Back when illustrator María Menem was studying the arts her work was enriched by “painting and printing techniques such as engraving and screen printing,” she tells It’s Nice That. This growing interest in the many routes of printing led to comics, a format that her illustrations largely sit within now. “It’s true that I’ve always been interested in narrating and that I’ve been a keen reader of comics since I was a little girl, but until then [when she completed her studies] I felt I didn’t have the right tools to convey what I wanted.”
María’s comics are relatively illusive, largely due to the fact they contain no text, but the narrative is within her swift line marks and shapely characters with direct expressions. This is due to the illustrator’s ethos of paying attention “to everything that has to do with storytelling, not just in comics but also films and books as well, in order to absorb different ways to wrap my stories up,” she explains. “I don’t want my plots to fall into cliched solutions, but I also don’t want the pace to be lost or the message to become indecipherable either, no matter how strange or abstract it might be. Finding this sort of balance is what I find the hardest.”
Despite including no text in the comics featured below, María explains that she pays attention to a pre-written script, the layout and colour, during the process, “even though that seems like saying ‘I pay most attention to everything’ haha”, she says. “I’m fond of intimate and paradoxical stories, as to provoke a sense of estrangement in the reader. For instance, these days I’m preparing mute, single page comics as an exercise in solving impossible or ƒweird plot situations with the bare minimum.”
An air of the strange that dominates the illustrator’s recent work is conveyed in the colour palette, a tight dark range of oranges and deep blues. “As for layout and colour, I always try to convey something with them, I’m less interested in being realistic rather than creating a certain atmosphere. I prefer using just a few spot colours.” As a result her careful selection tells its own narrative.
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