For even the most experienced artist, mixing various art styles and mediums into one piece can be a tricky endeavor. Mashing hyper-realistic elements in an otherwise surrealist landscape could end a disjointed mess. However, when the mismatching styles work together, they can create something mesmerizing. Enter Sofia Bonati’s work as a prime example.
Born in Buenos Aires in 1982 to a family of artists, Sofia Bonati began her artistic career in 2013 when she moved to the UK. While she’s primarily known for her series of female portraits, she also has a successful career as an illustrator for clients such as Vanity Fair and Iberia. But it is with pencil drawings that her signature style shines through.
By mixing pencil and wet media (such as acrylics or ink) on paper, Bonati recreates the visages of women in an almost photo-realistic way. Then, she adds colorful and fantastical elements like butterfly hats or umbrella dresses. One work depicts a woman posing in a bathtub overflowing with greenery. The disconnect between the person and the world around them results in a striking image that sticks with the viewer.
For those seeing a feminist bent to her work, you’re not alone: the artist agrees. “There are definitely elements in my work that are naturally related to feminism,” Bonati told The Guardian. “The portraits I draw reflect the complexity and power of women.” She also describes her work as portraying “the intricacy of the female mind and women’s roles in society.”
Despite being raised by a family of artists, Bonati is self-taught. She originally went to school to study geology. Eventually, she began studying graphic design instead before settling in the UK. “I guess the hard part of being self-taught is the lack of knowledge on certain techniques,” she explained to Redbubble. “Many times I struggle to go from the picture in my mind to the illustration in the paper and I feel like I’m lacking the tools or skills. The good thing is that you learn in a more flexible way, without having to take classes that you are not interested [in]. To be honest I would have loved to go to art school.”
Fortunately for her, Bonati’s lack of schooling hasn’t seemed to impact her success. As previously mentioned, she’s worked with some prestigious magazines to help illustrate their pages. Bonati has also had her art featured in multiple exhibitions, including the 2017 Late Summer Exhibit at the Sager Braudis Gallery in Columbia, MO. She was also part of the Public Order Art Show, curated by Society6.
Despite this, she’s remained humble and thankful for her victories in life. During her interview with Redbubble, she revealed the simplicity of her studio and in her beloved art supplies. “A 0.3 mechanical pencil is what I use the most… I always have next to me an eraser pen, a kneaded rubber, and watercolors.” Bonati is not overly fond of pens and is always open to experimenting with new types of paper to work with. And of course, like many digital artists, she has a Wacom tablet for touching up.
As for her future projects, she hasn’t revealed anything, but openly admits she’s always working on something. Even if she gets sidetracked by her young son, she’ll find the time to draw something and upload it to her social media. She also joked with Design42Day that she might return to the world of rocks. “I am a thesis away from getting a geology diploma,” Bonati explained. For now, though, it looks like her illustrations are more than enough.
You can find Bonati on Instagram and Behance, with stores available on Redbubble and Society6.
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