Sometimes you have a conversation with a stranger or someone you barely know and you feel like you could talk for hours. That is exactly what happened to me when I interviewed Sara Fratini. Not only because she is also Sara with no “h” (which is kind of a big thing for us Saras and Sarahs), but also because her passion and commitment to her work makes you want to ask her questions nonstop.
It’s 12 p.m. in Amantea, located in southern Italy, and 6 a.m. US Eastern Time when we start to chat. Technology and I are having trouble waking up early to make the call, but things start flowing once we introduce ourselves and laughs start to come up.
Sara’s work is very unique and has a defined style, which is clearly identifiable everywhere on the internet. Her illustrations are consistently based on a set of curvy girls, they are done by hand and then retouched a little using Adobe Photoshop in order to get the precise color brightness that she wants. They are creative, fun and show, mostly through metaphors, a very clear message of what she’s trying to express.
“They are a mix between being a little girl and growing up. They are a result of talks with myself, with my inner child, and with the child I am now,” she explains her work and laughs. But these kinds of drawings weren’t always part of Sara’s style; they started showing up when she moved to the small Italian town she currently lives in, “I started working on drawings related to women’s issues, without even realizing it. Things as little as hair struggles or women’s anxiety…and that’s how these fatties were born. It was a very personal and internal thing, I didn’t plan it, it was a very natural process.”
Her artistic journey started when she was very young, “I didn’t even care for dolls. Drawing was my main distraction,” Sara says. Even though her talent arose when she was young, she never took a class or had a technical drawing lesson before going to college. Originally from Venezuela, she traveled to Spain 10 years ago to study Art at Complutense University of Madrid, where she learned everything from natural and realistic drawing, to painting and sculpture. This set of knowledge gave Sara a new perspective, and during the last few months of school, like most college students about to graduate, she started having a crisis about what she was going to do after finishing. Plus, her professors used to talk about how hard it was to make a living out of being an artist.
At that moment, she decided the best move was to create a Facebook fan page and commit to posting one drawing a day, but trying to figure out her style wasn’t that easy. She struggled with breaking away from realistic drawing, which is very technical, to try to get into illustration. “I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know how to link one thing with the other and basically started doing some drawings that were horrible to me, but they were honestly what helped me be where I am now,” Sara says. Even though she didn’t think her drawings were good, the consistency of posting one drawing a day and experimenting with different styles, helped her gain more Facebook fans everyday and started to get recognition for her work. “There were days I got 1,000 fans a day! I couldn’t believe what was happening,” she remembers.
Her first drawings on Facebook were still technical line drawing done with charcoal and Chinese ink. She mainly worked on realistically portraying wrinkled old women, trying to highlight what people usually reject about growing old. Sara’s early work is amazing, but it’s hard to believe she drew them, since her style is so different now. The creative thought of her current work came from her eagerness to do things with a funnier context, highlighting important aspects of life like growing old, but with a metaphorical and funny approach. For example, the curvy girls from her illustrations are full of details and they are awesome to look at, but they also show messages from emotional hangovers and love, to feminism and societal issues.
Last year, her illustrations were compiled into a book called “La Buena Vida” (“The Good Life), which is full of what her current illustrations are all about. One of her goals is to keep publishing stories and compiling her work into books. She has also done mural painting all over Spain and Italy and she dreams about one day doing one in Wynwood, Miami, the mural and graffiti neighborhood.
Given the complicated political situation in Venezuela, Sara’s family moved to the U.S. and she hasn’t gone back to her home country in 7 years. Europe is her new home now; Spain and Italy have become the places that shaped her college and professional years. This is one of the reasons why in the future, she also wants to work on an illustrated story of her arrival and first moments in Madrid. Her work is so easy to enjoy and identify with, that I cannot wait to see what the end result will be. In the meantime, she’ll continue to enjoy her life in Calabria, drawing, thinking, organizing film festivals, and going with the wind; which is, Sara’s main style.