Based in the German city of Karlsruhe, illustrator and designer Maria Navarro Sanchez's career has been meandering. She is a self-taught illustrator who works for different brands internationally as freelancer designer and illustrator, but she originally started out by studying audiovisual communication in Malaga. After this, she completed an MA in graphic design.
"I always knew I wanted to do something creative, but I didn't know exactly what," Maria tells Creative Boom. To combat this common creative stumbling block, Maria went to China and studied the language at Xian and Shanghai universities for three semesters. And with Spain's economic situation so difficult then, she decided to remain in China.
"My initial plan was to take any job, even at McDonald's, but unexpectedly I managed to secure a good position as a designer at a Swedish company called Foreo," she explains. "There, I worked in the marketing department, creating various materials, including digital campaigns, packaging design, concepts for product photoshoots, and more."
As well as giving Maria the chance to improve her English, the job also allowed her to grow professionally. Five years later, she upped sticks again and headed to Germany, where she continued working as a designer for a collectables and games company. Not long after, she moved again, this time to Poland, where she found herself without a job and a lot of free time.
"During this period in Poland, I started drawing more seriously. I had a lot of time and savings, something which doesn't normally happen. I even created an illustrated children's book just before becoming pregnant with twins, and that's when my time for drawing was put on hold."
Not long after her maternity leave, Covid came along, and the search for remote work became more pressing. Luckily, Maria became a brand designer at Adidas, and once her two-year contract ended, she set out as a freelancer. " Part of the reason was to continue developing my skills as an illustrator," she reveals.
"I truly enjoyed drawing and wanted to pursue it professionally. Currently, I create illustrations for the social media platforms of a Spanish company, and if the opportunity arises, I also offer this service to my other clients."
It's been a winding journey, but one that's paid off. And as with plenty of multi-disciplined creatives, a varied background has resulted in skills that feed into one another. "I believe my design history has benefited me in understanding which illustrations can work well or not in different mediums," says Maria.
"It has given me a more comprehensive and practical view of illustration. It has also provided me with significant visual experience in terms of composition, colour usage, and more. Initially, when I had more insecurity about my drawings, I relied on Photoshop to fix details or change colours. Now, I feel less dependent on it and use it for minor adjustments."
When she set out as an illustrator, Maria began by painting animals. But more recently, she has been focusing more on the human form, as well as faces and complex compositions. These skills have found a willing home in editorial illustration, which satisfies her desire to create functional and practical work. "It presents an interesting challenge for me as a creative."
"In the past two years, my line work has become more confident, more steady, and I am capable of synthesising more than before," she concludes. "I have also further developed my digital technique to complement my analogue style better. I am a self-taught illustrator, so I am constantly learning and evolving."
Get the best of Creative Boom delivered to your inbox weekly