Maria Fabrizio gets up early each weekday, finds a news story that interests her, and creates an editorial illustration about that news topic.
She started doing it last year just to hone her craft, but suddenly lots of other folks are enjoying her work.
Fabrizio’s mentor and former boss at Riggs Partners, Cathy Monetti, mentioned her work – compiled in a blog at wordlessnews.com – to somebody at S.C. ETV, who mentioned it to somebody at National Public Radio. Then Fabrizio got a call from NPR, which wanted to feature her illustrations on its website with stories on its Morning Edition for a week.
More than 4,000 people have subscribed to her blog since Friday. Her website has blown up with hits. And she has received a couple hundred emails from strangers, telling her how much they like her work.
“A ton of them were from teachers saying they were going to show this to their class to help get them engaged in current events,” Fabrizio said.
A University of South Carolina grad with a master’s from Virginia Commonwealth, Fabrizio, 28, taught at USC and worked at Riggs Partners before venturing out on her own a couple of years ago. Her clients have included Nickelodeon Theatre, Downtown Church and One Columbia.
The news illustration project wasn’t work. It was like morning exercise for her illustration skills. When she finished each illustration, she would post it on her blog with a link to the news story that inspired it. None of the news outlets ever contacted her – not to ask if they could use the illustrations and not even to say thanks for drawing a few more people to their online stories. Many probably were unaware somebody had illustrated their stories.
For NPR, she has drawn illustrations for a story on the continued segregation of schools in Little Rock, Ark., 60 years after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, and about the battle in London to save the red public phone boxes from extinction in the era of the cellphone.
Fabrizio would like for the attention to lead to more work in news illustration, but she knows many media outlets have dramatically cut their art staffs in recent years.
“I would love for my client base to be more illustrations,” Fabrizio said.
She is getting paid by NPR for her work this week, but she hasn’t made much effort yet to monetize her morning ritual. Maybe, she said, there’s a potential for a book of a year’s worth of the illustrations.