Buenos Aires-born artist and illustrator Sofia Bonati‘s works are equal parts natural and surreal.
Her delicate portraits engage the viewer with direct eye contact, drawing them into her mysterious world of patterns and the open outdoors. Growing up in a family of artists initially piqued her interest in art, but through her travels and the influence of other artists, she has developed a style all her own. We caught up with her at home in Argentina (where she has just moved back to from England) to find out more.
Hi Sofia! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a self-taught Argentinian artist living in Buenos Aires with my husband and two children—with another one coming in May! I started my career as an illustrator/artist when I moved to England in 2013, and earlier this year, I moved back to Argentina, but I plan to keep working as I enjoy it a lot.
You grew up with parents who were artists. How did that affect your artistic development?
I think that watching them paint and growing up around art books helped me develop and broaden my artistic interest early on. Even though I studied geology—partly because I was also drawn to the natural world—I never stopped painting, and I inevitably ended up working as an artist.
How did you develop your own aesthetic style?
I always enjoyed drawing people rather than landscapes. Although I enjoy nature, calmness and the outdoors a lot, I’m drawn to observe people’s faces, their expressions. At first, I drew men and women alike. I’m not sure why I ended up creating mostly female portraits. My style used to be caricature-like and surreal; discovering other artists, their techniques and style helped me develop my own.
Most of your work blends women, nature and intricate patterns. What is it that draws you to these motifs?
As I said before, I’m not sure why I ended up drawing women. Regardless, I like that my work has an enigmatic and surreal vibe. I want to create pieces that engage people—not only because they are attracted to them for being visually appealing, but also because they feel they need to unravel something.
What is your creative process like, from your initial idea to the finished artwork?
It’s not always the same. Sometimes the full image comes to mind, I draft it, and if I’m happy, I move to the final piece. Most of the time however, I work on incomplete ideas, drafting again and again, until something I like finally appears. I’m always unsure about what colours to pick, so I tend to work digitally on the palette before moving to watercolours or gouache on the final piece.
Who are the women in your artwork? Are they from imagination, people you know, or photos you’ve seen?
Most of the time, it’s a mix. I start drawing while imagining a face. If I need to refer to a specific face angle, shade projections or hand positions, I look for reference photos online or take a photo of myself. I end up with a composition, and try not to make a direct copy of anything in particular.
Are there any client projects or collaborations you are excited about right now? And how do you balance client work and your own art?
I’m currently working on a private commission, and I’ll hopefully dedicate the next months to do my own artwork for an exhibition next year. I was involved in a very large project earlier this year so I’m missing being able to work on my own pieces a lot. All in all, I’m very happy with how things are going.
You recently moved back to Argentina from the UK, do you notice the difference of the locations having an affect on your work?
Not yet, but mainly because I hadn’t been able to work on new themes. I’ll have to see how the warm summer weather and the everyday life in Buenos Aires will affect my work.
What has been inspiring you recently?
I can’t say nature—not many woodlands in Buenos Aires! Jokes aside, besides new art that I’ve came across online, I found inspiration in fashion, textiles, nice street shops and the night.
Who are some of your favorite Society6 artists?
Right now, my favorites are Ruben Ireland, Sandra Dieckmann and AITCH.