“The profession found me”: Sol Cotti on how a dinner launched her illustration career

The work of Buenos Aires-based illustrator Sol Cotti is instantly recognisable thanks to her bold use of colour, composition and characters. We caught up with her to learn how a dinner helped launch her career and why women are a recurrent subject in her work.

Like most artists, editorial and commercial illustrator Sol Cotti grew up loving to draw. All through her life, she took art workshops and continued to enjoy art and design while studying communications and advertising at university. Yet despite all this, she still calls herself a self-taught illustrator who is constantly learning.

It’s somewhat surprising then to learn that illustration was not what Sol always wanted to do for a living. In fact, for a long time, she did not even know the profession existed. It wasn’t until she was in New York in 2018 that she ate a life-changing meal in a restaurant called Jack’s Wife Freda.

“I had gone to dinner, and with the check, they gave me some illustrated postcards; they were beautiful,” Sol reveals to Creative Boom. “At the time, I thought it was something I could actually do. And from that day on, I knew I wanted to become an artist.

“On the plane back from NYC to Buenos Aires, I diagrammed what my small studio in my house would look like. A few months later, when I was in my watercolour era, I created an illustration inspired by a brunch I had eaten at another restaurant in NYC. I published it on Instagram and tagged the restaurant, and right away, they reached out to me to work together on a postcard collection. It was surreal.”

Coming from a communications background, Sol says that her approach to illustration represents an”interesting combination of knowledge.” She adds: “On the one hand, the advertising part helps me understand the client’s needs, and on the other, illustration is itself a form of visual communication. It is about representing concepts and transmitting ideas through images; it is the process of understanding and sharing meaning.”

All sorts of influences inspire Sol’s gloriously colourful style, the biggest being travelling. She loves getting to know different people and their customs and traditions. She says illustration is about “opening your mind and connecting with the world itself; that is where great ideas come through.”

Nature also plays an important role in Sol’s work, as that’s where she gets her ideas for striking colour combinations. “The unexpected combinations can come from birds, the magnetism of flowers, sunsets and fruits,” she explains. “I am also inspired by clothing, whether that’s from things I see on runaways to items I see in the street. Sometimes, I take pictures of someone’s outfit because I am drawn to their colour contrast, and then I use those in my work.”

These influences frequently come together in pieces focusing on gender, women and empowerment. For Sol, it’s crucial that these topics and women’s rights are made visible. “I feel that one way to defend them is through my art, empowering us and supporting each other.”

This taps into Sol’s favourite part of being an illustrator: having her own voice and using it to represent subjects that are important to her. “It’s an inner code between myself and the world that creates my identity,” she says. “It feels like something personal, but at the same time, it works for the rest of the world to transmit, communicate and represent concepts.

“Sometimes I can’t even believe the privilege I have to work on what I’m passionate about. The gratitude of being hired for doing what I love, that clients ask me for my vision on a project and that they respect it, it is incredibly gratifying to feel respected and valued, to know that someone really cares about your perspective on something. Being an illustrator is about thinking more with your hands than your head.”

Such a positive and thankful approach to illustration has led to many fulfilling projects. However, one that stands out for Sol is a piece of packaging she designed for a limited edition Macy’s perfume in 2023. “It was a special one because I love perfumes, am completely obsessed with fragrances, and because it was really satisfying to see how my art is spread in real life.”

As for what 2024 holds, Sol teases that she’s currently working on a project that promises to be a big highlight in her career. “But I cannot reveal it so far,” she concludes. “It’s related to music, Latin American sounds, my heritage, and my roots. Also, I’d love to partner with a fashion brand to create a collection of clothing, which would be one of my dream jobs.”

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