LA VIE EN ROSE: MAURIZIO ONANO

A young German illustrator, who lets himself be carried away by the social topics that surround him and finds a way to represent them on paper in a completely authentic and colorful way. Ironic, original, empathetic, real. Call him Mowri!




I’ve been impressed by your name, because it seems to have some Italian origins, isn’t it? To discover it, tell us a little about yourself, please.


My father is Italian, my mother is Half-Italian. But I was born and raised in Germany. There was a short period of time when we’ve lived in Italy, but I was very young and I have absolutely no memory of that. But my name does not only confuse my Italian followers — I get talked to in Italian all the time, even in Germany.



When did you started drawing?


People keep asking that, but I don’t think I’ve ever decided to “start” drawing. As long as I can remember I’ve enjoyed drawing and painting. When I turned 18 my mom gave me my first sketchbook when I was like 2 years old. (I used to copy Snoopy pictures we had on our fridge.)



Is drawing just a passion, your job or something more for you?


It’s my job — I’ve studied illustration and visual narration for 6 years, now I’m trying to live on that profession. I’d rather call storytelling as my passion and drawing is my medium to tell those stories.





What do you prefer to draw more than anything?


People. I just love drawing people.



What is the creative process that is finalised in your illustrations? Where do you get inspiration to give life to creations?


From life, haha. I think that’s honestly the most important thing when you want to become an illustrator. You have to start observing everything around you. When I see something that is somehow interesting, I take a picture. Smartphones are great for that, you always carry them around and it has become so normal photographing basically everything that nobody really cares anymore.







Let’s talk about your works! For example, “Oma Herbert”. Why did you decide this title? What is the aim?


“Oma Herbert” (Grandma Herbert) is a story about a transsexual grandma. Herbert is a typical old man name in Germany, so this title sounds a bit funny, it kind of says what the comic is about and it piques the reader’s curiosity. The character Oma Berta (that’s the name she’s chosen as her true self) came out very late as trans* so the confusion and struggle in the comic is still there, but Berta is also a very happy, optimistic and humorous person who does not take herself too seriously. I don’t like to point my finger at problems, I’m trying to create a status quo in my stories where the fact that you’re trans* or whether you prefer boys or girls is as important as if you like apples over oranges or if you drink your coffee with or without sugar.



“Ça va?” - I saw on your portfolio that you wrote and drew a comic based on your experience in Brussels, called “mes expériences à Bruxelles”. Why did you choose this city? Could you describe us this experience?


Brussels is like the European capital for comic books. Many of the really great comics like Astérix, Les Aventures de Tintin and Lucky Luke have their origin in Belgium. Germany is not like that, we almost have no comic culture at all here — so if you really want to study comic, you have to go abroad. That’s what I did, I’ve studied comic for one semester during my master’s in the école supérieure des Arts Saint-Luc Bruxelles. All the courses were in French and the first 3 or 4 weeks I did not understand A WORD, so I made a comic about learning French and the “faux amis” and misunderstandings that happened.











Talking about another of your big success, “Alles rosa”. Why have you decided to write and draw it?


“Alles rosa” (all is pink) is a book about gender clichés in education. I've turned all the stereotypes upside down — it's about a boy named David who's tired of just wearing dresses and playing with dolls all the time. During my bachelor studies I’ve focussed on the human idea of identity in all its facets. I attended several seminars on gender studies and then had the idea to write this book. It is supposed to help children like David (and myself when I was young) to talk to their parents and educators about such things.

Speaking in general, I looked and observed your projects and I found them all very interesting and deep in meaning, because they are based on real social themes. What are you most proud of among all of them?


My dear friends Paulo Perez (physical theater actor) and Alexander Olbrich (theater director) made a theater project with refugee children from all over the world. They invited me to observe the rehearsals and make a children’s book out of it. The experience was amazing! The children really had absolutely no prejudices and they’ve learned like hyper quickly. At the beginning most of them didn’t even understand German a bit and after a few weeks they managed to perform a 45min long theater play in front of an audience. The play (and book) was called “Die Blumen des Kaisers” (the emperor’s flowers) and is based on an old Spanish fairy tale about honesty.

I really liked the outcome. Unfortunately it’s not been published yet.






Are you planning to write another comic again?


Yes, definitely. The problem this year is that due to the pandemic I’ve some major financial problems like most of us do. And to be honest, a (comic) book does not earn you the fast money. It takes months to finish a comic (at least for me it does) unfortunately it’s not common to get paid beforehand. But as soon as I'll be able to spend my time drawing comics again, that’s the first thing I’ll do.



Do you have plans for the future?


Today being an illustrator seems to be quite difficult. You have to deal with a lot of competitor, ever new techniques and an increasingly varied market.



What advice would you like to give to those who have decided to undertake the profession of illustrator like you?


Oh, I think this one’s gonna be demotivating haha. But I want to be realistic here. It is indeed a really hard job. You really have to decide if you’re willing to push through all of that. As I said, I've studied for 6 years, published two books and I somehow managed to grow an audience of over 10k on Instagram — and I’m still far away from being able to live on my profession. I have a day job as a waiter. I love what I do and I’ll keep doing it but it’s not easy, and some days it just sucks. You have to argue over a pathetic amount of money because clients are not willing to pay what you deserve, sign super shady contracts that forbid you to speak about the money you get paid or work with another brand for a year or so, you need to know everything about taxes if you can't afford a tax advisor, and suddenly things like the annoying Instagram algorithm become part of your daily routine. Don’t underestimate that the creative part of being an illustrator is not even 50% of the job.



As last question, I would like to ask your opinion: what does “dare” mean to you? Could you represent it though an illustration, please?


Dare? Like taking a risk? Eating a whole birthday cake by yourself maybe. Yum!



Follow Maurizio's work on his Instagram account.









Interview & Article by

Giulia Ghirri


Images from

Maurizio Onano

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