People don't often think of the news as a source of inspiration — and certainly not a source of daily inspiration. But that's what it's turned into for Maria Fabrizio, an illustrator based in Columbia, S.C.
For about a year, Fabrizio has been working on a project called Wordless News, in which she draws one image a day based on a story she hears or reads that morning. Starting Monday, she'll spend a week creating images inspired by what she hears on Morning Edition.
The idea for Wordless News came to Fabrizio in February 2013, when Pope Benedict decided to step down or — as Fabrizio imagined it — hang up his hat.
"I wasn't too busy at work that day, so I just started drawing the really fantastic pope hat on just a pretty ordinary looking hat rack," she tells NPR's David Greene. " ... I posted it on Facebook, and I got a huge response of people just saying, 'You should do this tomorrow,' and, 'Do it the next day.' And so I just have been doing it ever since. It's a part of my daily routine now."
Fabrizio gets up around 4:45 a.m., scans the news for great stories, and then goes to work in her studio — which is conveniently located in her backyard. She works on Wordless News until about 10 a.m. and then turns her attention to work she's doing for her graphic design clients.
One NPR story that caught her attention back in April explored NASA's plan to "shrink-wrap" an asteroid.
"I immediately thought of this giant space rock and two astronauts trying to shrink-wrap it," Fabrizio says. "And it felt like something you would find in like a kid's room. You know, it almost seemed like a superhero moment. Of course the real story — that's not how they're going to shrink-wrap it at all." (If you're curious, you can find out more about how they'd actually do it here.)
Wordless News fans can subscribe to receive Fabrizio's daily image as an email. "It's kind of a riddle," she says. " ... When you click on the image, it takes you to the news story. So a lot of people use it as just kind of a break in their morning at work."
For Fabrizio, working on the fly is a way to experiment and stay agile. "For me, it's just a way to grow conceptually and refine my style as an illustrator," she says.
Check back next week to see Fabrizio create one illustration a day, inspired by a story she hears on Morning Edition.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
When we hear from you, our listeners, you often tell us that you're tuning in from work. We know cab drives listen to us, contractors at job sites, and also artists. One artist who works away with NPR humming in the background is Maria Fabrizio. She's an illustrator based in Columbia, South Carolina and when she tunes in she listens extra closely for a detail or a story in the news that she can draw.
She's been doing a project called Wordless News every day for about a year now and next week she's going to be doing drawings based on stories she hears right here on MORNING EDITION. Maria Fabrizio joins us from SCETV in Columbia, South Carolina. Welcome to the program.
MARIA FABRIZIO: Hi.
GREENE: So tell me the story that gave you the idea for Wordless News.
FABRIZIO: Well, it was last February and the pope had decided to step down and I wasn't too busy at work that day so I just started drawing the really fantastic pope hat on just a pretty ordinary looking hat rack.
GREENE: Ah. The pope hanging up his hat. Is that...
GREENE: Oh, nice. I get it.
FABRIZIO: So someone walked past my desk and laughed and said that's a really smart idea. That's really great. So I posted it on Facebook and I got a huge response of people just saying you should do this tomorrow and do it the next day. And so I just have been doing it ever since. It's a part of my daily routine now.
GREENE: When you say it's part of your daily routine, I mean, how big a part of the routine is it? I presume that you're doing illustrating as part of a job that you actually get paid for. You have to fit this in somehow.
FABRIZIO: Yeah. So I get up around 4:45.
FABRIZIO: Early, yeah. Jump out of bed and scan the news for great stories. And I actually work from a studio in my backyard so I just make the long commute across the yard and get going. And I usually only spend from, you know, 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Wordless News because I have other clients and graphic design is kind of my meat and potatoes. I mean, that's what I do for a living, so.
GREENE: Mm-hmm. Well, 5 to 10 a.m. is a good time to be listening to MORNING EDITION.
FABRIZIO: It is. It's a great time.
GREENE: Well, I just - I'm looking at one of the illustrations you did and it came from a headline for a story that we actually had on the program here. In NASA's budget plans to, quote, "shrink-wrap an asteroid." Tell me about the drawing I'm looking at. It's very cool.
FABRIZIO: Well, I immediately thought of this giant space rock and two astronauts trying to shrink-wrap it. And it felt like something you would find in, like, a kid's room, you know.
FABRIZIO: It almost seemed like a superhero moment. Of course, the real story that's not how they're going to shrink-wrap it at all, but...
GREENE: So they're not going to be hanging there holding onto...
GREENE: ...to a rope with an asteroid on the other end. But, yeah.
FABRIZIO: No, definitely not.
GREENE: Well, what do you think you accomplish that people who are using other ways to tell the news don't accomplish. What's special about this?
FABRIZIO: I think it's kind of a riddle. There's a way to subscribe to the blog so that you just get the email in the morning. And it just says the Wordless News and has the image. And then when you click on the image it takes you to the news story. So a lot of people use it as just kind of a break in their morning at work.
And I think for me it's just a way to grow conceptually and refine my style as an illustrator.
GREENE: OK. So you're going to be doing some illustrations next week for stories on our show. Any in particular that you're looking forward to? New stories that you have your eye on?
FABRIZIO: I'm going to be looking for you guys to pass along the content, so.
GREENE: You really do it on the fly.
FABRIZIO: Yeah. That's the plan.
GREENE: Well, Maria, thanks so much for talking to us and we look forward to seeing your illustrations next week.
FABRIZIO: Thank you.
GREENE: Maria Fabrizio is an illustrator in Columbia, South Carolina and the creator of Wordless News. And she's going to be drawing based on stories here on MORNING EDITION all next week. And you can find her drawings at npr.org.
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GREENE: This is NPR News.
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