The Slovene Artist Who Touched My Heart: How I Fell In Love With Meta Wraber’s Work
In the past year, the above image has become my trademark and an intrinsic part of my blog identity. Because I kept getting questions about the fine hands who drew it for me, I decided to introduce the whole world to one of my favorite artists and to the woman who ,,read” my spirit before even knowing me. Today you meet fine person and talented illustrator Meta Wraber.
There were around 200 people in the room, me included, when Clare Waight-Keller, the creative director of Chloé, came onstage and announced that each person in the room will receive, courtesy of Chloé, a personalized illustration carefully hand drawn by Meta Wraber, having as a starting point the registration photo on our badge. A tiny picture, submitted unknowingly as pure technicality, which would get to inspire an atypical piece of art. Exciting, I thought. Being hand made and meticulously sketched, we were told that we would have to wait a few months, but we’d all eventually get it by email.
I received mine on the second day of my honeymoon in New York and, as jet-lagged as I was, when I went online and saw myself filtered through Meta’s eyes, it was a full-blown epiphany. I’ve had my picture taken professionally on numerous occasions and even own a nicely-framed painting of myself, made when I was much younger, in Italy. I treasure each and every depiction of my persona, made by an artist who poured a bit of his soul into it. I honestly do. But until Meta sketched me, I hadn’t felt such a rush of emotion.
I immediately changed my profile picture into my newly-received illustration and messages started coming in. Who made it? How did I create it? Did I use an app? Where did I find the artist?
I knew little of Meta – mostly that she was young, she came from Slovenia and that she drew with fervent passion. That was the prologue of our relationship. She had been invited to make an illustration proposal for Chloé and selected for the project out of an entire pool of candidates. Her illustrations were in tune with the French brand’s philosophy: free-spirited, youthful, light-hearted. And, above all, heartfelt.
When I looked her up and got caught-up in her colourful universe, I decided to return the favour she had made me by capturing my essence in a drawing and do my very own ,,sketching” of her spirit. I’m no good with crayons and pastels, but I always bring along my own tools: words. You’ll find below an honest, insightful and tender interview of Meta, which I’m certain will make you curious to know her better and to get a glimpse of her creative world.
Fine Society: Tell me more about yourself: when did you first start drawing? Did you always know you were going to pursue this career?
Meta Wraber: I have always been drawing. As far as I can remember drawing was my parallel dream world where I existed as much as in the real world. I was drawing away my troubles and fears, dreaming and growing up through my images. I wasn’t aware of the idea that this would be my main occupation until I began my studies. It’s a process and I’m still evolving and learning.
How did you decide to turn passion into a career?
Meta Wraber: Becoming an illustrator wasn’t really a decision, I would rather say it was learning through the process. I studied visual communication design at the University of Ljubljana, Academy of Fine Arts and Design. Illustration has always been my greatest passion, I was best at drawing and painting. I started focusing on illustration when I realized it’s my greatest talent. I have learned that I can speak so many languages with just few movements with my brush and watercolors.
Your illustrations have a certain style which is unmistakeably your own. How did you shape it: was it something you dived into from the very beginning or did you evolve into it?
Meta Wraber: This is such a difficult question… It’s almost like asking the water why does it shape rivers, pools and lakes. Ok, let me try. I believe that illustration is translating what I see, feel and live into my visual language, through my inner seeing I create my own story. It is a process of diving into from the beginning and evolving into it at the same time. I like to have my own time to just experiment with different techniques when I start working on new projects. I am honored to hear that my style is unique and special, but the funny thing is, I try to never repeat myself and I hate routine. I want to find new ways of telling stories through my works, and keep my visual expression fresh and different from what I already showed to the world.
How does an illustration really come to life, from the initial idea to the final result? How do you draw it (digitally or the old-fashioned-way) and how long does the creation process take?
Meta Wraber: I always draw the “analog” way, paper, pencils, inks and watercolors. I retouch scanned illustration digitally at the end. But there are many, many drawings and sketches at the beginning. Sometimes I start with a realistic drawing and end up with very simple, sketchy illustration expressing clear, light and airy sensations. I hope my work manifests sincerity, joy and lust for life. Drawing can take long time, really, it’s not a task, it’s an adventure. Although having a great relationship with clients helps to speed up the process, if I’m involved in commissioned project.
What was your biggest career break so far, the moment when you absolutely knew that ,,you made it”?
Meta Wraber: I can say that I made it because I live independently, paying my bills (and for my shoes and bags) with my freelancing work and my art I sell here and there. It’s not a project or a moment, it’s a status and a state of mind. I am proud of it because there were many ups and downs. And I wasn’t always sure that by being an illustrator I do something valuable. While being modest I can say there are projects that emboldened my self-confidence. For example designing and illustrating the poetry book Labrador that contains more than 60 of my illustrations. Also creating many Chloé girls portraits for the Condé Nast Luxury Conference and illustrating the Harper’s Bazaar cover were some of the projects that I added on the top of my portfolio.
Some famous bloggers started as illustrators, current Internet-superstars like Garance Doré or Alix Bancourt (The Cherry Blossom Girl). Were you never tempted to start a blog as well?
How important are social networks for you, as a way to promote your work? Do you feel the need to ,,put yourself out there” or do you prefer to be discreetly discovered by people?
Meta Wraber: Social networks are essential for showing work to the world. I like to write and make puns, sometimes it can be funny, other times poetic… Storytelling is part of me, so I enjoy showing and posting new stuff and never feel like it’s an obligation. I guess I am doing both, waiting to be discovered, but in the mean time I am connecting with people that I want to collaborate with.
What is, in your view, the life-philosophy of the Slovenian people? Each country has a certain habituated way of doing things, that we ,,inherit” from our parents and ancestors. How do you view your country and the outlook on life that you were born into?
Meta Wraber: Slovenia is such a small country, so we were used to learn languages of our neighbouring countries. We travel a lot and we have a good educational system. The result is that there are lot of successful Slovene people doing really great things all around the globe. To name some of them: Lara Bohinc – an amazing jewellery designer, Nataša Čagalj, new creative director of Ports 1961, Slavoj Žižek – psychoanalytic philosopher and cultural critic, the band Laibach, hip hop artist Gramatik and many incredible athletes and sports people.
What other influences have you had in your work: certain styles that inspire you, places, moods?
Meta Wraber: I travel, I love to go to exhibitions, I read, I cook, I go out and meet people. I look for stories and situations everywhere all the time. I am inspired by the certain light or a specific moment that shows something or someone from a new perspective. I am inspired by little imperfections that make things beautiful, but then I also have some favorite artists that I can relate my work to. I am in love with French post-impressionists like Pierre Bonnard, Francois Vuillard, I love the symbolistic painter Gustave Moreau, I adore works of Sonia Delunay….there are many, but I always come back to these. And I can’t wait to see the Hieronimus Bosch exhibition in El Prado museum in Madrid in September.
Do you hold favorite characters or illustrations?
Meta Wraber: Not really. I don’t have any special signature, logo or a character. I let my work and my style be my trademark. I don’t want to be known for only one thing, one work or one project. I am interested in so many subjects in connection to art and fashion, I want to explore all the possibilities within the proficiency and the capacity of my talent. Like Sonia Delunay said: ,,For me there is no gap between my painting and my so-called «decorative» work. I never considered the «minor arts» to be artistically frustrating; on the contrary, it was an extension of my art”.