Wednesday, 11 May 2011

on taking the time to say "bravissimo"

I have realised in the last year the value of spending time with my fellow illustrators and what it can do for artist's block and those awful feelings of stagnation and boredom that creep up on the best of us at some point or other.

Waiting for the doors to open on Day 1 of the 2011
Bologna Book Fair

At the Bologna Book Fair this year, I'd got myself to the artist's wall nice and early and whacked up my posters under the lights where I hoped publishers would see them and my details and contact me. Just as I was about to turn away and start the hunt, I saw a girl putting up her posters next to mine. They were so beautiful, I just had to go and tell her- and so I met the lovely Chiara Arsego. Within minutes of meeting her, she was inviting me to stay with her in her hometown Vicenza, or else, extend our stay in Europe so she could give us a personal tour of her current home in Paris. As I often am in Italy, I was bowled over by her warmth and kindness and liked her instantly.

Mine and Chiara's work on the Artist's Wall

While we were in Bologna, we met up several times at the fair and kept each other company while standing in torturously long lines to get our portfolios reviewed. Chiara told me her own story as an illustrator, and shared with me her own struggles to have her work recognised and eventually published. What I love most about her work I think is its' fleshiness- her characters are so solid and believable. Most of the work you see for her book "Colette" isn't so big at all- maybe 30cm square; I think it takes real cleverness to use such a compressed space so well. Her colours are equally gorgeous- all sepias and crimsons and emeralds. I can't wait to see more of her work later this year.

The Artist's Wall at approximately 9.30am on Day 1 of the Fair.
By Day 4, it will be covered in posters from floor to ceiling,
work overlapping or pocketed by admirers;
artist's business cards strewn all over the floor.

On one of those standing-around occasions one day, Chiara found me and introduced me to her lovely friend Francesca Vignaga; another wonderfully talented Italian illustrator. Francesca showed me her gorgeous work in "Fantastigatto" (roughly "Fantastic Cats" in Italian) and told me about her technique: crosshatched pencilwork over acrylic paint. If you look at her work and fall in love with whatever you see on the screen, I have to tell you it is ten times as gorgeous in real life. Her use of lighting and colours and the way she balances them is beautiful.

I am so glad that I tapped Chiara on the shoulder that day, instead of keeping my admiration for her work to myself. I have realised that it doesn't matter how successful people are, everybody likes to be told their work is good. I think we have a responsibility, if we like something, to say so! It could be a comment left on someone's blog, a letter, sharing a link, saying hello and "I like your work", or, if you have the funds, the ultimate- buy a piece of their work. Illustration is such a competitive industry, I think we need to support one another- my experience of Bologna this year was so much the nicer for having met Chiara and Francesca. Mille grazie miei amici, complimenti!

Mel xo

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