Gloria Pizzilli is a freelance illustrator from Florence. She’s a lover of pure geometry, just as she loves liquid gesture, without limitations: she works with signs and symbols, playing with curves in her search for fluidity.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?
My name is Gloria; I am a short-haired illustrator from Italy. I am impulsive and rational at the same time; in my illustrations I like to bring the shapes together, to make them have a dialogue, caressing each other and then slipping away, in a flowing and dynamic way.
Are you right or left-handed?
When I was a child I wrote and drew with both the hands. I still am ambidextrous even if, growing up, the right hand has become the undisputed queen at drawing.
What appeals to you, or attracts you to, working in graphite?
I like the scratching of the pencil on paper, the opportunity to reach a shade with a few signs. With the right pencil and the good paper you can reach a great result with minimum effort. I like the absence of colour too: working in gray scale allows you to focus on the shapes and their weight, without chromatic distractions.
What’s your favourite pencil? Brand? Wood? Mechanical?
On the desk I have a block of graphite 9B by Faber Castel and a Cretacolor Studio Line charcoal oil extrasoft. I like soft pencils: generally, independently from the brand, I never go below 4B.
Other than pencil what materials do you enjoy using?
Graphite powder, blending stumps, charcoals. But also Chinese ink and black oil paint for dry brush technique.
Even if I love hand drawing, my most faithful assistants at work remain my Cintiq HD and my beloved Adobe Illustrator for my vector illustrations.
Could you tell us a bit about your creative process, from the initial image or idea to the finished piece?
I always start from the concept. After a quick preliminary research to assimilate the brief, I work, first of all, on the composition. I quick sketch the layout of the image, balancing the curves and volumes. Only when the composition works I take care of details.
How do you conceptualize/construct a piece? Do you think of it as a story, snapshot, or abstraction?
When I have to work on a series, I work simultaneously on all the pictures, considering them like a single image. It helps me not to loose the thread of the narration and not to forget the rhythm of the sequence. After having established what is necessary and what is redundant for the concept, I make the same for the visual. During all the time I try to have an overall point of view on what I am doing.
What was the last film you saw in the cinema?
I suffered a lot the extinction of little local cinemas to the benefit of multiplexes. I liked to take a random seat and, eventually, change it during the movie. The new generation of movie-goers is also not so congenial to me. Too much smartphones and distractions, for people unable to focus for more than five minutes. All that to say that I go less and less to the cinema, even if I love it. The last film I saw was Quentin Tarantino’s Django.
What are the books on your bedside table?
“The Metamorphosis and other stories” by Franz Kafka, “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver, “The Great Yokai Encyclopedia” by Mizuki Shigeru, “It’s Not How Good You Are, Its How Good You Want to Be” by Paul Arden and “The snakes of Europe” by Guido Kreiner.
Do you have a favourite subject matter? What’s the particular attraction?
I like dark atmospheres, repulsive animals, insects, crustaceans, cephalopoda and big felines. I like to create characters; if they are females, I go as smoothly as honey.
Can you talk about the Asian art influence in your work?
It all started even before I was born. My mother Iris was German. She married Belisario, who was from the Lucania area. My aunt Sabine, German as well, married Jaja, an Indonesian of Chinese origin. When we all met in the same room, you could savour three different cultures. Once in a summer, uncle Jaja took his mother there, too, an authentic Indonesian grandmother. She wasn’t too different from my grandmother from Lucania: both were a bit overweight, and they never came to the beach because they used to spend all their time cooking. Yet, the hands of that woman with smooth, tanned skin, sparkling eyes and ink black hair, were able to make extraordinary dishes which were totally unusual to me. She used to fry everything, insomuch as making even an outsole crisp: fried bananas as a snack and Thai rice with meat and vegetables (fried as well) for dinner. The vacation house we used to rent in Puglia smelt like Indonesia in every corner. So, even before coming in contact with its art, I was able to love Orient through its people, its food, its tuneful language.
Your female figures seem to have very thick and heavy eyebrows. Is this intentional? Do you wax, thread, or pluck your eyebrows? What are your thoughts on eyebrows and the feminine persona?
It is intentional and natural to me. I have always drawn really regular faces, with small noses and big eyes. Eyebrows are essential to give expressivity to characters. They are the way to return reality to faces that, otherwise, would look too much smooth, unreal, less believable. I like heavy eyebrows because they are sign of powerful and personality. I take care of my eyebrows just enough to keep the right shape. I don’t like drawn and artefact eyebrows, I like them the more natural they can be. Not only in my drawings but also in real life.
Can you describe the relationship between the figures in your Tiny Pencil piece?
I would like to leave this evaluation to the observer’s imagination. I can only say they are not enemies.
What size do you tend to work at? …why this preference?
For my hand drawing works, I like to work on A3. It is big enough to leave space to creativity, but it is still a manageable size in a reasonable time lapse. If I can, I prefer to not stay too long on the same picture.
How awesome was it to illustrate Jessie Ware for the New Yorker?
It was awesome but also difficult. It was a whole-length portrait of the singer, it had to resemble, but being dynamic and cool at the same time. I studied Jessie’s face to be able to draw it in the selected pose, and I studied her last album style to draw the dress. All that listening to her songs, obviously. It was really fun.
What was it like to design a deck of cards in collaboration for Occupy Wall Street and Alternative Banking? Could you discuss how that project came about?
52 Shades of Greed is a deck of playing cards bearing illustrations of the people and financial institutions whose lust for money took the rest of us for a ride toward economic collapse.
It was a quick project to which I took part gladly. I have been contacted by Daniel Nyari and Marc Scheff, really skilled illustrators and also art directors of this project. They asked me to illustrate the 8 of hearts, the “mark-to-make-believe” card. I am not so good in economics, but after having read the words on the card “Out and out lying about how much your instruments are worth in order to avoid looking insolvent” I illustrated (under the art direction of Daniel and Marc) the bank as a beast with its victims as poor spineless creatures. Just to say that we haven’t so many instruments to protect us from financial institutions.
Can you tell us about a favourite piece of yours, or a favourite creative experience?
My favourite piece is always the next, the one I haven’t still done.
The favourite creative experience was the one for the “Libretto Postale” (postal booklet) exhibition. Anna Castagnoli and Vanvere Edizioni asked to 40 illustrators from Italy and 15 from Japan to draw a postcard creating a visual story based on the same name book of Franco Matticchio. It was like an exquisite cadaver: starting from 6 postcards of 6 different animals, 6 illustrators had to continue the story in form of postcard and then send it to 6 next illustrators. It was a game and every illustrator who received the postcard had to work without knowing anything about the previous postcards. I received a wonderful postcard from the great Italian illustrator Marina Marcolin, with a girl riding a crocodile swimming in a swamp…I had to continue the story and I drew the girl on the shore with the crocodile and its eggs. It was stunning to see, at the opening of the exhibition, all the postcards with so many different styles and the crazy stories that came out. Really, really fun.
Do you have any early memories of drawing or, what’s your first memory of an image?
The first memories are those acquired from my mother’s tales. I was very little and I drew a lot, but my relationship with pencils was not so quiet. I was always dissatisfied with the result, I often had endless tantrums because the signs that my little hands drew on the paper were not so beautiful as in my imagination, they didn’t match up with my expectations. My mind flew higher than my skills. So I was always angry, I ripped up my drawings. I still am like this, I am really hard to please. When I reach a goal, I immediately look to the next one. Especially at drawing.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
Only when I need to study something I don’t know so well, for a long-term project: I keep a sketchbook to have all the studies together at my fingertips.
You do a lot of work for Wired Magazine. How do you feel about technology and machinery?
Technology and me are good friends. As I said before, I work a lot digital for commissioned works, because it is faster and easier to share. I like to have the best tools (hardware and software) to work smoothly and enjoy the process without useless slacks.
Coffee, nicotine, or booze?
Neither of the three, I prefer chocolate.
Favourite city in the world?
Favourite city to draw/sketch/illustrate/create in?
What directions are you interested in exploring in the future?
There are infinite directions to explore in art. Many techniques to learn, but now I would like to take a course of engraving, working a lot manually, contaminating a bit my aesthetic, which tends to be painstakingly precise.
What are you working on now? What can we look forward to from you next?
In these days I am working on “La Tempesta – the storm” a joint exhibition with the great artist Riccardo Guasco, for The Trace Gallery in Zürich – from November the 14th up to Christmas. The storm, title of the exhibition, will be the resultant of our two different styles, that will blend together generating an encounter/collision which will fill the atmosphere with winds, positive and negative charges.
It will be an exhibition full of clouds, rain, turbulences and surges. The moments before a squall, when the air is charged of electricity, when people start speeding up the pace, opening umbrellas and walking with the head pointed towards something enormous.
Where can people get a hold of your work, or find out more about your previous projects?
You can have a look at my previous works at www.gloriapizzilli.com , you can stay updated on what I am doing on my blog www.gloriapizzilli.blogspot.it or you can have a look at my pencil drawings on my tumblr http://gloriapizzilli.tumblr.com/
Gloria’s work appears in Issue 3 of Tiny Pencil: The Beast Issue… Monsters, Machines and Unnatural Things! Available to buy here.
This interview was brought to you by The Tiny Pencil – fine purveyors of the pencil arts — and mishmosh artist Heather McCalden!