The young and multi-talented illustrator Olimpia Zagnoli, who often goes by OZ, shares more than just a namesake with the legendary film The Wizard of Oz. Like Dorothy, Olimpia is a young woman from a small town whose life has been swept up by a storm. For Dorothy, it was a twister that carried her away to the Land of Oz. In Olimpia’s case, a whirlwind of work, recognition, and success has cast her onto the international stage of illustration. A contributor to The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Guardian, La Repubblica, Il Corriere della Sera, Sole 24 Ore, Internazionale, Marie Claire and more, OZ entered the scene like a leading actor and shows no signs of exiting center stage.

After illustrating The New York Times “36 Hours,” art directing Timbuktu, the first ipad magazine for kids, and creating the icons for The NYT’s iphone app “The Scoop,” Olimpia has expanded her horizons. She’s worked on videos and installations; she’s co-created Clodomiro, a family-run online shop of china plates with erotic imagery; currently, she’s concentrating her efforts on a few very special children’s book projects.

OZ’s red and round-framed spectacles (à la Le Corbusier) are as iconic as Dorothy’s ruby slippers, but she doesn’t need to click her heels three times to perform her magic. Determined, intelligent, savvy, and ironic, her apparently simple drawings with a retro feel are captivating and reflect her witty character. If you take a close look at her illustrations you will realize the careful study that she makes of color. Whether artistic talent is passed on genetically or is something learned, we can safely presume that OZ inherited a keen sensitivity to color and composition from her artist-mother, Emanuela, and her photographer-father, Miro. As Dorothy says: “There’s no place like home.”

Who-What-Where-When-Why – A 5-question Interview with OZ

Who are you?
I am Olimpia. I'm 28. I wanted to be an astronaut but I ended up an illustrator.

What is a day in the life of OZ like?
Tea, rocking chair, hunched shoulders, pasta and hugs.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? And in 20?
In 10 years. In another place on the planet, with a kid named Otto somewhere in the wilderness.
In 20 years. In the Italian countryside living with a very intelligent pig and doing what I like.

When did you start drawing?
When I was tall enough to reach the place where the pencils were.

Why do you do what you do?
Because it's the best job on Earth.

Olimpia will be holding a workshop called Inspiration on Demand in the Signs & Lines series in Milan on 11-12-13 May.

Simplicity is not the goal. It is the by-product of a good idea and modest expectations. --- Paul Rand

A good idea, like the wind, can come and go unexpectedly. Illustrators who work on commission under tight deadlines, with briefs and articles to read and digest, must come up with not only the idea but a convincing illustration as well. When and how do they get their ideas? How much time is spent on the idea and how much on executing it? What if the article or work that needs to be illustrated doesn’t inspire any
ideas? What then?

In the workshop Inspiration on Demand, Olimpia Zagnoli, the young and über-talented illustrator whose clients include The New York Times and The New Yorker, will present various aspects involved in commissioned illustrations, from the relationship with the client to presenting proposals to accepting compromises. Olimpia will “commission” the participants to illustrate articles using published work as case studies.
She will also give a talk on personal branding, social media and strategic ways for illustrators (as well as artists, designers, etc) to promote themselves and their work.

Olimpia Zagnoli was born in 1984 in a small town in northern Italy. Her style is characterized by clean graphic clean illustrations with a retro taste. Her work is featured in magazines, newspapers, book covers, posters and galleries around Europe and the US. Her clients include The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Adidas Originals, Rolling Stone, Corriere della Sera, la Repubblica, Internazionale, among others. She art directs Timbuktu, the first iPad magazine for children, and created the icons for The Scoop, The New York Times app for iphone.

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