1. When did you decide to be an artist? Is there any specific turning point or motivation for this career choice?
-I’ve never really decided to be an artist. I always loved drawing. I can not remember a time where I wasn’t enjoying it and, since childhood, I always dreamed to become a painter.
That’s why, after secondary school, I chose to attend art school, where surprinsingly I became very interested in Architecture; for a good moment I even thought that it could be my profession, but the desire to draw came soon back at me. So, I continued my studies attending the European Institute of Design where I’ve had my degree in illustration. Within that time, I propose myself as a freelance illustrator.
2. How do you come up with your work themes? What catches your eyes and gives you inspiration?
-There’s a number of recurring subjects in my artworks, but the one I love the most is Nature: when I’m out in the open air, I’m inspired by natural surroundings. Typically, I’m searching for shapes I’ve already drawn, that I know well: some green patch, gardens, hedges, varied trees, country lanes, small buildings, staircases, sunny walls, glimpses of wildness, shorelines, beaches… I am particularly interested in the relationship between lights and shadows, and I enjoy trying to translate it on paper.
3. How is it like for you to prepare and carry out an artwork? Please share with us the process of creating an artwork.
-When it comes to personal projects, mostly, I follow the creative pulse and I end up using the few art tools I find on my desk at that moment: even a single black pastel can do the job.
But, if I have to handle a professional commission, I stick to this rough and common process: first of all, I search for some visual (and literary, cinematographic, musical…) reference, then I sketch some subjects on small sheets of copy paper, just to focus on the ideas and composition, and I draw the final version on a large format sheet of sturdy paper; since I’m using pastels, the large format is needed to draw small details. Next, I cover up the drawing with a thin layer of diluted oil pastel, in a neutral tone, then I work on this simple trace with colors – oil pastels, wax pastels and coloured pencils (rarely graphite pencils). Finally, I apply a fixative spray specific for pastels to protect my illustration.
Nothing really fancy, I wouldn’t say I’ve found a proper “method” to follow, actually a lot of my best drawings are quite off-the-cuff, but over the years these steps and tools have become a reassuring routine.
4. Your personal website/blog is named “Cafe Wha?” and as far as I know, it is an old club in New York, what does this name mean to you?
-You’re right, “Café Wha?” is the odd name (it was a shortening of the word “what,” intended to convey incredulity) of an historical club in Greenwich Village, NY, where, in the 1960’s and ’70s, a lot of unknown performers destined for fame got early chances to hone their talents. Among them, a very young Jimi Hendrix, which is one of my favourite artists: I loved the sound of the name, and I wanted to pay homage to Jimi, so I chose “Café Wha?” as my website’s title.
5. I saw an introduction of you and found it interesting, “his attitude towards computers is hostiles, and he types on keyboards with one finger, like François Truffaut.” Is it true that you are somewhat against computer? Where does that hostility come from?
-In fact, I believe computers are hostile to me… they don’t like me at all, that’s why I’m invariably in trouble with them! More seriously, I strongly admire the amazing use of digital tools made by some of my colleagues, but I’m also a bit too lazy and too fond of manual techniques to adapt to these new and powerful possibilities.
6. You have been working as an artist for 20 years. During all these years, what is the biggest challenge or difficulty you had faced, and how did you overcome it?
-Besides the beginnings, which are tough for everyone, the most difficult period of my professional life was during the making of “Nausicaa” (my very first graphic novel, published in 2011): I was feeling disoriented, the grind of a long and repeating work suffocated me and I thought I’d lost the joy of drawing. I got over it, when I finished the book, quitting this kind of routine and searching for some more me time and for the opportunity to only draw what I enjoyed drawing with no deadlines, nor clients’ requests. In this way, I felt free and joyful again, and in a short time I had a huge amount of new illustrations, which have been the basis for most of the projects I’ve been working on in the last years.
7. In your opinion, what is the most important thing to keep up the passion in your work and in art?
-I am persuaded that an authentic passion, with its sturdy and deep roots, doesn’t need to be feeded and indeed it’s feeding us; it makes us wake up with the desire to make art just for the sake of it, regardless of the fact that this is our job. At least, this is what happens to me.
8. As an experienced artist, could you share with us your advice for the newbies who want to build a career as an artist?
-If I may offer a word of advice, it’s: LEARN!
Learn about the artists, thinkers, creative people who came before us, and those who surround us now, as much in our specific domain – visual Art – as by any other area of knowledge: literature, poetry, sculpture, cinematography, science, music… everything we learn is opening our eyes and it’s giving us back a peculiar vision and, by extension, a distinctive personality in our work.
Also, learn about our present, about current social, human, political realities, about the world we live in. As artists, we often tend to isolate ourselves in our art’s nest, but we have to stay connected to actuality, to ensure that the stories we’ll create could be meaningful and to avoid shallowness.
Lastly, I would share a recommandation from an italian master of comics, Gipi, who said: ” Nurture your freedom, nurture your independence, nurture your own vision, nurture your unique voice and never let the money be your first thought “. If you don’t trust me, at least and in any case, please trust Gipi!
9. I assumed that creating art and teaching art could be quite different. You’ve become a professor of the International School of Comics since 2012. What is the reason for you to start teaching?
-I have been given the opportunity to teach right at that critical moment I told you about, even if I was quite terrified I took the job, because I thought it would bring me some new motivation and so it was.
Now, even if it’s very time-assorbing, I love teaching and I wouldn’t give it up. Besides the pleasure of seeing student’s progresses, I’ve learned to better connect with others, to better understand and respect the uniqueness of every soul.
10. What would you like to achieve in the future? And what is you next plan on working?
-Since I’ve had the chance to work on a huge variety of projects (graphic novel, editorial illustration, children’s books illustration, affiches, CD covers, animated movie…) the goal I would like to achieve is to illustrate book covers, for some narrative series. I think of book covers (I’ve made a couple until now) as one of the most complete expressions, in illustration: a cover should sum up, in only one image, the mood, the colours, the dynamics of a whole story. It’s a great challenge and it’s very fulfilling.
The project I’m working on at the moment is a graphic novel of which, for my first time, I’m also the scriptwriter; it’s the longest (120 pages) and more complex assignment I’ve ever worked on and it will be released next year (2019) by Oblomov Editions.
11. Lastly, is there anything that I failed to mention but you would like to share with us?
-Your questions have been very interesting and very exhaustive, actually, I would just add a comment that means a lot to me – thank you for kindly giving me this chance.
As an artist, today as never before, I feel compelled to express, through the content of my work and with my professional decisions, all my strong dissent, alongside with my deep concern over it, about the climate of intolerance, xenophobia and violence is at this very moment developing in Italy, but also in the rest of Europe.
I want to believe that Art, by carrying Beauty to our lives and with its undeniable ability to overcome cultural and ethnic differences, can provide hope and bring justice.
The Affairs – 10/08/18