By Nico Fedi & Paolo Oliveri
After humanistic studies, Davide Bonazzi dedicated himself full time to the illustration. His elegant and sophisticated images give much weight to conceptual and surreal themes, in order to tell a reality that often goes beyond the boundaries of fantasy.
Many of your illustrations show a willingness to represent the same subjects and settings in different space-time, but always within a single image. Where does this creative imprint come from?
This attitude comes from the desire to break the flat pattern of the image, to create more levels and to open up a deeper temporal and spatial dimension. This is a way to create more complex images with a stronger meaning than others images that; although they look beautiful, they would be flat from a content point of view.
You give a lot of weight to the conceptual and the surreal. Do you think this approach is a way to make the recipients of the images reflect in a more in-depth way and produce specific sensations based on the theme they are dealing with?
Yes, undoubtedly. It is a style that many illustrators use, and I have made it my own for many years now. It’s a way to solve problems! Facing various types of subjects, as in newspaper’s articles where there are sometimes quite complicated issues, the use of conceptual metaphors can resolve an illustration, creating more suggestive and significant images.
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From your biography we read that you had a literary / humanistic education. How much did it influence, and it is still influencing your way of expressing this characteristic?
It has had a great influence on the method level; the study of “difficult” subjects as Latin, Greek and philosophy, led me to find a new method to approach and deal with complex themes. For me the illustrator’s job is to solve problems, and this problem solving skill has been highly trained by the studies I have done.
Now let’s get down to more practical aspects. How do you set up your job when you get a new contract?
The most important thing is to understand the subject before me; whether it is an article or a book, and also to understand what the client wants from me, that is the theme, the spirit, and the way to represent the whole request. Humanistic formation certainly helped me in this. I do a lot of brainstorming, and I start to select the keywords of the text that can open me different scenarios. I always start with words, and then I try to translate them into images in some way; this is the classic approach, but sometimes I don’t respect it. For example, I start directly with a suggestion that came to my mind. Surely, if the work of Unpacking the text and brainstorming is well done, there is a greater chance of arriving at an interesting solution. All this is part of the preliminary phase that leads to the sketches; I fill out sheets with sketches and ideas and select some interesting ones. After that, everything I sketched on the paper, I put it in my computer with a graphic table. Subsequently I present the digital sketches to the customer; once the right sketch is chosen, I proceed to the realization of the final image. Here comes the funniest and most creative part, where I stop caring about the subject and I think above all on the graphic part, to create a captivating and interesting image.
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Do you have cultural references to which you rely continuously?
Not particularly, for example, recently I created the cover of a British newspaper BBC World Histories. The main subject regarded the Crusades so I studied medieval imagery and I have imagined to get into this spirit. This is the method I usually follow; even if in general, my reference universe is in American Pop Art and also in Surrealism, mainly in the subjects and in the way of altering reality.
You use digital tools to make your illustrations. Does it depend on the fact that in this way you have more freedom and practicality, or are there other reasons?
It is as you say. The reasons are related to practicality and speed, and to the possibility of making mistakes without having to give up a part of the job; a mistake made for example with watercolor or tempera can compromise the illustration. It is also a pleasure to work digitally, because this great control I can have using a graphic table gives me great satisfaction. There was a period at the beginning of my career in which I used various processing techniques; for example I drew on sheets and then I scanned them, or scanned textures and assembled everything digitally. It was a system very cumbersome that made me lose the taste of doing illustrations, and I couldn’t stand the volume of changes that a publishing job necessarily entails. I switched to digital tools in order to “Survive”, but also to have fun doing this job; it was an inevitable choice.
Your images are pervaded by a kind of “dust”, which makes them very sophisticated and elegant. Why this stylistic choice?
I tied myself to a vision of graphic art in which materiality is much emphasized; from this it emerges the problem of creating digital works without feeling too much the sensation of coldness that a digital image often has. I thought an entirely digital work with lines that are too clean and colors that are too flat; it causes the loose of something in the image itself. Therefore I customized some brushes and textures that could give me the warmth of a traditional image but making it digital. This is something I have never gave up and that I always prefer to keep because I believe it works. As you say you createa certain aura of sophistication but also of warmth.
Does this also apply to the choice of colors? For example based on the degree of intensity or saturation that these have …
Yes, absolutely. This is also a necessity dictated by the market. I work especially for the Anglo-Saxon world, where very evident saturated colors are appreciated, so I tend to move more on less saturated colors. I learned over time to incorporate more saturated tones into my images, and now I wouldn’t be able to go back, because I like to experiment with different, stronger colors.
Do you feel somehow influenced by the architecture in your work?
Well actually I don’t know much about architecture, but surely I like to draw it, both internal and external. I always try to incorporate it into my images, because despite are topics that I don’t master well; in fact I really like to design architectures. I don’t know if I am influenced in any way by it, by its current rather than another. Mine is a generic, non-specific interest.