Margherita Cole: Finding Humor in History

margheritaMargherita Cole was born and raised in Redlands, California, gaining her start in art by sketching bluebirds and trees in her neighbor’s front yard. Her major is art history, and her minor is studio art. It’s hard to say what her favorite art style is, since she’s made fun of them all, but she tends to favor Impressionism and everything that comes after it. Gustav Klimt, however, has remained her favorite artist without fail for several years now. Her dream has remained the same since she was seven (which she says, says a lot for how well she’s matured), and that dream is to be a professional cartoonist. 

As the recipient of the 2015 Whetsell Fellowship, Margherita spent her summer immersed in the world of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, and other great artists. She put together “The Lives of the Artists”, a humorous and witty series of comics that bring the art world alive. This exhibition is currently on display in the Martha Cloud Chapman Gallery on the first floor of the Campus Life Building at Wofford College. 

Read on to hear about Margherita’s journey as an artist:

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Q: How did you get your start in comic drawing? 

A: I started drawing comics at seven years old, probably a due product of watching too many cartoons as a child. My first comic series was called “Night Dog” and it parodied my pet dog Igor as a nighttime superhero.

Q: What kinds of things inspire you (both in your comics and everyday life)?

A: Well, for me ideas for comics are generally inspired not exactly by what happens in everyday life, but the way I look at it. My dad has a great sense of humor, which spans both dry and morbid, and he can essentially find something funny in everything. For better or for worse, I tend to see life in the same way. When I first started taking art history in high school, my teacher taught the subject as though all of the artists were still alive, and her face would light up talking about their quirks, their virtues, and their vices. That’s when it clicked with me how funny art history could be, because it’s just a collection of people (artists) and what they decided to make during their lifetimes (art). 

Q: What (if any) other kind of art forms do you do?

A: Since I was terribly shy growing up, I started drawing very early, as it was easier for me to talk that way, so pencil and paper still remain my most comfortable medium. I tend to like art types that move fast and give me a lot of control over the artwork: so pencils, pen, markers, colored pencils, pastel, and charcoal. I’m terribly impatient, so aside from watercolor, painting tends to frustrate me, but I like forms of 3D art like upcycling and sculpture on occasion.

Q: How did your upcoming show and the work in it come about?

A: I’ve known about the Whetsell Fellowship for a few years now, and attended some of the receptions, so I knew what it was, but I only applied my junior year after some encouragement from friends. After they accepted my proposal for an art history-inspired show, I began my mentorship with Jeremy Cody of The Printshop in Greenville, where I learned the art of screenprinting, and how to bring my paper and pen drawings to life. The process is a probably needlessly complex on my part, but it begins with 1. a preliminary sketch with pen on computer paper, 2. a detailed sketch on Bristol paper, using the ruler to measure out boxes and borders, 3. an inked layer done with tracing paper over the sketch, 4. then I scan the tracing paper and upload it onto the computer, boost the contrast, and adjust it in Photo Illustrator so I can manipulate it to any size I want, 5. print a transparency, 6. cover the silk screen with photo emulsion and wait for it to dry, 7. expose the transparency on the screen, 8. then I wash the screen, wait for it to dry, and can more or less start printing the comic onto larger paper.

Q: What do you think the purpose of art is? What has art meant to you?

A: Despite going into my senior year of an art history major, it’s still incredibly hard for me to describe what the purpose of art is, and I’m going to give a cop-out excuse that that’s because art is so different everywhere in the world. The need to create is what drives artists, but the art they create largely derives from where and when they are.

For me, art is how I talk.

I don’t think I articulate very well by speaking, and in creating art I am more able to communicate my ideas, my views, my jokes, and how I feel. And I specifically enjoy drawing comics because I enjoy making people think and laugh. 

Q: What do you think about art on Wofford’s campus and community? How do you think it could be improved?

A: For someone like me, who’s had no formal training in art prior to college, Wofford’s art community was very welcoming. I cared about art so much, I was afraid to attend art classes in middle or high school, so when I finally bit the bullet and signed up for a class my freshman year of college, I was relieved to find that it was more a nurturing environment than a competitive one. Considering the size of Wofford, there are many different sorts of art classes to take, and I was fortunate to take almost all of them and learn about all sorts of mediums, from street art to upcycling to painting. Just in the four years I’ve been at Wofford, the studio art department has made large strides in expanding and promoting the art community on campus, and I believe it’s only going to continue to grow as more and more people, like me, decide to bite the bullet and try an art class. Whether you think yourself a prodigy or a novice, engaging in the art community at Wofford is the best way to help it grow. 

To learn more Margherita and her exhibition, “The Lives of the Artists”, attend her Artist Talk and Reception on November 5, 2015 from 4:00pm – 6:00pm in the Campus Life Building. The exhibition will be up from November 3, 2015 through January 30, 2015.


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