Laura Cochón is an illustrator from Spain whose delicate graphite works inhabit the page with an intimate rhythm and poetry all their own. A lover of literary things and the book as object and form, Laura’s work and methodology provoke a beautiful sense of layered narratives and tactile possibilities.
Hi there. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us about your work. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
Hi, I am an illustrator from Vigo, a city in the north of Spain. I work with pencil and a couple of years ago I started producing most of my images on tracing paper. I collect zines, posters, books or postcards from fellow illustrators and artists I have met along the years.
Tell us about your creative process, from the initial idea to the finished piece.
I rarely know how a final piece is going to end up, I may have a hazy image in my mind but it never comes out like that. I like that element of surprise. Before I start a drawing, I gather all sorts of images that may help set my mood for the task and point me in the right direction. I hate working in silence so if I am alone I always put music on, radio, TV… anything will do. Mostly I work on tracing paper, so first I draw vague outlines and overlay them to play around with the composition. Once I´m happy with it, I work intuitively; the outlines work exclusively as reference marks. Throughout the process my illustrations are in constant change, I normally follow my hand to create volume and textures and quite often I disregard the initial lines so as to create new bits of image.
What particularly appeals to you about working in graphite?
I love the immediacy and the closeness it allows between hand and paper. I enjoy looking at graphite images, seeing the pencil marks and imagining the movements of the hand around the paper.
How do you conceptualize/construct a piece? Do you think of it as a story, snapshot, or abstraction?
I think it´s something between a snapshot and an abstraction. I visualise a few elements I would like to include in the piece, but the way to link them in my case has to be done physically on paper.
Favourite pencil? Wood? Mechanical?
I prefer mechanical because of the sharp fine lead, it´s great for details.
Right or left-handed?
What other materials do you enjoy using?
Going back a couple of years now, I have used tracing paper not only to reproduce some of my work, but also to create the drafts and final images. I overlay different drawings to construct the final piece; because of the transparency I can move them around to try different angles, get rid of one of the layers, add some more… a bit like a hand-made photoshop tool.
We love the idea of an analog Photoshop tool! What first attracted you towards tracing paper? Apart from the drawing process, do larger ideas of physicality and tactility shape or influence your work?
For some time I worked around the idea of the book as object, investigating how people physically read it, the way we hold it and go through it. Particularly, the turning-page reading mechanism has influenced most of my work to the extent that some of the projects I have developed are intelligible outside the traditional book format. My aim is to articulate illustration and the book as a space to provoke in the reader an experience of intimacy. After reading Bachelard´s The Poetics of Space I started considering the idea of how images can inhabit the page. By creating an atmosphere and sensory experience, which can be achieved not only through images but also design, materials or format, I can construct a threshold of oneirism for the reader to engage with the story on different levels.
Could you tell us about a favourite subject-matter? What’s the particular attraction?
The images that I naturally gravitate towards are normally related to nature and the human figure. I enjoy merging both worlds and coming up with odd disconcerting pictures and using the same recipe to create a world around them that may lead to a story. I enjoy exploring the potential of mysterious and enigmatic images in order to cause the reader to become curious and prompt him or her to engage with the story.
What kind of things do you think have influenced and inspired your vision the most?
While I studied Fine Arts I struggled to find the right medium to communicate and engage with an audience. It took me a long time to realise that images found inside books were the real key; some of my oldest memories come from them. The liaison that books grant between author and reader has always appealed to me and there is an inherent intimacy when exploring a book that I think has shaped the way I visualize images.
Are there any books or passages in literature in particular that you would like to illustrate? Why?
I’d love to illustrate an old Galician story called Os biosbardos, The tale revolves around these imaginary animals, biosbardos that can only be catched in an isolated part of the forest at night. Traditionally, experienced huntsmen would use it as a prank to trick gullible newcomers, they would be set on the impossible task of finding and hunting this rare wild being by calling its name and hitting the bushes and floor with a stick. I particularly like the idea of someone looking for an creature no one has never seen and the possibilities to develop images of the creature lurking in the forest. There are apparently many versions of this tale around Spain and Portugal so it would be interesting to re-invent this mythological creature with descriptions from different sources.
What books are on your bedside table?
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
Can you tell us about a favourite piece of yours, or a favourite creative experience?
That would be the illustrated version of Edgar Allan Poe´s short story, Berenice I did last year. I was really excited about working with one of his stories and the whole creative process was really quick considering how slow I normally am. After a couple of days of work I had a collection of unnerving hairy teeth that worked perfectly alongside that text and everything started to fall into place. The book I produced doesn´t work in the way of a traditional sequence, however, I think it creates an honest echo to the text and both image and text complement each other to create a really unsettling atmosphere.
What are you early memories of drawing like?
I remember spending what seemed to me like long hours drawing from my favourite storybooks; by the end of the day I recall feeling very proud about my masterpieces so I would keep them safe inside an old folder. Also, my older brother was into comic books and video games so I used to draw lots of Resident Evil and X-men characters on request and sell copies of them to kids from school.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
Not really, when I start a new project I tend to write words down and to draw tiny little scribbles next to them to form an idea in my mind. What I do keep is a folder with tons of unfinished drawings I go through from time to time to help me develop new ideas.
Do you have a favourite city to draw/sketch/illustrate/create in? Or a favourite city in the world?
I did my best work while I was in Falmouth, I guess it is a mix of the people, the quietness of the town and having the sea right next door that boosts creativity. I haven´t seen enough of the world yet to choose, but I always love going back to my hometown.
What can we look forward to seeing from you next?
I am currently working with Regen SW in a project called The element in the room. They are publishing a book of poems by Matt Harvey dealing with sustainable energy and I am illustrating some of them. I´m getting some exciting new ideas from Matt´s writing and it´s helping my work become more narrative-focused.
Speaking of focus, coffee, nicotine, or booze?
Coffee to begin a new project, or tea if there´s proper English tea available, and sometimes booze.
Excellent choices. Thanks so much for talking to us! Lastly, where can people get a hold of your work, or find out more about your previous projects?
You can find more about my previous projects here: http://cargocollective.com/lauracochon Also, I use my facebook page more as a blog than anything else; images of work in progress, collaboration, other people´s work I like… And if there are any self-publishing/illustration fairs in any of the places I pass by, you can always find me and my work there.
Laura’s work also features in Issue 4 of Tiny Pencil: The Death & Resurrection Issue! Available to buy here.
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