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Interview - Marcela Restrepo

Creative People

12th November, 2010
Lucy Feagins
Friday 12th November 2010

Marcela Restrepo's Darlinghurst illustration for The Design Files Neighbourhood Calendar!

'The things we do for love'. Good Weekend Magazine, Sydney Morning Herald. (St. Valentine's edition).
Illustrations for Mercedes Benz Journal - they look even better BIGGER!

Surry Hills illustration

Fives Ways in Paddington - Marcela really has mastered Sydney's beautiful terrace houses!

Marcela Restrepo is a super talented Sydney-based illustrator.   She's worked for an impressive list of clients on some seriously brilliant projects - such as the Sydney Festival 2011 - AND she's also one of only two Sydney-based illustrators who have contributed to  The Design Files Neighbourhood Calendar! Her Darlinghurst Illustration is just SO so so gorgeous... she has perfectly captured the prettyiness and village feel of this stunning Sydney neighbourhood - makes me want to pack my bags for Sydney mini-break!

Marcela is originally from Colombia South America, and when responding to my request for an interview, was originally a little self conscious about her written English.  But I LOVE it...!  I can almost hear Marcela's South American accent in her written words...!    I think my favourite is where she says "I suppose that mostly I try to be grateful and find beauty on what surrounds me. However I do feel lost many times and just have to wait for inspiration to come to me. And I do complain quite a bit." OH the cuteness.  I cannot imagine Marcela complaining about anything...!

Amazingly, Marcela discovered illustration by chance! She’s a graphic designer by trade, but after years of working in graphic and web design, she was looking for a change. It was then she met illustrator Christopher Nielsen, and after seeing her drawings he pointed her to Jeremy Wortsman from Jacky Winter. Marcela became part of the Jacky Winter group and the rest is history!

Marcela draws particularly amazing buildings and food!   Marcela says the main ingredient in her drawings is observations of everyday life.   "I enjoy watching people and guessing their lives..." she says.  Well, that's when she's not performing one of her 'private extravagant dance choreographies' at home to break up long stints at the computer screen!

Do check out Marcela's website, super cute blog and online shop, where you can purchase prints of her work, and her amazing folio on the Jacky Winter website!

Huge thanks to Marcela for her time with this interview and also for her beautiful work on the Neighbourhood Calendar!  She's off to New Zealand tomorrow for a well-earned break... have a fabulous time Marcela!

'Headspace' - Prevention Magazine.

Tell us a little about your background – what path led you to freelance design and illustration?

I am a graphic designer but after years of working in graphic and web design, I wanted a change. I had just moved back to Sydney after a year of living in Colombia and still was not clear what I would do for a living. I met Christopher Nielsen (a seriously great Australian illustrator), and after seeing my drawings he pointed me to Jeremy Wortsman from Jacky Winter. I became part of the Jacky Winter group and the rest is history!

You have worked for some incredible clients and publications – what have been one or two of your favourite projects/clients recently?

Thank you! It’s so exciting to be commissioned by big names and recognized brands, but I think it is as enjoyable as working for small commissions. Sometimes those small clients give more room and freedom to try different things.

Cover for Meanjin Quarterly.

Sketches in progress for Meanjin Quarterly.

Section dividers for Meanjin Quarterly.

I am always very excited to see my illustrations published, no matter the client; I enjoy each and every project and take them all as practice and training.

I enjoyed very much doing the illustration for The Design Files 2011 calendar as the brief forced me to use a colour palette I don’t normally use. Even before starting I knew the result would be surprising. It’s so refreshing, it feels like a makeover.

I also just finished some work for Saatchi&Saatchi and the Sydney Festival. I am so proud and still can’t believe I got to draw for such a great event and that my drawings will be all around Sydney. I hope they look good!

Marcela's work featured on the front cover of the Sydney Festival 2011 program!

Do you have a favourite illustration from your back catalogue?

I don’t have just one favourite. Mostly I have some I don’t like as much as the rest but I try to keep peace!

Can you give us a little insight into your creative process? What favourite materials and tools do you use?

I start drawing when I have a clear idea of what I want. I basically sketch in my head and then start drawing seriously. Sometimes ideas change in the process of drawing but it’s always for the better!  For editorial or publishing jobs I work on some ideas after reading the article/brief. I make roughs of different ways of showing the message and then develop the one chosen by the client.

I usually draw with pencil on paper I use pencils all the way from HB to 7B but usually its 2B or 3B.  Then I work on some textures with watercolours, acrylics or any other resource I have in hand to then put it all together in the computer adding more colour. I use the Wacom for that.

I have learned to work in layers for commissions as it makes it easier to make changes. I may draw separate elements and put them together on the computer where I can decide the composition with more control, moving things around until I feel it works well.

'White Christmas Lies' - INSIDEout Magazine.

I also like to work every now and then in canvas or wood panels but not much for assignments or commercial work.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

I wake up and get ready. I start working around 8:30, checking email.   As I am based in Australia I may wake up to some news and client responds when I’m working for other countries. I have a quick look at the Australian and Colombian papers on the internet.   Also I listen to opinion radio programs while I work.  Since I don’t even have to go to work, I go to yoga a couple of days a week. That is what resets me to come back to the desk and the bad posture.

I work around all day but get often distracted on the browser. I stand up a lot to walk around, check out the fridge and some times with some music on, I perform one of my private extravagant dance choreographies from salsa all the way to Punk Rock.

By then the day is gone and it is time for Daniel to come home and cook me some nice dinner!

Where do you turn for creative inspiration?

I believe the main ingredient in my drawings is the everyday life.

I enjoy watching people and guessing their lives. I like those European and Latin American movies about normal people. Love music/performances like Laurie Anderson’s; books, I like Camus, Kafka, Sartre, Beavoir, Saramago, the Latin Americans including Colombian García Marquez of course. That one is good if I am homesick.

I love trees and nature, I loved reading through the animal encyclopedia when I was a kid.  I love medical things. My father has a veterinary degree and also taught the pharmacology course at Medicine school. I grew up hearing all this technical names for diseases and medicines; also amongst glass syringes in metallic boxes.

Traveling is great for fresh ideas but I also find my tropical country Colombia and Sydney very inspiring.  I love Latin American popular urban graphics. I have some friends populardelujo that are always in the hunt for these and I follow them. I also love labels!

I suppose that mostly I try to be grateful and find beauty on what surrounds me. However I do feel lost many times and just have to wait for inspiration to come to me. And I do complain quite a bit.

'We're all survivalists now' - Sunday Telegraph Magazine.

Which other artists / designers / creative people do you admire at the moment?

I love for example Paul Klee’s and Chagall’s paintings because I find they have some sort of warmness, naiveté and freedom. I really admire that capacity to let go and forget all the rules and techniques but I also admire those artists that make the difficult techniques look warm and basic.

I love graphic artists/designers like Saul Bass or Milton Glaser, who are always coming out with smart ideas. Also, being a graphic designer, I love typography and letters as graphic elements. Sagmeister is a designer I admire who knows how to explore with letters and words.

I really admire all fellow Drawgers.

Love Webuyyourkids work and in general I am big fan of all my illustrator colleagues at Jacky Winter Group.

Also I am lucky enough to have amazing and inspiring illustrators as friends… these are just some! -

Kate Banazi

Leo Espinosa


Chris Nielsen

Nigel Buchanan

Catalina Estrada

Paola Gaviria/Powerpaola

What would be your dream creative project or collaboration?

I really don’t know… I just want to be able to keep doing what I am doing and improving my craft I hope everything will come at the time!

What are you looking forward to?

I am looking forward to our New Zealand trip at the end of the week.

Also I can’t wait for decent summer weather and to have the Design Files calendar in my hands!

Sydney Questions -

Your favourite Sydney neighbourhood and why?

I would have to say Newtown.  Since I moved to Australia I have lived in or around Newtown and I love it. It is always so alive.

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Sydney?

I had a very nice mushroom risotto at Bills in Surry Hills last week but also Daniel made me a delicious vegetarian lasagna last night.

Glass - personal

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

Matinée. Daniel always fells asleep when watching movies at night so we like watching them in the morning.

Set of slipmats for Nice Set exhibition.

Sydney’s best kept secret?

The Fiji Market on King Street Newtown. I find there all those good Latin American food products.

Also Mathew Bergan’s Yoga Class at Dancing Warrior Yoga in St. Peters. He is the best!

I still have many secrets to find….

Marcela's gorgeous business cards!

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email