times Magazine; Rolling Stone, Elle, Viajar and Yo Dona (Spain) and Stella (United Kingdom); advertising work for Nokia (Malaysia) and Wendy’s (United States) as well as work for a range of book publishers and Spanish institutions including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Government of Castille and León.
Aparicio works in a variety of media and explores different styles, producing illustrations, animations and comics. The results have been selected in juried competitions by American Illustration, Cine Joven, Communication Arts, Illustration West, Injuve, Opel Corsa and the Society of Illustrators.
As a child she found writing more compelling than illustration. “I wanted to be a poet or a writer,” she says. “A few weeks ago I went to visit my parents and found some of my writings. I’m glad I’m into drawing now!”
Her artistic inspirations are diverse. “So many things, I don’t know where to start,” Aparicio explains. “Because I feel influenced by other illustrators, but also indirectly inspired by the things I read and the movies I watch. I could point to Oscar Wilde as one of my biggest inspirations. I would not be fair if I didn’t speak about Kuniyoshi, I find his work fascinating.” Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) was one of the last great masters of the ukiyo-e style of Japanese woodblock printing and painting. You can see his influence in the flowing lines, delicate gestures and the dynamic palette of Aparicio's work.
She has a twin sister, Saelia, who is also an artist, albeit with a different style. “I feel quite fortunate having a twin. We have good times and bad times. She is an artist, mostly a sculptor, but she draws a lot too,” Aparicio shares. “She is far away now, living in London, but we [are] still helping each other.”
Aparicio’s illustrations are clever, often using nature as a metaphor and distinguished by her use of color and her collage technique. “I always try to tell stories with my images, so I focus on important parts of the illustration, and color helps a lot in the narration. Color is very important to me.”
When asked how she works, she replies, “I sketch a lot! Every day. My sketches are very rough and undefined but I record many ideas. I’m jealous of the people who have beautiful sketchbooks.”
Her process for editorial illustration harkens back to her first love, writing and reading. “I read the text, usually twice—maybe three times,” Aparicio relates. “I start to sketch without caring about [whether] the ideas are good or bad. I select two to four ideas that I feel are the best and e-mail them to the art director. If I get approval, I start working on it with traditional media and, later, I add some digital touches.”
Her favorite assignments are those in which “I get a little bit of freedom,” she says.
She describes her studio environment as “beautiful; I work from home in an old building from the 1930s. I have a lot of plants and natural light from my enclosed balcony. I literally work from the top of a staircase that is done with tiles. At my back is my visual library where I can check for references or inspiration.”
Aparicio’s work has a distinctly feminine point of view. One personal piece shows a surrealistic Giger-like monster applying lipstick to its extended tongue. Others depict pat-terns of women’s faces, and she created Half Naked, an erotic alphabet of barely clad women that was selected for inclusion in American Illustration 32, and published by DPI magazine in Taiwan. Displaying her trademark kawaii, or “cute” style, it is at once fetching and humorous.
Although her lifestyle doesn’t allow much proximity to the outdoors, Aparicio is deeply inspired by the natural world and often incorporates it into her editorial and book illustrations. “I love nature! Animals, plants, rocks,” Aparicio says. “I don’t spend a lot of time in nature to be truthful. I make little excursions with my bike out of the city and to parks, but I’m not a real country person. I live with two cats.” Her present home, Valencia, perhaps best known as the birth-place of paella, is also home to architect Santiago Calatrava’s futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, and is increasingly on the radar of intrepid travelers.
Kevin Lunsong, senior art director at Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai, who worked with Aparicio during his time at Euro RSCG in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, offers, “Raquel is a gem. Her articulation of things is quirky, nonsensical and refreshing. Sometimes you need that to inspire new thinking. It was such a wonderful experience working with her.”
Mark Mammot of Australian clothing and accessories company Monsterthreads agrees. “Raquel’s artwork has been a very popular part of the Monsterthreads range,” he says.
“We believe this is due to its beauty and the strong emotional response her work evokes from our customers. Monsterthreads loves every bit of working with Raquel. We love her enthusiasm and the warmth of her personality, both of which reflect in the wonderful and whimsical nature of her artwork. Over the years we have been in close contact with Raquel and despite never having met her in person, we consider her part of the Monsterthreads family.”
Aparicio enjoyed living in northern Europe and would like to move back some day, but for now, her homeland of Spain is a perfect setting for this international citizen to explore her imagination and experiment with different art media and ideas, from animal alphabets to creating modern fairytales. With such fertile territory to explore, who knows where she’ll travel next. ca