Last month, we debuted our brand new Working Spaces series with Owen Davey and Lucy Sherston, two illustrators working from home and a shared studio respectively. These are generally set-ups that work well for many creatives, while others prefer to mix things up in order to let their creativity flow.
Here’s where we introduce María Luque: an illustrator from Rosario, Argentina, specialising in richly colourful illustrations, comics and self-published zines. You might already know her immersive work, or be aware that she’s one of this year’s WIA judges for the Exploration category.
We were taken by María’s imaginative versatility, and the way she constantly switches her working environment. Always travelling and in the public eye, she enjoys creating her work in cafés, libraries, exhibitions, and other local joints. In this interview we proceed to find out more.
Why do you like working in public spaces, and how does it benefit your practice?
I haven’t had a fixed place to live for some years. I travel a lot and change cities often, and I don’t really have a set workshop or studio space. I discovered that I felt much more comfortable working in public spaces (especially in cafés). I like not having all of my materials on me – I have to work with what I got and with the tools that fit in my bag (which usually is quite small and compact).
I can listen to conversations from neighbouring tables while I draw, and that often helps me come up with new clear ideas for future projects. I also love drawing in libraries (especially the ones in museums!) which usually don’t have many people, and are very tranquil spaces with very big tables. I also draw when visiting exhibitions, looking at painting collections or popular art, making my own versions of what I see in my sketchbook.
I have gotten used to this way of working and (for now) I don’t really feel like going back to a studio. I like that depending on the day and what I need to do, I can choose where to go, and everything that happens around me can somehow end up in my drawings.
The only downside is that I may eat too many croissants…
Which are your favourite ever places to work and why?
I have my favourite sites in different cities and each one is different. In Buenos Aires my go-to café is called Varela Varelita. I discovered it for the first time when my friend Powerpaola took me, right after I’d broken up with my boyfriend and I was feeling incredibly sad. I ordered a latte and the barista drew a heart with an arrow on the foam for me. It made me cry, and from that moment I knew that this would be my place.
I can draw there for hours. I know many of the regulars and we chat, they distract me while I work.
L: Foam art at Varela Varelita / R: Roma di Notte
When I’m in Rosario I go to Homero, where I also know the baristas. They look at my drawings, they ask me what I’m working on, and we chat.
Now I’m living in Rome and I work in various sites which I love: The Chiostro del Bramante is the one I frequent the most – it’s an old cloister now converted into a museum and they have a café. The bar is usually very small and empty, and it’s perfect to work in. Here in Rome there are also many libraries – the one I enjoy the most is la Angelica, which exists since the 1600s and is covered with books from the floor to the roof.
How do you fight loneliness? or do you prefer working on your own?
I really enjoy my own company actually. Generally, I like working by myself, but sometimes I share those working hours with friends and peers.
10 years ago I actually didn’t have many artist friends and I felt very lonely, so I created a project called Merienda Dibujo (Drawing Tea Time). Back then I had a small workshop at the back of my parents’ house in Rosario, and I had a table which only sat two people. Once a week I invited someone to spend the afternoon with me. I’d buy something nice to eat, I’d take some photos and then I’d write all about it in my blog. I took advantage of those times to invite artists I admired, get to know them well and ask them questions, and also to see how they created their work and what materials they used. I learnt so much from them.
L: Dear Henri / R: Dear Foujita
The project lasted some years and the tea times increasingly became more regular. When I stopped having that workshop space I moved the encounters to cafés, museums, and we even went camping once to a nearby island for a few days. Bit by bit those special guests became close friends, so the meet-ups became more spontaneous and natural. I have now stopped updating this blog, and the ‘tea times’ are now part of my every day routine.
How do you organise yourself and distribute your time working in different places?
I found that I like to switch between various projects at the same time. I illustrate book and magazine commissions, whilst I make my own graphic novel projects and paint for myself for future exhibitions. Some days I create some comic panels in the morning, in the afternoon I paint a little, and the next day I work on a commission. This way I keep myself entertained, and I don’t tire myself of doing the same thing.
I think that varying things out helps me keep momentum and enthusiasm. Changing places also really helps me. Libraries can be perfect to make comics but usually painting is not allowed, so then I may decide to go to a café.
Many thanks to María for taking part in our interview! See more of her work on Instagram.
Read our first Working Spaces article with Owen Davey and Lucy Sherston.
And while you’re here, help us out – we’re compiling a listing of studio spaces in the UK.
If you know of a space you’d like us to include, let us know!