In June this year Argentina held a historic vote in congress on a bill to decriminalize abortion. The bill didn’t pass but tens of thousands of women marched for their rights and they refuse to give up. Buenos Aires-based illustrator Daiana Ruiz made a downloadable poster in support of the #abortolegalya campaign. On the poster a woman holds a baton high in the air astride a rearing horse.
“I'm experiencing a feminist movement for the first time in my life,” she says. “I’m really impressed by how many Argentinian women have mobilized to legalize abortion. There was (and still is) a lot of energy and sisterhood. It's a great moment to be a woman. Even if it’s hard, I think fighting makes us stronger. And I’m really glad that the Argentinian movement has inspired Latin American women to keep fighting.”
Feminism runs strong throughout Daiana’s work — illustrations of a variety of women made in response to a historical lack of media representation of different races and body types. Her women stand boldly amidst various abstract shapes, patterns and props that together create a set. “I don't know them exactly, but I can see myself or my friends in their attitude,” she says.
No matter the pose they strike, they gaze directly back at the viewer. “For me, a strong woman is a free woman,” Daiana says. “I think every woman has felt a kind of oppression at some point in their life, either gender wage differences, religious persecution or social oppression and so on. Sometimes racial disparity is added to all of this. I like to represent those women who stand up to oppression and injustice.”
Before she became an illustrator, Daiana first worked as a graphic designer making motion graphics for a TV channel. “I had some free time and a digital drawing tablet,” she says, “so basically I took graphic design tools and started creating my universe.”
She quit that job to work on different ways to explore her imagination and to express herself. Over time she developed a recognizable style of simple, elegant line work coupled with flat color. Paging through magazines or scrolling through online publications today, the style she established is omnipresent, emulated by other illustrators and commissioned by art directors the world over.
She leads the pack though with an impressive roster of stellar editorial clients like The New York Times, The New Yorker and Rolling Stone. On staying ahead of the curve, she says, “I think it’s important to let our senses absorb what surrounds us. This means being in touch with our influences and exploring new techniques. I also think it’s important to keep ourselves learning constantly.”
For National Girlfriends Day in the US this August, Daiana was commissioned to make an illustration for Nylon magazine. It’s just one example of the many commissioned pieces she’s done which recognize her personal politics and interests. She credits taking the time to cultivate and publish personal work (and a bit of luck) for getting clients that are supportive and respectful of her vision.
“Think about what is important to you, what things you want to represent,” she offers as advice. She’s since created the illustrations for articles in feminist publications like Lenny Letter and Bitch Media and contributed artwork to an animated video for Planned Parenthood.
Although flat color is her go-to style, it’s through fashion that Daiana’s explores more layered textures: transparent pink trousers, glittery tights and a fuzzy white bathing suit. This year she ran a workshop on clothing and fashion as a narrative tool in illustration.
“I think fashion has always been a way of communicating one’s mood or personality, and it allows us to design ourselves and express what’s happening in a specific time of our life,” she says. “It’s also a historical indicator and that’s why I think it’s important to represent. I think we are going through a stage of gender inclusivity and fashion has to be a part of that.”
In her illustrations you’ll spot references to Balenciaga, Jacquemus and patterns from Emilio Pucci’s 2017 Spring collection, often paired with Italian shoe designer Silvia Avanzi’s signature heels. There are also vintage references to Issey Miyake who, with his 1980s collection, was creating voluminous works of art while other fashion houses of the time were endorsing the figure-squeezing bodycon dress.
Daiana’s work is a contemporary take on fashion illustration that’s inclusive and body positive. “The women in my illustrations are a representation of a concept,” she says – an idea of a world where women own the rights to their bodies and wear really good shoes.
Words by Alix-Rose Cowie.