Studio Visit: Maria Fernanda Arévalo

For today’s Studio Visit, I talked to Maria Fernanda Arévalo (affectionally known as Mafe to her friends), an illustrator based in Barcelona, Spain. I first found her on Instagram when she posted up her beautiful studio as well as her working process, and I can’t wait to share them with you here on the blog! (Think I’m missing out on featuring your studio/process? Well let’s remedy that – tag me on Instagram (@pikaland)!)

Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

Hi Mafe! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hi Amy! Thanks for your kind invitation. My Name is María Fernanda but my friends know me as Mafe. I was born in Colombia and now I live near Barcelona, in the middle of an amazing Nature park and I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts. My life changed when I came to Spain. Although life in the city is exciting, I started living for the first time in the middle of nature and this was an indescribable and inspirational experience for me. I discovered the many pleasures of taking in the sounds, smells, colours and other treasures that nature gives.

Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

With that change in my life came a noticeable shift in my style of creating and painting. I feel that the work is truer to me in terms of my character and my outlook on life in general. I like to see the beauty and magic of nature and the little things of life.

I enjoy walking with Panchito (a pug) and Mimi (a teckel) – my best friends! – as we go up the mountains. They are cute and funny, and they are always together.

Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

I’m active and curious. I often feel the need to make new things, and I love to explore techniques, colours and different medias.

What are you working on right now?

I’m very happy now because I’m working on two exciting projects: The first one is a personal project – I’m writing a book about emotions and dreams and the second one is my creative work, actually I explore mixed media and paint to express my love of nature.  Both projects are special to me. My life is going through a lot of changes right now, and this is the first time that I’m writing about life and dreams. It´s a fulfilling experience.

I’m exploring and experimenting the possibilities of mixed media. I see the environment, its colours and its forms. I’m exploring with gouache and mixed media, and this is very exciting for me. I love working with paper, crayolas, gouache, pencil colors, markers – all of which makes it a very hands-on experience. In both projects I feel free and happy.

I love your studio! Can you tell us a little bit more about your spatial arrangement?

Once in a while, I like to renovate my studio. I think this is a inspirational way to create, having pictures, objects, and things where you can find surround yourself with inspiration. Last year, my studio looked like a child’s room. I enjoyed this decoration because it was inspirational for the happy mail project and other illustration projects that I was involved with. This year, I made some changes in my studio because I needed more space and I added a big table so that I could paint and draw in different formats. I sold part of my furniture to create this new space! I enjoy changes, because it always brings good things into my life.

Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

What are your favourite tools?

I think that everything I come across is a great tool to create with! I work with seasons, and sometimes I enjoy working only with Adobe Illustrator and my Wacom tablet.  Sometimes the craft girl in me comes out and I enjoy exploring with stamps, washi tapes and various cute tools. But for now, I’m using more traditional medias like pencil colours, brushes, gouache, crayolas, markers, acrilic, paper, pastels, and ecolines. After that, I use a camera to take pictures of my work and then work on it further with Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. I also use the camera on my mobile phone a lot to take a snapshot of any inspiration that I encounter.


Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

What or who inspires you and your work?

The best inspiration, I think, comes from the observation of nature. I like to contemplate by looking at the amazing landscape near my home. The river, the pound, the leaves… the sky, the colours of the sunset.

The great masters of painting always are inspirational. I enjoy seeing the paints of Matisse, Klimt, Miro, Monet they do amazing wonders for my heart and soul!

The internet too is an amazing tool to discover lovely people with great ideas! I find a lot of inspiration on Pinterest.

Can you tell us a little bit about how you work? What’s your process?

My process begins when i walk around the mountains. I open my eyes and take in everything around me… I see colours and forms; I close my eyes and feel my emotions. I then take some pictures with my mobile phone. After compiling a number of images I select one or more to do up a quick sketch. These sketches are about quick observation of shapes and colours; but before I begin, I like to think about the title for each art work.

Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

When I arrive home, I take my sketch book and I begin to select the colours that I want to incorporate for my new project. When I have the colours all picked out, I then start to think about which tools I could use. After the colour selection, I clean my table and prepare my tools and materials. I like to prepare everything so that I don´t disturb my creative process.

When I do all the above, I feel that this is my moment, and for me it´s very special. I like to work while listening to music, sometimes classic, and sometimes I get in some bossanova or jazz.

I like to let the art flow, each line, each drop, each colour. I work in gouache and mix media, so I enjoy the process of working directly on the surface. It`’s my moment, my space, and my time. When I finish each artwork I usually spend my time appreciating it. Each work has plenty of colours and is intuitive to me.

The next day I take pictures of it, and then make additional amendments through Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator if needed. And when it’s done, I upload this image on to Society6 where it gets to be on various different items!

Studio Visit: Mafe Fernanda

Thank you so much Mafe!

(Images courtesy of Mafe & also from her Instagram account)


Do you have a project that you’re working on right now that you’d like to share? Or what if you’d like to finally reveal your secret studio in all its glorious messiness once and for all (hey, it’s a place where you create – let’s keep it real!)? I’d love to share your process (nothing’s too messy for us!) with our readers, so do contact us if you’d like to be featured! Also, if you’re on Instagram, tag me (@pikaland) in your photos so that I can scoot on over to take a look!

Multi-Passionate Must Haves

Multi-Passionate Must-Haves

Based on my previous post, you can probably guess that I’m dipping my toes in a few of my favorite pursuits – things like technology, writing, drawing, creativity and teaching. All of which – when combined together – makes for one amazing experience, and I’m humbled everyday at the chances that have been given to me.

So when Emilie Wapnick and Michelle Ward invited me to contribute the Good to Know zines to their great project for those who have a lot of different interests in life, I immediately said YES! Because I know from experience that a career isn’t just a desk behind a cubicle, or that people have to be good at one single thing in order to get somewhere high up the ladder. Why can’t we put the ladder aside (or better yet – own it ourselves?)

So in comes The Multi-Passionate Must Haves – a giant bundle of downloadable resource that has 30 courses, audios and ebooks (including the Good to Know PDF zines!) – which brings it up to a grand total of $2,046.95 – that will allow you to integrate your many passions into your life and use them as fuel for income. The best bit? The bundle is yours for just $97 – until Thursday at midnight (PST).

The 2nd best part? $10 from each sale is going to Michelle Ward’s team for the Avon 2-Day Breast Cancer Walk in New York. Michelle was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2011 and declared cancer-free in June 2012, and this will be the 3rd year she’ll be walking 39.3 miles with Avon over 2 days with her mother and bestest friends.

P.S. If you don’t know what it means to be multi-passionate, or are unsure if you are one, take a look at this page and jump to the Q&A at the bottom of the page!

We’re made up of tangled strings

 Amy Ng, Ball of String

There were bags and bags of potato chips around. A container full of soda and a seemingly never-ending supply of ice around each corner of the room. The floor was littered with bean bags of all different shapes, sizes and colours, like oversized candy pillows.

As I step into the room, friends greeted me left and right. “Hey Pikaland!” they’d shout as they gave me a fist bump. It’s a place where your Twitter handle’s your first name and other things immaterial slide to the wayside. Race, gender and language dissipates: leaving behind only the love of ideas and the technology that can bring them to life. It was a place where fingers worked hard to keep up with the stream of code that pours from one’s mind.

It was 2011 and a hackathon (a hacking marathon) was in full swing. But I wasn’t a hacker.

I came to the event, knowing full well that my coding skills were amateurish at best, and riddled with problems at worst. But that didn’t deter me at all. I knew these amazing bunch of people from monthly meetups that brought together people from the tech industry. This included everyone from big corporations to small start-ups; from entrepreneurs to family businesses – all looking for a way to leverage technology to help them navigate this new era we all live in. The hackathon was one of the many events that brought them all together to work on ideas that could change the community, or the world for the better.

I saw a friend sitting in a booth with 3 other guys, and scored an invitation to come join them. I’m an illustrator, I said – and they all remarked that it was incredibly cool that I get to work with my hands. I told them that they’re doing exactly the same thing – the only difference was the output; everything else was generated through good old-fashioned brain power.

We talked a lot during my time at the hackathon – we talked about business, competition and how developers find freelance jobs (oDesk was a good place to find talent, and can sometimes come up short). I got myself a Dribbble invite and learned that one of the guys at the table worked for Envato. We talked tech, but we also talked a lot about business, and life as an entrepreneur. The room was 98% guys and I was just one of the few girls who participated – but I wasn’t made to feel any less competent. Instead, I was celebrated as a wild card, a secret weapon that the group had over the rest. It was tremendous fun.

Though our group worked through the night, we didn’t win. It was a dating app called Icebreaker that offers introverted, shy tech guys topics that they could talk to girls about. At first I was a little perplexed by the idea, but then I came to understand why they might need such a thing to kick start a conversation (remember, this was back in the day when the term introvert hasn’t blown up yet!) I contributed quite a bit to the cause: I came up with most of the topics and lines for the app and vetoed the ones that didn’t fit (or would most likely scare girls away), and an illustration for it as well (boy, were they tapping into my strengths!)

All in all – I had a great time. Why?

  • I didn’t let the fear of not belonging stop me from being there.  (remember, I could count the number of girls on my hand, in a room full of guys)
  • I didn’t feel bothered that I wasn’t adequately skilled in programming – I had other skills to offer
  • I genuinely had an interest in tech and I wanted to learn more by immersing myself head on in this intense event! plus;
  • I’m a geek at heart

Why am I telling you this?

I wanted to remind you that you’re more than just an illustrator or an artist.

Your skill set isn’t just limited to what you can physically and technically achieve. Drawing, painting, and illustrating may be your output – but what matters very much is the input too: the things you read, the people you meet and talk to; and the experiences you collect along the way. The combination of all these inputs manifests in an incredible process that makes you truly unique, along with the output you produce.

We’re all more than just a label we put on ourselves – we’re complicated and unpredictable – a giant tangle of strings that come from many different sources. Each string mingles, crisscrosses and even blends into others to form new strands – of personalities, knowledge and beliefs – that further defines who we are. We’re not just one ball made up of one homogenous string.

So let’s do a bit of an exercise: let’s put the term artist aside for a while – what else do you consume? What else do you do? What else do you know? What topics do you love? What defines you as a person? Share them with me in the comments below!


If you like reading this post, think of all the goodness you could miss out on (you know – because life happens!) I’ll make it easy for you to keep up by sending you an email once a week when I write something new. If this is something you’d like – then head on over here to sign up for the mailing list!