María Jesús Contreras’ illustrations are here to help make anxiety pangs more manageable

The illustrator’s vibrant graphics are a testament to her ferocity in overcoming anxiety about her craft through a boldness of colour paired against covertly misshapen darkness.

9 September 2021

“I love drawing more than anything on earth, I try to draw everything I think about,” says María Jesús Contreras. For the Chilean artist, it’s very exciting that something that is not necessarily interesting in everyday life can be fascinating within a drawing. “I can give importance to a phrase that I hear around, or to small and forgotten objects.”

Maria always wanted art to be the source of her work, “but in Chile, if you are not an engineer or a doctor, you are a little lost,” she tells me – not a far cry from my own Arab upbringing, so I can understand what she means. Maria was a good student. She thought that it was selfish to only think of herself and to study the arts, since every form of education in Chile is private. So she enrolled to study engineering but gave up because she cried in every class. Instead, she ran off to the circus… not really, but it was something similar: graphic design, at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

“Sometimes I feel so lucky and grateful for the opportunities I have had that I feel ashamed, and I suffer thinking that there are people who deserve it more than I do,” says Maria, her imposter syndrome breaking through, another common feeling for many artists. “It also makes me think of all the other people from South America like me that can’t always make an artistic career because of the fear and lack of opportunities.”


Copyright © María Jesús Contreras, 2021

Maria chooses to categorise her artistic method as less of a “process” but more of an exercise in observation: “I am always attentive to memes, taking photos of everything that I find funny or interesting in the street, I record voice notes that I send myself by WhatsApp. Then at the end of the week I choose the ones that I still find good, draw them and choose a style for them.” Her work has evolved significantly in the past year or so since we featured her last thanks to this dedicated and prolific approach.

She tells us that she finds it hard to be consistent with a style and social networks demand it a bit, so she finds her way around this by using a similar colour palette for very different drawings. “After all this I pass it on to the Wacom One that I bought second-hand and which I fight with all day, and then I upload it to my networks and I throw the phone away so I don't get anxious about feedback.”

It’s hard for any artist to choose a favourite project of theirs, mostly because of modesty. But for Maria, any album cover, because she loves music – “who doesn't?” It is a “privilege,” she says, “to receive many commissions of this type, and that other artists trust me is an honour.” She tells It’s Nice that, “I have had the opportunity to work with labels such as Warner and Universal and now I am very excited about a project with the French label Nice Guys.”

GalleryCopyright © María Jesús Contreras, 2021

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Copyright © María Jesús Contreras, 2021

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About the Author

Dalia Al-Dujaili

Dalia is a freelance writer, producer and editor based in London. She’s currently the digital editor of Azeema, and the editor-in-chief of The Road to Nowhere Magazine. Previously, she was news writer at It’s Nice That, after graduating in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh.

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