Davide Bonazzi: Conceptual illustration for worldwide media and warm personal stories
Davide Bonazzi, an illustrator born and raised in Bologna, works with worldwide major publishers, institutions and animation studios. He illustrates the articles for The Wall Street Journal, Fortune Magazine, and creates animations for UNESCO.
Davide's illustrations represent complex topics in a narrative and witty way. His style, which combines digital media with textures of scanned found objects, add his illustrations a warm and evocative atmosphere.
Davide agreed to share with us his story, talk about his projects, ideas, inspiration, and plans. We, in turn, gladly share our warm conversation with you.
— The first question perhaps is a bit obvious, but still: how have you become an illustrator? You've got an education in Fine Art Fields, it seems like you had a talent and willing to create visual stories from early years?
— It's true I've always had a strong passion for drawing, since I was a child. The fact that I could conjure up lines and figures from nowhere on a blank piece of paper seemed like a kind of magic.
Studying Arts & Humanities at the University gave me lots of cultural tools, but I was missing the actual practice of doing art. So after that degree I attended some painting and illustration courses, that convinced me to become an illustrator rather than a graphic novelist or a fine artist.
— So you've become an illustrator right from the start. Did you have any experience in design studios or digital agencies before you've become a freelancer?
— No, I've only experienced jobs as a freelance illustrator, except for one year I worked in a library. I started my career about a decade ago, when I still was a student.
illustrator, Davide Bonazzi
© Davide Bonazzi / davidebonazzi.com
illustrator, Davide Bonazzi
© Davide Bonazzi / davidebonazzi.com
illustrator, Davide Bonazzi
© Davide Bonazzi / davidebonazzi.com
— Sounds like great experience! And how did you start working with US, British and other worldwide media?
— As for everyone else, it all begins with sending a sample of work to art directors of magazines and newspapers.
In that way I got the first significant collaborations with Italian magazines and creative agencies that encourages me a lot to keep moving in that direction.
When I realized I couldn't earn enough money by working only for the Italian market, I put all my efforts to reach the American and international market. I contacted some art directors via email, I join an artists' representative, I bought ads in illustration directories and annual publications. Gradually I built up a network of clients.
— You've got a pretty wide experience of participating in Awards contests and illustrators' festivals. Could you please share a bit about your participation in these events and projects, you've created to participate and get featured?
— I think contests are still important for exposure, and overall for the prestige. Normally I don't create artworks for contests, I just enter what I did in the current year. Illustrators' festivals are another thing I love.
Here in Italy there are some associations that promote amazing exhibitions and events, they really are an unique occasion to meet other professionals, find inspiration in their works, do networking, or just stay with friends.
— Let's keep talking about your projects. You have a section for personal and special projects on your website. Could you please tell about them? What are these stories, how they appeared?
I guess I liked the most The line and the road, it's like a poetry in illustration with the same rhythm on each image.
Day Trippers is an uncommissioned project made just for fun. It has been inspired by a trip to New York City I did a few years ago. I imagined how a megalopolis could look by the eyes of two elderly people. Their slow, quiet way of living is all the opposite of the frenetic life in NYC.
The line and the road is a project made for an exhibition that took place in Monzuno, a small mountain town nearby Bologna, the city where I live. That recurring line is actually the route from Bologna to Monzuno as seen in a map, and I had the idea to use this line in several different ways in order to create a narration. I had a very short time to do it so I went with a clean, simple style.
illustrator, Davide Bonazzi
© Davide Bonazzi / davidebonazzi.com
illustrator, Davide Bonazzi
© Davide Bonazzi / davidebonazzi.com
illustrator, Davide Bonazzi
© Davide Bonazzi / davidebonazzi.com
illustrator, Davide Bonazzi
© Davide Bonazzi / davidebonazzi.com
— And also images dedicated to football, it seems they are created in a bit another style?
— This has been made just for fun and for practice too. The subjects are the final games of all the FIFA World Cup editions.
In each image I tried to illustrate the most significant frame of the game, one of those few split seconds that determines the result of the match. I didn't draw them from single photographs or video frames, but I looked at several pictures and videos to get inspiration, trying to create a brand new image that sticks to the facts.
That was the toughest and most exciting part of the process. It's true that it's a bit different out of my usual style. I tried to do something more dynamic and emphatic, inspired by the art of the 1920s and 1930s.
— By the way, it's very interesting how you came to your style, how you found it. What techniques or authors did inspire you?
— At the beginning of my career my style used to be quite different from now. I used to play with many techniques, mixing watercolors, pencils, digital collage of different papers. Final artworks used to be surprisingly rich, but I quickly realized it was very difficult to work for commission with this style because the entire process involved too many steps (drawing on paper, scanning, coloring with Photoshop, etc.).
So I started experimenting a simpler and cleaner style which gave back to me the joy of drawing, and allowed me to focus mainly on the concept of an image. Many textures of my previous work have been scanned and edited as digital brushes, this allowed me to create warm atmospheres without losing the comfort of working with digital tools.
I've been especially influenced by the American Pop culture, Edward Hopper, René Magritte, Japanese prints of the 19th Century, and a lot of contemporary illustrators of course. Among them is Adelchi Galloni, ex-teacher and friend of mine. He's an outstanding artist and a great example of passion and dedication.
illustrator, Davide Bonazzi
© Davide Bonazzi / davidebonazzi.com
illustrator, Davide Bonazzi
© Davide Bonazzi / davidebonazzi.com
illustrator, Davide Bonazzi
© Davide Bonazzi / davidebonazzi.com
illustrator, Davide Bonazzi
© Davide Bonazzi / davidebonazzi.com
— What about your stories: where do you seek-and-find the inspiration to express the ideas, to 'select' concepts or images for your illustrations? Personally for you, what are the most urgent or important topics you are sharing with your viewer- reader? What is your key message?
— I don't know, it's hard to say. I just rack my brain a lot and ideas come. Of course I'm inspired by a lot of things: art, illustrations, music, literature, comics, dreams, movies, newspapers, objects, nature. Everyday life is a big source of inspiration.
If I had a purpose, this is stimulating a reflection about ourselves and the world we live in. I think illustrations should put doubts in people, encourage the sense of criticism rather than give answers. And sometimes put a smile on their faces if possible.
— What upcoming projects are you planning to launch or participate in?
— I'm currently working on some advertising campaigns for institutions and companies, plus several editorial assignments. I have a couple of upcoming exhibitions in the next few month. Also, I'm working at a personal project that has animals and cityscapes as subject! Wish I had more time to dedicate to it, but my schedule keeps me very busy at the moment.
illustrator, Davide Bonazzi
© Davide Bonazzi / davidebonazzi.com
illustrator, Davide Bonazzi
© Davide Bonazzi / davidebonazzi.com
illustrator, Davide Bonazzi
© Davide Bonazzi / davidebonazzi.com
illustrator, Davide Bonazzi
© Davide Bonazzi / davidebonazzi.com
— Thank you so much for sharing your story with us! We're usually asking our guests to share an advice for young and ambitious visual arts guys: how to present themselves, how to capture attention and get featured. What are essential factors an illustrator should have to succeed?
— First of all, I'd tell them to build a good portfolio before publishing it online or sending it to clients. The portfolio is the key, because it says what kind of product one is offering to a potential client. A direct email with few words and a couple of strong images is the best way to capture someone's attention. But artistic talent is not enough.
A successful career requires a mix of various features: tenacity, patience with the client, dedication, humility, ambition. An illustrator sees himself not as an artist, but as visual communicator – he doesn't live in an ivory tower, he always needs other people's opinions and feedbacks. And the most important advice is: keep having pleasure in doing art!
Check out more about Davide and his projects on his website, Facebook and Instagram.
By Tania Horda
2017