Roser Matas is the artist chosen by “Impars” to create the 2018 UIC Barcelona Christmas Card. The work consists of an adaptation of the “Adoration of the Shepherds” (1505-1510), by Giorgione, in which Roser’s characters visit the adoration through a technique known as photocomposition. She decided to name her reinterpretation “Visiting the Adoration of the Shepherd’s”.
As an artist, Roser Matas (1977) refutes the cliché that a scientific mind has no place in the world of art and creation. This mathematics, physics, chemistry and technology teacher is also an active and brilliant illustrator, whose works have given rise to stories full of magic and posters announcing town fairs around Catalonia. Holder of an undergraduate degree in Physical Sciences from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, she decided to combine teaching with illustration and art courses at the JOSO School in Barcelona and the University of the Arts London (UAL). Her illustrations, which ooze creativity and almost always portray a fun-loving, magical world, have captured the attention of publishing companies such as Barcanova and Comanegra and given life to posters advertising fairs and festivals such as the Platja d’Aro Town Fair and the 63rd Tossols-Basil swimming event.

Impars Project

Coordinator: Núria Garí


Text: Ariadna Peinado
Photos: Quim Roca Mallarach

When did you discover illustration was your passion?

I used to draw as a way of memorising everything that was going to be on the exams. It was something my dad recommended: draw everything I needed to memorise to make it easier to retain. And that’s how I discovered my love for drawing, in between exams, and I haven’t stopped. If I’m honest, it didn’t help my memory much, but my style has evolved significantly.

Is there any one artist or method you find particularly inspiring?

There are a number of artists: two writers, Gianni Rodari and Joana Raspall, and several illustrators, such as Marta Altés, Jon Klassen, Iban Barrenetxea and Elena Odriozola. In any case, I think inspiration can be trained; you have to be consistent and rigorous, but it’s possible.

In my case, for a while, I made it a point to draw something every day and post it on social media. This challenge helped me become more effective in coming up with good ideas. But then new work commitments cropped up, and I had to drop this routine, which I hope to pick back up soon.

I also have other means of inspiration, such as using new techniques. I normally draw with a pencil first, and then pass it to a computer, where I finish it. But trying other techniques, like drawing with a paintbrush or reed, or collage, helps open your mind, and new ideas come out.

Naturally, travel is also very important for me: it’s a time for discovering new landscapes, places that escape one’s imagination, locations you’re not used to seeing.

You ultimately use this inspiration to illustrate both stories and posters. Are the two mediums very different?

Well, in reality, one of my main objectives when I do an illustration is to convey a message, and stories and posters are two very different ways of doing so. With a poster you only have a few seconds to grab people’s attention, while with a story, although the cover is like a poster, you have lots of pages in which to win over the reader.

When did you decide to do posters as well?

I like doing posters because of the challenge they represent. They force you to condense specific information, and you only have a rectangular A3-size in which to do so. It’s important to know how to combine the text and images, and make sure the result is both striking and pleasant at the same time. It’s like solving a puzzle with thousands of pieces without the picture.

In this regard, I’m always reminded of a quote by Miquel Plana, a poster artist, engraver and bibliophile from Olot: “A poster has to be a slap in the face”. I’m not sure if any of my posters have slapped anyone in the face, but I hope they’ve encouraged people to check out what they were advertising.

All of your work, which is your favourite?

Truth be told, I’m really fond of all my posters, for everything they’ve given me and what I learned doing them. But if I had to choose just one, I think I’d pick the poster from the Medinyà Story Fair, from last May. In just a few centimetres of paper, you can see Hansel and Gretel running through the forest. And if you stand back, you can make out the witch. As for stories, I’m particularly pleased with Contes amb Ciència (Stories with Science), published by Comanegra, because they gave me the chance to combine my passion for illustration with my more scientific side.

Is the illustration process different depending on the age of the audience?

I think so, yes. In my case, I started illustrating children’s stories. But I also like drawing for older children and adult readers. Illustrations for younger children tend to be simpler and have brighter colours, while those for older children are usually more detailed and realistic. As for those I’ve done for adults, I don’t know how to describe them. They’re as varied as the authors.

Do you have any other passions besides illustration?

I like to do lots of other things, though I can spend hours drawing and never get tired of it. Sometimes it gets dark without me even realising, or I’ll find three days have gone by.

Why did you decide to experiment with photocomposition?

One day I got hold of an illustration magazine and saw creations by Annelinde Tempelman, who used her characters to make photocompositions. I thought it was great and tried to apply it to my style.

Do you normally repeat characters in your drawings? And if so, which ones and what is the story behind them?

No, not normally, except in stories where, logically, the same characters appear in different scenes. I suppose I’ve never really created a character that’s 100% mine, though this question has given me some interesting ideas.

If you had to choose between being an illustrator or a teacher, which would you choose?

I always thought that focusing exclusively on illustration would be a dream come true. But somewhere along the way I started teaching, and the truth is I like it as well. Besides, I’m lucky enough to be able to do both jobs, which complement one another perfectly. One is solitary and quiet, while, with the other, I’m in constant contact with people.

How did you approach the UIC Barcelona Christmas card project? What did you want to convey?

I thought it was an interesting challenge. Combining a classic painting with my illustrations seemed fun and original. I approached it as a chance to be part of the history of art, to take a work of art that’s already a masterpiece and create a new one. More specifically, my intention was to convey the message of Christmas in a more modern way: family, mutual love and the idea that everything will be alright, no matter what happens. In short, I thought about how good we feel and the positive thoughts we have during the holidays and tried to convey the joy of Christmas.

What is art?

To me, art is a way of life, a means of expression and communication.

How would you define yourself in five words?

Creative, meticulous, sensible, sensitive and starry-eyed.