Headbanging with Metal Unicorns: Joanna Winograd’s Unique Potion

Inspired by religious art from the Middle Ages and traditional Latin-American art, as well as her own surroundings, artist Joanna Winograd’s illustrated world is filled with badass women. They’re witches and goddesses graphically painted in black and white, sometimes with a dash of colour – always with a lot of attitude.

It’s a Friday afternoon when we meet in Joanna’s shared studio in Wedding. She was raised in Argentina and Colombia and moved to France at the age of 18, where she lived until moving to Berlin three years ago. She likes to use different mediums in her work, and often changes between drawing in her sketchbook, sewing, screen printing and painting on odd materials she found. “I don’t like having a routine, so I decide what to do everyday depending on how I feel or what I have to do” she says.  

When asked about her creative process she answers that she doesn’t really have one. “Sometimes, drawing is like discovering a song and then listening to it 20 times per day for a month – I draw in a certain way for a while and then I change it”, she explains. Even though Joanna’s process may differ, her style is always consistent. Her lack of colour and unique point of view makes it possible to see that she’s the artist regardless if she’s painted a unicorn or a woman flipping the viewer off.

“For many years I didn’t like any colour besides black and white, and a red for the blood”, she says while cracking up a bit and then continuing:  “But after I started getting more interested in religious images I started experimenting with gold. And while working for a children’s brand as an illustrator I actually discovered that colours weren’t that bad. I still mostly work in black and white, but compared to before I use many more colours. I choose to do so when I feel that it’s going to help me express what I want it to”.

“It’s not really a choice being an artist, it’s just the way you are and you have to live with that. This is both the best and the worst part about it.”

While working Joanna usually listens to heavy metal, or rather: she always listens to it. A few years back she was headbanging at all the metal gigs and one of her artist names, Joanna Wears Boots, is a reference to the classic Black Sabbath song “Fairies Wear Boots”. And even though she now only goes to the really important shows, there’s no doubt about it, she is what some people would call: a proper “metalhead”. “It’s a lifestyle”, Joanna says and continues: “Metal also brought me to the occult, dark, magic, witchery and to my whole very particular aesthetics. And it showed me that there are no taboos in art, we’re allowed to talk about everything”.

She’s stored a lot of her artworks at the studio and since no one else is around in the shared space we fill a whole table with her illustrations. She excitingly says that she recently found an old folder that she thought was gone. She puts it on the table as well. It’s big and filled with paintings. She holds one of them up in front of her face and explains that people always think it’s a self portrait, which it isn’t. “I often draw women because I think a lot about how we feel as women and what it is that makes us women. I also feel that my own feelings and thoughts are more represented with feminine characters”.  

We all know the feeling of a song bringing up memories like we experienced them yesterday. For Joanna, it’s not only songs that can do this. She has shelves at home packed with notebooks, dating back to 2003, that also work as time machines. The first notebook was more words than drawings, but this has slowly changed and now the books are primarily filled with illustrations. Or: small pieces of her thoughts and feelings. “I avoid looking in some of them because they can bring me back to difficult times”, Joanna explains.

When the clock hits 4 pm it’s officially time for an afterwork. Joanna runs off to the nearest Späti and comes back with beer. The conversation then quickly goes into social structures and ideologies. “I like to observe everything and to think about everything, even to develop sociological theories about our time and people’s behaviors. And I like to tell some of those thoughts in my artworks”, she says.

Joanna’s persona can easily be found in the the witches and goddesses that she draws. And it’s impossible not to walk down the street feeling a little bit more badass after spending a few hours in her black and white metal world.

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