Virginia Gabrielli on leaving the viewer “as free as possible” as an editorial illustrator

To reach this ideal equilibrium of illustrative interpretation, Virginia has navigated through several different disciplines before getting settled. Always a keen drawer – “I know that it’s trivial to say (everybody does) but I’ve always drawn as long as I can remember” – Virginia grew up inspired by her mother, an interior designer, and her sister, who is more involved in cinema and art. Deciding to first study painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice, drawing still ran alongside her painting practice, coming to the forefront during an Erasmus year at Falmouth University, “where I discovered and fell in love with illustration,” she explains. Never before considering the medium as a career path as “in Venice it was not so much around, but the British scene was really vibrant,” Virginia then switched course to further her study specifically in illustration at the ISIA in Urbino.
With this in mind, Virginia’s pieces often act like a standalone artwork interpreting themes, details or even just the feeling a piece evokes. Rather than directly referencing words or figures, her work acts like a beautifully still trailer for the piece. “I don’t want to direct too much interpretation to the viewer,” she adds. “It’s like when, before reading a novel, you watch the movie and that completely ruins the interpretation of the characters. Once you read the text you will not be able to imagine any characters other than the actors in the film. I guess it’s the same thing,” ponders the illustrator. “I prefer that other elements speak and give emotions, such as colours and shapes, leaving the viewer as free as possible.”
Working largely as an editorial illustrator, Milan-based Virginia Gabrielli says it’s often her job to not give too much away. Whether her piece sits beside a long read in The New Yorker or The Atlantic, “I hope that my images can visually support a better understanding of the text,” she says, “but, at the same time, I also wish they can suggest something more.”