Creative Conversations: Kate Moross + Olimpia Zagnoli
Feels like a good day to read this interview between Kate Moross and Olimpia Zagnoli (YGX and YG9, respectively). Kate runs Studio Moross and has done a lot of work designing visuals for bands and musicians. Olimpia lives in Milan and draws illustrations for many diverse publications, from The New York Times to The New Yorker to New York Magazine.
Olimpia says, about being named a Young Gun, “winning a competition in the US for me is very important because you feel updated with the rest of the world.” Young Guns is an international competition, and we encourage entries from all around the world. Click here to begin submitting work.
Olimpia Zagnoli: So first of all congratulation on the Young Guns award. I was actually quite surprised when I found out you won because I have known and appreciated your work for so long that in my mind I thought you were young, but not a young gun anymore. You are more than that.
Kate Moross: Well, I didn’t know about the award until last year. In a way I am kind of glad I waited because I entered my studio work instead of my illustration work. So it was a good way of introducing a new chapter of what I am doing as opposed to the old one. I could have entered my illustration work, but that is not really my main focus anymore.
Olimpia: What is the work that you sent you felt stronger about?
Kate: Well, I submitted all my art direction music projects; it was more graphical illustrations within the music art direction context. I also sent a lot of videos. As much as I still do the other stuff and that’s very much a part of what I am doing, I feel like there is more breadth to what I can do elsewhere in a way. Do you ever feel limited just by illustration?
Olimpia: Yes, definitely. I have been working mostly in editorial – so doing illustrations everyday. I feel that sometimes I need more space than the paper. So I have been starting to work on a few music videos as well as some t-shirts. I think that sometimes illustration is too niche in a way even though it changes because it can be for the New York Times or for a band or whatever, but it’s always illustrations. Sometimes you need kind of a rest from it.
Kate: Exactly. Well I think it’s the opposite for me. I do all the other stuff everyday like laying out album artwork or editing a video. So for me it’s a real nice relaxing thing to just draw. But I don’t work at it as regularly as you. I think you do a lot more regular editorial spots, I do a few bits and bobs here and there, but I am not very good at editorial because I can’t draw people or things.
Olimpia: Actually I draw horrible faces so that’s why I don’t have faces on my characters and I don’t have hands. Hands for me are so hard.
Kate: You do, you do draw hands. They’re great.
Olimpia: Sometimes, but I assure you it’s like a birth every time I do draw hands, because it’s very complicated.
Kate: What was the outcome of winning Young Guns? Did it change anything?
Olimpia: Living in Milan, is very good for some reasons, but it doesn’t really show you what’s going on in the world. So winning a competition in the US for me is very important because you feel updated with the rest of the world. Winning an award like this one was really interesting because it opened doors, for example this coming November I will speak at the Apple Store in Soho. So it’s a very good exposure. The Young Guns party was also really nice. All the other people that won the award were really interesting and they were coming not only from America which is interesting.
Kate: Do you have a lot of friends that are in the industry or are you quite separate? For me I really don’t have anyone else that does what I do around me, so it’s really nice to go to an event where you can speak in industry jargon and bitch and moan about stuff that is annoying. Or talk about upcoming projects.
Olimpia: I have been following you on Twitter. So I know from your pictures that you have a very precise taste in clothes. So I don’t know if I am right or wrong, but I think the inspiration comes from not only graphic inputs like color or shapes, but also from subcultures and other underground scenes or something like that. Since it’s part of my background I wanted to ask you if you think that being around an outsider culture for so long helped you to develop some kind of super hero skills or something?
“I think a lot of what made me who I am is probably to do with being the younger sister with lots of older siblings and not necessarily having anything particularly expected of me in any way.”
Kate: I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t say I was a complete outsider, but I always felt like I made the decision not to be like everyone else. It wasn’t that I was excluded, but it was more like my conscious decision not to be similar to people. In a way I think through that process you want to be friends with everyone so you borrow from everyone’s culture and then you end up being a mish mash of everything. Also I think a lot of what made me who I am is probably to do with being the younger sister with lots of older siblings and not necessarily having anything particularly expected of me in any way. Like I could be whoever I wanted to be. My parents are very liberal and it didn’t matter if you wanted to dress like a boy or wear crazy outfits or paint my room orange. They obviously cared about me, but they did not care about what I was doing. They nurture that weirdness up until this day.
Olimpia: My parents as well were very liberal and they let me do basically whatever I wanted. There was discipline of course, but on the other hand I knew that I could try whatever I wanted, which I understand was precious in a way because it doesn’t happen to everyone. I think that it helped me develop a sense of not only artistic skill, but also a sense own vision in a way.
Kate: I think if we were to compare our work, not aesthetically but emotionally, I feel like your work is more poetic. I don’t mean that in a cliché way, but there’s is more of a feeling or emotions or story in what you do. Not necessarily in your commercial stuff, but in some of your editorial and personal work as well. I find it really difficult to create work like that, because although I am an emotional person I don’t find I can put that kind of emotional feeling with any honesty into my work. I find it very difficult to translate it. A lot of the artists and illustrators I liked the work of when I was younger had that story telling ability or that emotional narrative in their work. It was something I could never do so I wondered where that came from in you. I think in some way that overlaps between our work and in some way its completely different, but I respect the overlaps and I enjoy them.
Olimpia: I think it’s probably true what you say. What I do and what you do is try to never compromise with other clients. I think that emotion that comes from my work could be more immediate in a way like, sexy, fun, while yours is complicated in a way and more layered, but I think that the results could be similar.
Kate: Its weird. I think that explaining or thinking about illustrations is not something I do often, but on the occasion that you have to intellectualize it can be quite interesting. I think a lot of people see illustrators as just a tool to make an output or something to get a result and don’t necessarily appreciate the additional layer that comes from the artist. I think that you definitely bring that with you, with the pallet or the shape, but beyond that there is also a language or voice in the work that repeats your perspectives on what your are looking at or what you are illustrating or your commentary. That’s why editorial is quite good because you do get to put some of your own input on what you are illustrating or see your perspective on the article or the collaboration between yourself and the journalist. So I think that there are definitely other threads that run through your work. I never really do any personal work so maybe I need to do more of that and maybe I’ll find out.