Quick Draw | A Conversation With Alessandra Maria

Alessandra Maria is our New and Notable artist for the summer 2016 issue of Drawing. Maria’s work consists of charcoal, graphite and carbon pencils, gold leaf and black ink on coffee-stained paper, resulting in haunting portraits that posses a sculptural quality.

We had the pleasure of talking with Maria about her work, her inspirations and her advice for other artists. To learn more about the artist, visit her website. To see more from our summer issue, order or download a copy now, or subscribe to Drawing.

charcoal artist alessandra maria

Reverie I (2014; graphite, carbon pencil, gold leaf and black ink on coffee-stained paper, 9×9) by Alessandra Maria

Drawing (DR): Do you work from life, from photos, from imagination? Do you do much sketching or preliminary work before beginning a piece?

Alessandra Maria (AM): I often work from a combination of photos and imagination. I’ll make a photo collage before starting a piece to solidify what I’m seeing in my head; from there I work from the collage.

charcoal artist alessandra maria

Donum (2016; charcoal, carbon pencil, black ink and gold leaf on coffee stained paper, 24×26) by Alessandra Maria

DR: What do you like about the materials you work with? In particular, what’s the appeal of drawing on coffee-stained paper?

AM: I have always drawn, and am most comfortable with it as a medium. Charcoal has been a fun new challenge, and has opened up a world of possibilities. Because I’m accustomed to the precision of graphite, the messy freedom of charcoal has turned out to be liberating and exciting. I’m amazed by how much it’s enabled me to speed up my work!

I started drawing on coffee stained paper because I wanted the work to have a certain warmth and aged look about it. It helps give the work the feeling of an artifact.

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Beatus (2015; graphite, black ink, gold leaf, carbon pencil on coffee stained paper, 22×17 1/2) by Alessandra Maria

DR. Are any master artists a particular inspiration to you?

AM: Da Vinci is an obvious choice, and from there I have quite a few classic favorites: Klimt; Botticelli; Bougueraeu; Beardsley; Andrew Wyeth; Hammershoi; in addition to other greats like Fuyuko Matsui, Kiefer, Saville, De Kooning and Mickalene Thomas. It runs a bit of a range.

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Prayers (2014; graphite, black ink, gold leaf and carbon pencil on coffee stained paper, 10×12 1/5) by Alessandra Maria

DR: What advice would you have to someone looking to begin drawing the figure?

AM: Figure out where you want to be, and spend a good deal of time studying your idols intensely. Don’t get frustrated by mistakes; great artists are only masters because they have made thousands of terrible drawings. And rules don’t exist. Anybody who makes up a rule about how you should or shouldn’t draw is ridiculous. Draw with a mechanical pencil if that’s your jam, and screw anyone who tells you otherwise.

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Jamila No. 2 (2015; graphite, black ink and carbon pencil on coffee stained paper, 18×24) by Alessandra Maria

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