AWT contributing artist Margherita Urbani is an illustrator, graphic designer and art director who brings distinctive personality to our pages. A native of Udine, Italy, Margherita’s work is influenced by days spent in her father (a preservation architect’s) studio, as well as an enduring love of travel. She moved to the States in 2008 after completing graduate school in Venice, and since then has been drawing for publications and commercial outlets like the New York Times, Air France magazine and Anthropologie. Her work spans different contexts, and continents, but it never fails to charm with its wide-eyed observations of the world, rendered with spontaneity and humor.
What’s different about working with a smaller publication like us to working for a big publication like New York Times?
With a daily publication like the New York Times you’re almost always responding to specific content and there’s usually a very fast turn-around. This can be good because the approval process is faster and for me it’s nice to work quickly. In my experience, smaller publications are printed less often so the timing is more generous. Sometimes there’s a looser theme too, which allows for more creative and personal exploration. This freedom is always refreshing.
What’s the interesting aspect of storytelling to you?
I remember struggling writing essays in school, but visual storytelling always came very naturally to me. I like the challenge of balancing pictures and words and how each component affects the other. When working on comics, I go back and forth a lot to find the best wording and visuals so that I am equally happy with both narratives. This is often a challenge but it’s very rewarding when it comes together.
We know you love comics in order to balance your personality—you’ve said that it “allows [you] to be more introverted.” Tell us more about that.
I’m a social person, but the nature of illustration, and especially comics, implies a lot of hours alone at the drafting table. While the writing and drawing process can be alienating at times, I really enjoy it as a means of focusing on yourself and unraveling your thoughts.
Tell us about the field of illustrations and comics from your perspective being a woman. Men seem to dominate that world when it comes to being successful.
Personally, maybe I think less about being a woman and more about being an outsider. There are many successful women in this field, especially compared to a few decades ago, like Gemma Correll, Ana Albero, Olimpia Zagnoli and Tiffany Cooper, to name a few.
Now, if only we were also paid the same as men. To this point, Elana Schlenker started a project called lessthan100 to support gender wage equality. I was excited to be part of their recent pop-up shop in New Orleans.
How did you find your illustrational style? You also have a very distinct color palette—how did you develop that over the years?
My style developed naturally, from years of drawing more and more. I’m inspired by underground comics, manga and 80s cartoons. I think that comes through in my art. I’d say the same for my color palette, but of course I have my favorites pairings, like pink-yellow-light blue. And as a designer, I love bold colors too so sometimes a limited palette is the way to go.
Margherita’s zine, TOKYO diary, is available for order from commune.