How and why did you decide to pursue illustration as your career?
To be honest I feel like I pursued this career because I felt like it was the only thing I could be good at. Before that I wanted to be a journalist or a writer of some sort, but then I realized the best way for me to convey what I wanted to tell was through images, rather than words.
It was a pretty impulsive decision I must say, more so because I was already attending a foreign languages course and I changed my mind all of a sudden once I realized it wasn’t making me happy.Luckily my mom was super supportive every step of the way.
Did you attend art school or undertake any other formal artistic training?
I did. I attended an art school here in Italy, Accademia d’arte Poliarte, for three years, but I was focusing more on the graphic design aspect of it, and then I took a master degree in illustration at Ars in Fabula.
Do you have a favourite picture book or recall one of the first picture books you saw?
Growing up ,my mum used to read me out loud a lot and I remember one of the first picture book I was fascinating by was “The witches” by Roald Dahl illustrated by Quentin Blake. I was so intrigued by all those gangly characters and their facial expressions I remember trying to copy them on some crappy piece of paper when I was 4 or 5. The results were questionable, obviously haha.
What was your first commission as a professional illustrator?
My first job, was a series of books-toys with some puzzles at the end. I had to adapt my style quite a lot to fit a super young target.
What is your favourite medium to work with and why?
My medium of choice is Photoshop. If I have my trusty tablet, my personalized digital brushes I’m always good to go. I tried and experimented a bit with watercolors and gouache when I was in school and I have to say they’re super fun as well but if you make a mistake you have to start over again most of the times… and since I’m an impatient person it didn’t work for me. I still love china ink though, it’s so satisfying to draw line art with it!
Which project has been most instrumental in developing your personal style?
My latest book “Le scarpe della befana” definitely marked a breakthrough for my style. I’ve always drawn happy, ultra saturated characters up until that point and I wanted to take a risk and ventured in some darker place for that book. If you compare it to my previous works the colors are dimmer,the atmosphere is more serious but it also sets a nice contrast with the light hearted text.
Talk us through the process of creating one of your latest illustrations or books.
Funnily enough my process starts on Pinterest. I create a digital board with all my inspiration: color palettes, movie frames, pictures etc. Then I start sketching on photoshop. The storyboard is usually the most fun part for me and I love seeing a first draft of the book in front of me with color swatches, notes and character designs.
Then the real challenge begin: finalizing the piece. Some illustrations are easier than others and I can get a page done in less than a day. Some others are more laborious and can take up to a week to finish. All in all I always try and set pretty far deadline so that I’m 100% sure I will meet it without going totally insane.
Take us behind the scenes and describe your studio / workspace.
To quote Nietzsche: “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.” My mom would strongly disagree with that but that’s to say that my studio is a mess and I like it that way. For an illustrator who doesn’t use traditional media, my table has splashes of paint all over it, there are pencils and crayons everywhere and of course I needed to make room for some dog beds since I have three dogs that like to sleep in my studio while I’m working.
Outline your dream project.
My dream project would be to illustrate a Roald Dahl’s book OR a new version of Alice in Wonderland. There are SO MUCH room for interpretation in that novel I would love to give it my best shot.
What advice would you offer someone just starting out as a children’s illustrator?
DON’T. Just kidding. I would say compromise a bit at the beginning (you won’t like every job you get offered) but don’t settle too much, strive to draw what you like to draw because you most likely will be good at it but also challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone. It’s always about balance.
How important is it for you to be part of a creative community of people?
I honestly love it. I talk to so many young illustrators these days and it’s nice to know someone else is feeling what I’m feeling and sometimes is discouraged. We’re all on the same boat, we all fail but we all pick the pencil (or the digital pen in my case) back up
What are some of your favourite subjects to draw?
My favorite subjects to draw are most definitely animals and plants. If a story is set in a forest I’m always over the moon.