Illustrations tend to be images associated with words. In 2017, the well-known American Merrian-Webster dictionary chose feminism as their “word of the year”. Likewise, TIME magazine’s much-anticipated “person of the year” cover was a portrait of a group of women representing the #metoo movement. This reality turns out to be the perfect excuse to venture into the universe of one of the most popular and charismatic illustrators on the Spanish scene—Raquel Riba Rossy, better known as Lola Vendetta, the iconic character in her comic strips and the protagonist of her book Lola Vendetta, más vales Lola que mal acompañada (“Lola Vendetta. Better off alone, Lola”).
The world of illustration is thriving right now, the importance of visuals and the speed at which information is being consumed today probably being two of the main reasons behind it. An art involving paper as much as digital (knowing by definition how to “write” a straightforward message to the hypersaturated consumers of today) has naturally attracted the interest of communications and social media.
In Spain, this revival is clearly being lead by women: excellent illustrators such as Flavita Banana, Pedrita Parker, Ana Santos, and Sara Herranz, among many others, are collaborating with printed media, publishing books, taking part in events, as well as being omnipresent online and leading huge communities of fans on social media.
It seems like a good moment to ask Lola Vendetta a few questions about the current state of this art and her particular perspective as a woman and an artist:
– I think the social and cultural content of your illustrations is evident, but do you see Lola as a character with a calling to be a superhero? Or could you simply become an ambassador for the women’s voices of today?
Wow, I love this question. A superhero? Why not? I’m a huge fan of Marvel’s superheroes, and I really wouldn’t mind positioning Lola Vendetta on the same level as the Kick Ass comics, a female version of it. I’d love that. And if Lola were an ambassador for women’s voices, that would make me so, SO happy. It wouldn’t just be a personal achievement; it would be a social one as well.
– Do you define yourself as a feminist? What does that mean to you?
I am a feminist. To me, feminism involves responsibility towards oneself, towards the past, towards our work in this world. I can’t imagine feminism without spirituality, without an important path towards introspection, without an indispensable sense of forgiveness along the way. Entering the path of feminism without knowing how to forgive could mean walking a path of resentment.
– Determined, brave strokes, a limited colour palette… does the message prevail over form for Lola Vendetta?
At first it was a relaxation exercise on my part. I was very demanding in terms of my drawings’ final result, and Lola Vendetta meant accepting mistakes in my work. But yes, at the end of the day what I did was simplify the form so that I could take pleasure in the content.
– Illustration as an agent of social change. Do you think your work can help change things? Is it something that consciously appears in your creations?
Well, I think everybody’s work can help change things. It all depends on the intention.
I think there’s something lovely about illustration, which makes it seem innocuous. It looks like something that lacks strength, but little by little it sculpts the collective unconscious.
– Paper or digital? Yours is a generation of artists that developed with the digital format and which owes a great deal of its success to social media. That said, is publishing a book still an illustrator’s main goal?
I was all about paper and now I’ve moved to digital for a very simple reason: my back is killing me. Drawing by hand at the pace at which the world used to operate is fantastic. But now, if you want to keep up with the planet, and you also want to colour your drawings, and on top of that you like putting shade on them, and on top of that you’re supposed to catch a flight to Málaga tomorrow, and on top of that you’re going to México in February, and also you’ve got a meeting this afternoon away from the office to discuss the new book.. Then, my friend, there’s no other way but digital. And it’s not sad. It’s evolution. And, I assure you, my right arm’s very grateful to God for creating computer scientists.
– What challenges do you face?
Eating healthily, exercising and calling my parents more often. And also putting together (both through Lola Vendetta and through reEvolución Feminina) a conscious feminist network; that is, a feminism in which we deal with femininities, masculinities and transsexualities through personal awareness and self-knowledge.