Olimpia Zagnoli: “Resilience is synonymous with woman”

Olimpia Zagnoli by Jason Fulford

Olimpia Zagnoli, Ph Jason Fulford

She would draw Greta Thunberg as a flower and, for her, being resilient is synonymous with being a woman. Olimpia Zagnoli is a free illustrator, like the female figures she draws, unfailingly positive, soft and brave.

Curly hair, round glasses and a jaunty air. This is the outward appearance of Olimpia Zagnoli, a leading exponent of the new wave of Italian illustration that has taken the world by storm. Inside, however, one imagines her as a whirlwind of lines, shapes and colours. 37 years’ old, Milanese, from a decidedly creative family – her mother’s a painter, her father a photographer and her sister a costume designer – a marked predilection for bold figures and colours and a sometimes ironic passion for unusual objects. Attitudes that have blazed an unstoppable international creative trail and encouraged her to put a toe in the water of many different sectors, from publishing to fashion, communication and art, creating extraordinarily imaginative, playful and bright images. Her illustrations are “positive,” lively and vivid, marking out a talent constantly on the look-out for new vocabularies and opportunities for expression. Olimpia tells stories, with intelligence and curiosity, that have an everyday, homely and familiar feel. She considers the colour and the essence of these stories, not just the atmosphere or the decoration. In this Proustian questionnaire, she reveals that as a child she wanted to become an inventor and that her Masters include Bruno Munari, Altan and Charlotte Perriand.


Caleidoscopica Exhibition, Ph Miro Zagnoli

How would you introduce yourself to someone who doesn’t know you? Pleased to meet you. I’m Olimpia.

Your main character trait? The inability to hold onto a thought for more than four consecutive seconds.

What did you want to be when you grew up? An inventor.

Has an encounter, event or person had a decisive impact on your career? When I was little, I saw Altan drawing at the children’s bookshop in Milan and was captivated by the ease with which he did it.

How do you feed your creativity? I find things interesting that might not appear so.

What makes you happy? Fizzy water at midnight.

A creative that you would describe as your Master? Bruno Mari.

Who are your imaginary heroes? Charlie Brown.

A real-life hero? It doesn’t take much right now.

What do your friends have in common? Not being surgeons.

Who would you like a house, an interior, a space for yourself designed by … ? Charlotte Perriand, of course.

Is storytelling through images more difficult than through words? Not for me, quite the reverse.

If your “girls” were real, what would they be like? Free.

Less is more? Sometimes.

Define your generation. Nostalgic.

What’s your favourite colour? Today it’s pale yellow.

Digital or real? Both.

The TV series you never want to end? Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy.

Three books you’d take to a desert island? From Afar it was an Island, by Bruno Mari; Arturo’s Island, by Elsa Morante; Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Who would play the soundtrack to your life? The Shaggs.

Your favourite object? My hot water bottle.

Your favourite place? Camogli.

Your idea of resilience? Being a woman.

What do you do in relation to sustainability? Everything I can.

How would you draw Greta Thunberg? As a flower.

A project you’d take on in a flash? Designing a collection of tiles.

A magazine you’ve not yet “given” one of your illustrations to but would very much like as a client? Interview.

What is talent? Good luck.

Your life motto? I haven’t found it yet (nor have I looked for it).

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Caleidoscopica Exhibition, Ph Miro Zagnoli

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Caleidoscopica Exhibition, Ph Miro Zagnoli

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Caleidoscopica Exhibition, Ph Miro Zagnoli

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Caleidoscopica Exhibition, Ph Miro Zagnoli

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Caleidoscopica Exhibition, Ph Miro Zagnoli

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Caleidoscopica Exhibition, Ph Miro Zagnoli

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Caleidoscopica Exhibition, Ph Miro Zagnoli

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Caleidoscopica Exhibition, Ph Miro Zagnoli

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14 December 2021