Cinta Arribas: I’m looking less and less for frills and technical prowess and to focus more on essence and concept
1 June 2023
I came across the work of Cinta Arribas on Instagram one night, and when I showed it to my wife she ran to show me the illustration she bought from her years ago at a fair in Madrid. Her style has evolved over the years, but she still has something very personal that makes her unmistakable, and that will make you fall in love with her work from the very first minute. A few weeks ago we published her illustration 'Family' in La Colectiva, but we wanted to take our time to chat with her and learn more about her work and her routines.
Cinta Arribas Familia print

How did it all start? Tell us a little, for those who don’t know you, about how you started and when you decided to dedicate yourself professionally to the world of illustration.

Since I was a kid I’ve liked to paint, draw, make ceramics… In my house there was quite an artistic atmosphere. I was fascinated by books and illustrations, although I didn’t know that making them could be a job. Then I studied Fine Arts in Salamanca without having a very clear idea what I would specialize in and little by little became more interested in this world. When I finished I didn’t find too many options to specialize in illustration (now there are many more master’s degrees, courses, etc.) so I found out on my own how this job worked and after a few years working as a graphic designer I decided to throw myself fully into this. Today I can say that I live from it and although it’s hard work, I really enjoy it.

I would place my style somewhere between brutalism and tenderness, raw and delicate.

Your style has a naive but mature touch, it’s hard to explain. The strokes, shapes and characters have a lot of personality and are very recognizable. How did you come to form your style? How has it evolved over the years?

I would place my style somewhere between brutalism and tenderness, raw and delicate. It’s not something premeditated but rather something that has come out over time, as you work and mature there is something that emanates from your drawings and from your way of doing things, which I suppose is the style. I’m looking less and less for frills and technical prowess and to focus more on essence and concept.

Tell us about your way of working and what resources and techniques you use.

I draw with Chinese ink on paper, right now it is the technique with which I feel most comfortable and it helps me to give it a personal vibe that I don’t get when I draw directly in digital. Then, if the image is going to be in color, I usually work on it with Photoshop.

Which artists inspire you?

Louise Bourgeois, Cy Twombly, Antonio Ballester Moreno, Pablo Picasso, Bruno Munari…

Do you listen to music while working? If so, what music do you usually listen to?

I mostly listen to classical and flamenco music. Lately I’ve been listening to Bach’s Goldberg Variations on a loop. I also play Chopin, Debussy, Beni de Cádiz, Niña de la Puebla, Carmen Amaya…

What do the workshops you teach consist of? I love the themes of your children’s workshops. Do you prefer working with children or adults?

During the course I teach Illustration and Color at the Design School of Valladolid, with students around 18/22 years old. It is a very specific context because they go there to become professionals and I teach them what I would have liked to know about the profession at their age. The good thing about them being adults is that you can debate and talk about the intricacies of illustration.

On the other hand, I really enjoy the children’s workshops. Normally you go with a specific approach, thinking about how they are going to react, and they always surprise you and give you different answers than what you expected. So I learn and have a lot of fun with them.

I think the way we tell stories to children is very important. How do you deal with this when you start planning a workshop?

I try to speak to them honestly and without being condescending. I ask them a lot about what they think of each thing.

In India they use colors in a very intelligent and different way to how we do in Europe, and the iconography of the different religions is very interesting.

With these workshops you’ve even been to India, where you participated in the Bookaroo Literary Festival in New Delhi. How was the experience? Did you do any other activities during your visit to India?

The festival was held in New Delhi and illustrators and writers from different parts of the world (Japanese, English, Norwegian, Indian…) participated in it. I gave several workshops for children based on my book “I Hate Everyone”, also a mural workshop and another on masks. I loved the experience and learned a lot about a culture totally different to ours. In India they use colors in a very intelligent and different way to how we do in Europe, and the iconography of the different religions is very interesting. Their relationship with animals also grabbed my attention.

In addition to the festival, I got to know other smaller cities in Rajasthan that I preferred to the capital, such as Jaipur and Jodhpur.

I’ve seen that you have made several murals. How do you see yourself as a muralist? Is it something you would like to do more often or do you prefer to work in smaller formats or in the privacy of your studio?

I love doing murals and working in large formats. Getting out of the studio to work and interact with people is fun, so I’d like to do it more often.

Cinta Arribas pintando un mural

One of the jobs you do the most is illustrating books, mostly children’s literature. How do you approach this job? Are they already finished or written stories to which you put images or do you also like to participate in the writing process together with the author?

Usually the writers gave me an already finished story. It is a challenge to receive a text and make it yours, and at the same time get to tell your own parallel story through images.

During the process there is usually a fluid relationship either with the publisher or with the author of the text, about how to approach the characters, if a scene works or not, about the rhythm of the book…

Your work for La Colectiva Prints, ‘Family’, is a beautiful portrait of a family reading. Something very your own thing: illustration and books. Tell us how you came up with this image, or if it has a story behind it.

‘Family’ is part of the series of Chinese ink drawings I made for Inktober, a challenge in which everyday a different word or concept is proposed to be drawn. This corresponds to the word ‘Learn’ and it occurred to me to make a family reading. Children learn by imitation, and if they see people reading around them, they will too.

I made this series of drawings with total freedom, trying to refine my style as much as possible.

What’s coming in the next few months?

Right now I’m finishing a book for young audiences, you’ll see it very soon.

Anything to add?

Thank you very much for welcoming me into the La Colectiva family. I hope to see you soon!

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