Spanish Illustrator Gonzalo Muiño: « If It Makes Me Laugh Or Holds My Attention, I Consider It Worth Drawing!»

Gonzalo Muiño has his own recognizable and elegant (and not devoid of humor) style in the world of graphic art. Trained as a graphic designer, Gonzalo is currently working at AD Spain and as a free lance illustrator. His clients have included Grazia, Glamour, and Time magazines, Zara, Penguin, and others. His love of fashion and film often finds its way into his illustrations, especially in his portrait series for Icon postcards, which include Coco Chanel, Anna Wintour, and Grace Coddington. During our discussion, we talked about several topics ranging from Karl Lagerfeld to illustrative techniques.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

My name is Gonzalo Muiño, I am from Spain, and I studied Graphic Design in Madrid and New York before starting to work. My career as an illustrator and as a graphic designer is very related to editorial design since I work and publish mostly in magazines and books. 


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When were you first aware of your artistic skills, and how did you decide to take this path seriously?

I have always illustrated, when I was a kid I spent hours drawing while travelling, I can’t think about a memory from my childhood where I wasn’t surrounded by pencils and watercolors. I never saw it as anything other than a hobby until my early twenties when I realised that my illustrations grabbed people’s attention, that is when I started considering my hobby as a profession.

How and when did you start your career as an illustrator?

I was doing an internship at a fashion magazine, they needed an illustration for an article, and I offered myself to do it. Since then I have collaborated with magazines like Glamour, Smoda, or Time or brands like Zara, Penguin, or Random House. 


What exactly do you do as a graphic designer? Tell us about your work with AD Spain.

I’m a graphic designer at AD Spain, which means I put together text and images on a blank page, making it attractive for the reader. This is my first time working for a design magazine, and I love how much I learn every day.


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How did you come up with your style, what made you explore it to begin with, and what in your opinion are its main characteristics?

I always had a very personal style. If you see illustrations from 10 years ago you would easly recognize my touch. I don’t do it on purpose, but all of my illustrations are connected because they are naif, elegant, and colorful at the same time. Even when I do black and white illustrations they are recognizable.


Who is your favorite character to draw? And why? Because I know that you work a lot with fashion themes. Maybe someone from the fashion world?

I love drawing Karl Lagerfeld. He is so iconic, and his color palette always matches any background! I also love to draw Coco Chanel, she is such an inspiration.

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How do you usually choose your subjects?

I think about what I would like to see in an illustration, if it makes me laugh or holds my attention, I consider it worth drawing!

When you began your journey as a graphic designer you probably had a few role models, would you name three of your favorite artists?

As a Graphic Designer I have always admired Saul Bass. He is so good with shapes and colours, and so expressive with just a few lines… I’m also very inspired by two amazing Spanish graphic designers, they are Javier Mariscal and Oscar Mariné. The three of them mix quite good illustration with graphic design.


What are the most interesting projects you have worked on?

I really like the things that I’m doing lately with AD Spain. The box of chocolate and the pattern for the bag and the envelope are definitely some of my best creations. 

Is there any particular application, style of work, or technique that you’re currently experimenting with?

After years of trying to get better with computer art, now I’m missing working with watercolours and pencils. I might come back for a while since I have just discovered a foil – golden paint – and I’m obsessed with it.


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I notice both a personal and a commercial approach to your work? Tell us, how do you merge the two together?

When you really feel passionate about something you manage to figure it out. When I have been working for a while for other people’s projects, I make sure I find time to work on my own drawings, even if I have to sleep a few hours less! 

You are a freelancer, so what is it like to work as a freelancer, being your own boss? And what would be the biggest lesson you have learned from it?

I’m a weird freelancer since I’m currently working at AD Spain, but I spend a lot of my free time illustrating. Being your own boss is quite difficult since you don’t have a different input or someone who guides your creative process. The lesson I’ve learned so far is that when you get to a point where nothing looks good, you must go to sleep and rest. The next day everything will look different (it’s almost magic!).

What do you think is the most challenging aspect of your work?

The worst part of my job is organization. Even if I have plenty of time to do a project I keep making changes until I’m close to the deadline so I almost have to rush to finish it. Sometimes I would love to know when to stop! 


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What are the things that inspire you? Can you name a few websites you use for inspiration?

Fashion is an important source of inspiration for me. I keep looking for Eiko Ishioka’s costumes to get some ideas before facing a project, as well as I pay special attention to Josep Font’s work at Delpozo or Raf Simons at Dior. The websites I visit the most are (now part of and Pinterest. But I keep on checking Instagram all day long, it is such a wonderful way of finding new inspirations!

What are some of your proudest projects ever?

It keeps changing as I work, but I remember with special pride a poster I did while I was doing my master’s degree. It was a movie poster for Frankenstein, and it won several awards. Years later I did my first book with a great Spanish designer named Lorenzo Caprile, «De qué hablamos cuando hablamos de estilo» («What are we talking about when we talk about style»). The process was awesome, and the result made me very happy.

What are the other things besides design and illustration that you are passionate about, and how do they influence your work ?

I am really passionate about movies. It keeps me inspired and forces me to rest, taking my mind away from papers and pencils. I really like the work of Tarsen Singh or movies like Dracula, Fantastic Mr. Fox, or The Hours. Sometimes I don’t need the plot to be interesting, I just enjoy them visually. 


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What are some of your personal and/or professional goals for the future?

I try not to have any expectations and enjoy what I’m currently living, but I definitely want to do some house ware design. I would love to see my illustrations on chairs, sheets, or even wallpapers. 

And your personal motto…

«Effort gets you anywhere.»


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