Sofia was born in Upstate New York and grew up living across Indonesia, New Zealand and London. Recently returning from a year and a half in France we met illustrator and artist Sofia Drescher through our July artist, Chippy. Sofia studied in London at the Chelsea College of Art gaining a Bachelor degree in Textile Design before achieving a masters in Illustration at the Royal College of Art.
Currently working on a new children’s book, Sofia has previously worked on three books. Her titles 'Agatha’s Men’ and ‘Arana’ have won international prizes and gained press worldwide. We are happy to have the very accomplished and talented Sofia come onboard for our November artwork.
Born in Upstate New York, you grew up living across Indonesia, London and New Zealand. How did you find growing up in a mix of different locations and cultures?
I began moving around from a young age so it became a way of life. It was a wonderful way to grow up being exposed to different cultures and experiences, when you move around so much as a child you learn to adapt to new situations, experiences and friendships. My adventurous upbringing has shaped my art practise and way of thinking.
Living a life of travel to exotic places has been an enormously enriching experience in so many ways, but it also comes at a cost. Always uprooting and moving on leads to a loss of friendships and continuity in other areas of life and you are left with feelings of not fitting in so easily as others. The view tends to be of an outsider looking in. But I hope that helps me to observe more clearly the things which an insider might miss. And I enjoy recording the similarities and differences between cultures.
How did you find each place growing up? What were some highlights from your childhood?
My brothers and I were born in upstate New York with our parents who are both artists, we were surrounded by art and a strong creative community.
When I was 4 years old we moved to Bali Indonesia, it really opened up my mind and my love for new cultures and strange new exotic experiences. A special highlight must be when my family rescued a sick little monkey from our neighbour who had the intentions to sacrifice him for a ceremony. I named him monkey Mondo, I carried him around in a sling and nursed him back to health. His life came to a tragic end when a neighbour from the compound poisoned him. I was incredibly heart-broken but it was wonderful to have had him as a pet.
At 6 years old I came New Zealand, my strongest memories are of time spent exploring time Te Maika (near Kawhia ). There’s something about the isolation and the wildness that was really exciting.
At 15 years old my family moved to London. At first I faced a lot of difficulties placing myself in the English system, but challenges only lead you to interesting directions. My love for the arts truly found its place in London, I immersed myself in education completing a Bachelors in Textile Design at Chelsea College of Art and a Masters in Illustration at the Royal College of Art. These years were the highlights of my time in the UK- It’s pretty amazing thing communities you build in these institutions. I met so many inspiring, talented creatives, some of whom are in fact good friends of mine now.
Do you think growing up moving around significantly shaped the person you are today?
Absolutely, it has made me far more independent and open-minded.
You recently returned to NZ after a year and a half in France, what brought you back to NZ?
As much as I loved my time in France I felt as though it was time to return- I missed my friends, the friendly nature of kiwis, the calm pace of life compared to Europe, and the warm, open community in Auckland, NZ.
Originally completely a degree in textile design, you then moved into studying illustration. Was studying again aways the plan or something that eventuate along the way.?
Drawing/ Illustration has always been a passion of mine and this is apparent within all my studies.
During my textile design bachelor’s, illustration was brought into all my projects/ brief. Specialising in screen-printing the two processes worked hand in hand. I had no intention to continue my studies as I had already been in education specialising in the arts for 4 years (previously completing a foundation degree).
During my final show at Chelsea College of Art I was approached by an Illustration tutor from the Royal College of art Masters program and was asked to apply to the Visual Communication program for the coming year. It was an offer I could not turn down, everything just fit into place!
You have an impressive portfolio, in particular the list of publications you have created. Can you tell us how you got into publishing and what you hope to achieve through publishing your work in physical form?
My interest in publishing all began during my first year of my masters, I completed my first book called Arana which is a morality tale adapted from the story ‘The Very Old Man with Enormous Wings’ written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. After completion I entered this book into an artist book competition which took mean new exciting directions.
I enjoyed the process of creating stories so much I continued on and self- published my second book ‘Agatha’s Men’ in 2014 which is a book graphic short story which deals with sexual taboos and the subjugation of women in a short and sordid tale. This book received the Quentin Blake Narrative Prize and was distributed all over the world through the means of self- publishing.
My most recent publication which is called Visa Run, it is a short series of drawings which documented my visits to Thailand and Vietnam during my stay in Indonesia in 2015. Visa Run was published by Cafe Royal books.
I find so much enjoyment in book making, It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to hold months/ years of work in your hand as a finished product. I hope to continue to share my work and also continue to push my illustration practise further. It’s a challenging area but so rewarding.
Currently working on a new children’s book, what do you believe are the key attributes to a successful children publication these days?
I am currently working on my first children’s book, I am in the process of refining my writing and storyboard.
There are so many children’s books published that the competition is very tough and everyone has a different take on how a book should be. Personally I think the story should be educational yet light hearted and approachable. Children have such wild fantastical minds so the illustrations need to be imaginative and challenging, you want the children to look at the pages be excited by the characters and the story line. Consider your audiences, it is important to design a book that appeals to the mother too as they will be purchasing it!
What has been your personal career highlight to date and why?
I would have to say my personal career highlight was my first book ‘ Arana’ which is mentioned early on in the interview. I entered Arana into an artist book competition called kaleid editions.
Arana was selected and exhibited in London, kaleid editions travelled around distributed artists’ books to public special collections.
Arana was bought into the collections of MoMA Library and SAIC, New York, Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection, Chicago, MACBA Library, Barcelona and the V&A Museum, National Art Library, London. and it was awarded the Best Comics From Art Books Wanted International Award Editions Lidu in Prague.
It’s amazing what’s possible when your enter your work in competitions and put your work out there!
Locally and internationally, what artists, designers and creatives do you admire?
There are so many inspiring artist/friends of mine in the creative Auckland circle I wouldn’t know where to start. As for International artists to name only a few; Maira Kalman, Mr Bingo, David Hockney, Marie Jacotey, Marion Fayolle, Quentin Blake, Gaffen Rafaeli, Grace Helmer, Benjamin Phillips and so many more!
Penguin books, mikkeller, Omnipollo
Top five tracks to paint/draw to?
Three artists you would give anything to see perform live?
The Pixies , Four Tet ( excited about the Art Festival Lineup)& The Breeders