Above the Fold: Zoraida Zaro, Illustrator
In Above the Fold, we spotlight individual members of Coroflot's vibrant creative community. The idea is to take you behind the scenes and inside the minds of talented Coroflot members who we think are doing exceptional work. Coroflot was created by designers, for designers, and Above the Fold is the place where we can talk to creatives about work that we not only love, but think you'll love too!
The work of Zoraida Zaro first came to our attention when she posted a project on Coroflot simply called Caricatures. We were entranced by the trippy approach she took to drawing notable figures like Alice Cooper, Steve Buscemi, and Janis Joplin. It was clear this illustrator had a completely unique and original style. Though she has a background in art and much of her work dwells in that realm, Zoraida does plenty of illustration professionally. She regularly takes on freelance work illustration work for advertising agencies, textbook publishers, humor publications for adults and children, and small publishers. As a result, she has amassed a truly standout portfolio, and we had to chat with her about it.
Was there a specific moment in life where you realized you wanted to pursue a creative path?
Zoraida Zaro: When I was 5 years old, I was convinced that I was going to be a painter when I became adult, and that's what I [would tell] everyone when I was asked for my vocation and professional future. A preschool partner told me that I would starve, because that is what happens to painters. That didn't scare me and I reaffirmed myself in my statement, so I guess that was my specific moment.
Who are your design heroes?
To be honest, my interests have always been focused more on illustration and comics, so my main influences are not designers. There are many people of very different styles of which I'm a huge fan: Jean Giraud Moebius, Otomo, Mignola, Cyril Pedrosa, Jamie Hewlett, Simon Bisley, Claire Wendling, Nicolas de Crecy, Shaun Tan, Carl Larsson, Arthur Rackham, Ivan Bilibin, Alphonse Mucha...an endless list that continues growing day by day with classics, contemporaries, and people younger than me who have a lot of talent.
Can you share some details about your most recent project?
One of the last ones was a proposal for an illustrated children's album that I presented to a contest. I didn't win, but I learned a lot of things doing it. The model I presented to the contest had many fails in terms of double page design. I think that sometimes there are projects that are worth more for what you learn by doing them than for the final success they have, and this would be an example. I was aware of my limitations while doing so, and now that a few months have passed, I see the faults more clearly. I have to review it to make it really presentable to a publisher.
Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?
I have a few personal projects that are at a very early stage. For example, I've a few short stories that I wrote some time ago with their corresponding sketches, and now I'm redoing them to present them as an illustrated book project to a few publishers. On the other hand, I have a project that was rejected by some publishers but I think that it is interesting, at least graphically, so I'm thinking about giving it a second life as a self-published fanzine.
Walk us through some of your process for creating.
The first thing is to have an idea that for some reason seems good to me: maybe it makes me smile, maybe it surprises me, maybe it can be translated into a powerful image...whatever. From there it's convenient to do some quick sketches, sometimes the first image we had in mind is not the best composition or the best approach. When you think you have that clear, it's already a matter of choosing materials: maybe your idea is better for watercolor, or ink, or maybe you'd better do it fully digital. It is about putting the tools at the service of the ideas, not the other way around. I like to ask opinions of people close to me. Those who are illustrators too usually provide technical solutions, and those who aren't illustrators have very interesting points of view as spectators.
Are there any projects (professional or personal) that you are especially proud of?
I'm quite happy with " Primeras veces" ("First times") and "Breve Gatopedia Ilustrada" ("Brief Illustrated Catpedia).
"Primeras veces" ("First times") was a fanzine published by Ultrarradio Ediciones, an independent publisher from Madrid. They made two little prints in 2013 and 2014 that were sold out very soon. One of the people who bought a copy was another independent publisher from France (Editions L'OEuf), who proposed me to translate it and to re-edit it with a larger print. The translation was very difficult because I used to write with many puns and untranslatable jokes, but they published it in France in 2015, with a magnificent edition and a lot of copies. I never thought a fanzine would come this far.
"Breve Gatopedia Ilustrada" ("Brief Illustrated Catpedia") is my first professional illustrated album as "total author". The publisher (Lata de Sal Editorial) was enthusiastic from the moment I sent the project and they gave me absolute freedom to write and illustrate what I wanted. In the past I've worked as illustrator of educational texts or third-party texts, so having freedom to write and decide which drawings are going to accompany the text it's just great. And the truth is that it's amazing to go to a bookstore and see something you've done alongside books by some of your favorite authors, or see a child reading a book you've made. The contact with readers of your work is something absolutely great that makes each day and night of isolated work worthwhile.
What tools (physical or digital) do you find yourself using repeatedly?
Red pencil for sketches and lines that will be inked (I used a blue pencil for years, but red seems easier to clean digitally if you're going to scan it). Pentel brush, calibrated markers (specially 0'05 ones) and Tachikawa pens for inking. As for digital tools, I NEED a scanner, a graphic tablet, and Photoshop. I also use Painter.
Do you have a ritual for getting in work/design mode (music you listen to, certain exercise, food you eat) aka a productivity tip?
I've a fixation with putting background music that I believe is related to what I'm going to draw. That leads me to make associations of ideas while I'm drawing and sometimes, to listen to music that I wouldn't hear in any other circumstances. I usually drink several cups of tea and coffee while drawing, and I have the bad habit of smoking at the same time.
Outside of your professional life, do you have any other creative outlets or hobbies?
Recently, I've started to go to a pottery workshop, modeling is something I've always liked. I also like to draw small comic strips with silly things that happen to me day by day. When I go out to the street I like to take the camera with me, there is always something curious or funny to be photographed. When I sit on a bar terrace, I like to observe people and sometimes I make quick sketches of them and their conversations. My partner gave me a tattoo machine that is waiting for me to start to do something. I'm also interested in screen-printing (home level) and engraving. I'm a bit scattered, I guess.
Do you have any tips for getting the most out of your Coroflot portfolio?
I think it's important to choose projects that you're really satisfied with: I prefer to publish a personal project that I really like before a professional project that doesn't convince me at all, regardless of whether it has been done for a known, "famous" client. I also think it's important to have some self-criticism, not to publish anything just for the fact of "being active". And don't forget to interact with other users, you can learn a lot of others.