Interview with Luisa Rivera

by Friday, August 18, 2017

Hello Luisa, you’re originally from Chile and now live in London, Uk. How did you get there, what is your story?

I was born and raised in Santiago, Chile. I always wanted to travel abroad to move out of my comfort zone. When my fine arts degree was finished, I decided to specialize in illustration so, thanks to the Fulbright program, I was able to study a Masters degree in the United States. I enjoyed the experience so much that I wanted to keep traveling so here I am, living in London since 2015!

Your impressive portfolio reveals a “hard working” attitude, maybe routine and being strict with yourself is very important everyday, what is a day in your life? Tell me about your daily routine.

My daily routine changes because I am self-represented; therefore, some days are more about work, others about promotion, others about business aspects. That involves a lot of work, so discipline is definitely a key element in my craft.

Have you always wanted to be an illustrator? When you started working ‘professionally’ how did you develop your distinctive visual language which we see in your work today?

I grew up surrounded by illustrated books, but illustration wasn’t a career path in Chile. You were either strictly visual artist or graphic designer, so it never occurred to me to become an illustrator when I was growing up. The encounter with illustration happened during the last year of university, when I had the opportunity to illustrate a story for a publishing project. It blew my mind: it was literature, art, storytelling, all in one.

You do many illustrations for magazine columns/articles. When you get a commission like this, what is the process? What are the steps you take, from the moment you get the brief, until it’s ready to be delivered?

Normally, when I get the story from the client, I process it and then start with quick thumbnails to envision the idea or composition. Once I have that, I pick my favorite directions and create larger sketches, which I then present to the art director. After he or she selects one, I start with the final work, which is normally created with water-based paints.

This is something that happens very often when trying to come up with one perfect concept: you get lost in too many possible approaches. Do you have any tips on how to “take a step back” and reduce everything to one idea? Especially when this is a team work, so it’s not just you?

I think intuition is the best tool, that is, reacting from your guts. Also, if you are blocked it’s good to do something else, like going for a walk, because a brief break can refresh your brain. And, personally, I ask my mom! She is not an illustrator, but she is so good with advices.

Which of your projects has been most important to developing your personal style?

I like to see projects as a chain of events, rather than isolated occurrences, so everything that I have done in the past has shaped what I am doing today.


And how much attention do you pay to the feedback of others on your work?

Illustration is about creating worlds or stories, so I feel happy when someone engages with what I do. However, I wouldn’t shape my work differently due to external feedback, because being true to my practice is more important than approval.

I love your Fata Morgana piece, it’s so beautifully bold, a great color palette on a stunning composition. How did you get inspired for this image?

I am not sure, because it just happened. Even the title came afterwards. I was playing with a sketch, and suddenly the image was there. Sometimes I like to use that “serendipity method” in my personal work.

How key is the sketchbook to your process? Do you ever look back over them and find any gems to use in current/ future projects? Tell me about how your sketches form into the final artwork we see.

My sketchbook is a strange place. I don’t use is for thumbnails. Instead, I make finished work, but quicker than my paintings. Only occasionally I take some of them into a different and larger format.

When it comes to the subject matter for your personal illustrations, aside from the work that you are commissioned to make, do you have any areas that you are particularly interested in?

Yes, both the female figure and nature are at the heart of my work. It happened intuitively, as my experiences in this world come from those themes, but now I am aware of that content and create artwork examining those topics.

Do you remember the very first piece of art that you worked up?

Not sure if it can be considered piece of art, but I drew a lot when I was a kid, and I remember a specific drawing that I did for my mom; it was a tree from my grandmother’s garden and instead of leaves it was full of green parrots. I always have it on the back of my mind.

Who’s the first illustrator that comes to your mind in a second? 

Maurice Sendak


When you were 13, what did you want to be?

At age 13 I wasn’t thinking about the future at all, but at 14 or 15 I wanted to be a writer.

Now what’s the hardest and the easiest (satisfying) part of your illustration passion?

The hardest, is to find a balance between life and work. I spend too many hours doing what I do, and sometimes it’s hard to stop. But the most satisfying is the work itself. I just love it. There’s something about creating worlds that time flies while painting, and I feel complete.

These days in the office turns a trick, tell me what will you do, or what would you like to do, in 5 months, 5 years, 10 years.

I have learned not to peek too much into the future, because that’s how you make room for the unexpected. Five years ago I would have never expected to be where I am today, so I am trying to stay focused on the present.


Here we go, Proust Questionnaire:


– Your favorite virtue?



– Your main fault?



– Your idea of happiness?

My loved ones and sunny weather..


– If not yourself, who would you be?

A farmer.


– How you wish to die?



– What is your present state of mind?



Luisa Rivera on Instagram

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