Until recently, directing films seemed off-limits to women in Spain, but a new generation of filmmakers —Carla Simón, Pilar Palomero, or Paula Ortiz, among others— have broken through that glass ceiling.
The Enigmatic Illustrator
Mysterious, haunting atmospheres characterize the work of Mercedes Bellido, one of Spain’s most influential illustrators. Brands such as Chanel and Zara have shown interest in the particular world of this young artist from Zaragoza.
You might be one of the 37.000 Instagram followers that enjoy the mysterious, haunting atmospheres, the esoteric and sometimes sinister auras that inhabit her work. Mercedes Bellido seeks the limits between right and wrong, darkness and light, to show that things are not that good or bad, that nothing is self-evident. Social media, especially Instagram, has allowed this “Zaragoza-born Madrid-based artist,” as she likes to introduce herself, to show her work. At 28, she has become one of the most influential illustrators on the national scene. And although she admits she doesn’t lose sleep over social media, she tries to keep them polished and share only her work and things that interest her.
Thanks to Instagram, brands such as Zara, Nike, Chanel, Bimba y Lola and Reebok have shown interest in her signature style, full of symbolism, skulls, plants, still lives, and fantasy. Collaborations like these take her out of her comfort zone, allowing her to try new ideas. Mercedes fondly remembers “a project for Zara I did a few years ago, as well as several collaborations with Nike. I’m also proud of a nine-metre-high mural I did for Oysho in Barcelona.”
But her most important project, she says with satisfaction, is the book El libro oculto de los animals (Lunwerg, 2019), an illustrated bestiary that embodies the essence of her work and delves into the symbolic significance of thirty animals divided into five chapters, each guided by the concepts they’re associated with—eternity and regeneration, magic and fate, strength and power, purity and perfection, and light and darkness.
“There are no revelations or epiphanies, it’s all about visual research, reading books, going to exhibitions, drawing ideas and hundreds of sketches”
Mercedes never imagined she would end up devoting herself to illustration. She studied Law and says she “would have tried to become a prosecutor”. So painting wasn’t something she suddenly discovered—she started doing it gradually, but remembers always having crayons in her hands. “I never considered it a possibility, but jobs and collaborations kept rolling in, which gave me the courage to go on and make it into my real job. I’m very grateful to be able to devote myself to this.” But although she loves what he does and enjoys drawing, “it’s a job like any other”.
To get here she studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cuenca and did a Master in Research in Art and Creation at the Complutense University of Madrid. Her inspiration comes from continuous work, which she makes into a ritual by lighting a candle and playing some background music. “Inspiration comes at once. There are no revelations or epiphanies, it’s all about visual research, reading books, going to exhibitions, drawing ideas and hundreds of sketches”.
Bellido’s style has evolved over time and is informed by numerous influences, including Surrealism and Baroque painting. She uses powerful, saturated colors and pasty textures: "I like the lumps when you mix the paint.” No wonder some of her favorite artists include Giorgio de Chirico, René Magritte and Yves Tanguy. She admires other fellow illustrators such as Maria Herreros, Ricardo Cavolo, Yime, Julio Linares, An Wei, Rubenimichi, 3ttman, Mai Blanco, Coco Escribano, Maria Luque, Ekta, George Greaves, Sophia Pega, Ignasi Monreal, Cristina Daura and Roberta Vázquez. "Illustration is going through a very good phase in Spain. There’re many illustrators, the quality is high and there’s a lot of support and camaraderie among us."
Bellido says she has several projects in the pipeline, “but I can’t say much at me moment.” Mystery continues to shroud Mercedes Bellido. Not a surprise.