Who or what made you want to become an illustrator?
We are twins and we work together as naturalistic and scientific illustrators. Leonardo da Vinci has always been our "mentor"
How and why did you decide to pursue illustration as your career?
We have been drawing since we were children. Our rooms were always full of plants, an aquarium and a terrarium so we could observe little animals. We created our own little illustrated books. So we decided to become naturalistic illustrators.
Did you attend art school or undertake any other formal artistic training?
We attended 2 different schools: Marina took a degree in architecture and then she attended an illustration school.
Annalisa took an anatomical and scientific design diploma in Milan, Italy.
Where do you currently live and where did you grow up?
Was creativity part of your childhood?
Yes, our parents took us into the countryside and we were inspired by the nature we saw and created fantastic animals. They told us stories of fairies and elves of the forest and we looked for them in plants and among mushrooms and invented our stories.
Have you always loved to draw?
Yes! We have always liked to draw and we have always liked nature, animals and plants.
Who or what have been some of your major artistic influences?
We very much admire the work of some wildlife artists like Marzio Tamer and Robert Bateman. and for fantasy design we like Brian Froud.
Do you have a favourite picture book or recall one of the first picture books you saw?
Beatrix Potter's books.
Who or what has been your greatest mentor?
Marjolein Bastin and Brian Froud.
What was your first commission as a professional illustrator?
Many realistic illustrations about animals and plants for "Natura d'Italia" De Agostini, Italy.
Describe your working technique and how you came to perfect it.
It depends on the book we are illustrating because we have different styles. For scientific illustrations we study the subject, so we can realize a perfect illustration. We have a rich archive of our pictures and illustrations. For children's books we first make pencil roughs and once these are approved by our client, we go to color.
Usually we color the drawings by hand and then we scan them, so we can use photoshop for post-production.
What piece of software or hardware could you not live without and why?
A graphic tablet is necessary for digital tecnique. Photoshop is really important to assemble the separate elements and create the final illustration.
What is your favourite medium to work with and why?
Watercolor, gouche and pencils.
Do you keep a sketch book?
Tell us about the creation of your favourite character from one of your books.
We have realized a book which teaches how to draw gnomes, fairies and dragons. We studied the existing iconography and then after meditating in a forest we customized it.
Which project has been most instrumental in developing your personal style?
We have realized many different kind of projects and worked with scientists, botanists, and even a Templar Stefano Majorca. Each has been a precious process of learning.
Talk us through the process of creating one of your latest illustrations or books.
Our last illustrated book is a book that teaches how to recognize edible wild plants. We drew the plants from reality if it was possible, otherwise we used photos. The author helped us to realize correct illustrations.
Do you offer more than one style, if so – talk us through the different approaches and the audience you are targeting for each.
Yes, we offer different styles: watercolor, gouche, oil, pencil, graphite for very realistic illustrations. We also use digital with photoshop to add some effects and to offer the publisher a file with layers.
Have you ever thought about trying out a different technique or a different style?
Yes, when we have to realize a new book we try to use a different style so our work evolves.
What do you hope children take away from your drawings?
To observe nature and animals, to respect them, and to love drawing
What do you do in your spare time?
We like to do sport outdoor, for instance trekking, alpine skiing, diving, snorkeling.
Take us behind the scenes and describe your studio / workspace.
Our studio is full of objects! It is a bit disorderly....but nornally we can find what we are looking for.
There are pencils, brushes, gouche, watercolor and also many objects from nature, a kind of "wunderkammer".
We also have a cat who is very curoius when we are working. We have computers and graphic tablets.
What would you say is a distinguishing feature of your artwork?
We have a real passion for nature (animals and plants) and we know a lot about it. This is very important for our job, so we can create correct scientific and naturalistic illustrations. We pay particular attention to details and we realize very realistic images.
Share your favourite piece of artwork from your portfolio and walk us through its creation.
We have more then 1 favourite piece. Most of them has been realized taking inspiraration from real experiences.
We have chosen an illustration of a fox we encounteed in Ras Mohamed National Park, Egypt.
Which 4 words would you use to describe your illustration portfolio?
The great beauty of nature, visible and invisible.
Outline your dream project.
A book that teaches how to be passionate about nature.
Have you visited any schools to speak or hold workshops?
We have held many workshops in primary schools, the Natural History Museum of Milan, the Acquarium of Milan (verdeacqua), the Celtic Festival (Milan, Trieste), the Owl's festival (Grazzano Visconti), the Ladybird festival (Grazzano Visconti), the Sant'Alessio Oasi of naturalistic illustration to teach how to observe animals, plants and how to reproduce with fantasy.
Do you have a favourite soundtrack you listen to when you’re working?
Classical music and Celtic music.
Are you an author/illustrator?
Yes, we are illustrators and authors. We have written 3 books. You can see the covers below!
What was your last ‘lightbulb moment’?
We began to realize pet portraits. People like them very much! We have also realized a collection of fineart prints.
We also work together with a jewelery maker (Dag Gioielli, Milan).
What makes a good children’s book?
A good chilldren's book transmits emotions and passion.
Which project are you most proud of?
A project of scientific illustrations of 87 fishes (also some new species) for the FAO, under the supervision of some of the greatest experts in the world.
When you are not drawing, how do you like to relax?
We participate in numerous adventurous trips, visiting places of unspoiled nature in many diffeent parts of the world. We take photos that inspire our work.
What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
Annalisa is a master reiki and she is very passionate about meditation which connects one with the mysteries of Mother Earth.
Marina is an explorer. She has visited many places all over the world, some of which are very difficult to reach (many days of trekking...).
In all our work we put all our energy and passion.
How important is it for you to be part of a creative community of people?
It is important to know what is going on around you.
If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be doing?
We would like to be a naturalistic guide, an ethologist,or a naturalistic photographer.
What are some of your favourite subjects to draw?
For Marina animals and for Annalisa plants and fantasy creatures.
Animals feature heavily in children’s books – do you have a pet?
yes, a young cat named Trilli. She steals our pencils!