London based Angelica Lena chats combining illustration, rotoscope and more
Atmospheric and gestural, the work of Angelica Lena is at times surreal, and others provocative. Originally from Rome, Angelica talks to us about her work and studio, with hints at some of her ambitious projects for the future...
I come from Rome, Italy, where I studied to become an illustrator for two years in the tiniest, most brilliant school called Officina B5. My admission interview was in a narrow room, with a mezzanine full of drawing and painting material. At the end I was asked if I had any questions. I said, “No, everything’s pretty clear, but where is the school?” The teacher laughed out loud and said, “We’re already in it.” I learned a lot there and have many wonderful memories from that time. I then moved to London to attend Central Saint Martins College. There I started experimenting with animation. Now I’m a freelance illustrator and 2d animator, dividing my time between London, Rome and Barcelona.
Though I move around a lot, my home is in London, where I also have my studio. I live in a small house, in the middle of the main house’s garden. It’s kind of a huge shed with lots of windows and light. I share it with two other artists who work in costume and set design. It’s a hugely inspiring place to be. I often forget that I’m in London! We have loads of visitors – mainly foxes and cats – often playing music as loud as we want because there’s nobody around to hear us. Our landlady is 90 years old, and a little doddery. She loves us and lets us feel free to do whatever we want to the house. My life, my work, and my friends are all interconnected. We’re almost a little community.
I tend to live “light”, but my flatmates are two hoarders. I live in their mess, but happily! We have a wall of cheeky paintings that my flatmate found in charity shops and flea markets. Personally, I like to collect coasters from bars and pubs, they usually have very cool graphics. Alongside these curios live some of my most treasured books, including: “The One Hundred Nights of Hero” by Isabel Greenberg, a great graphic novel. Alongside, “Here I Am” by Jonathan Safran Foer, and “Franny and Zooey” by JD Salinger.
In terms of my work, I’ve never really focused on what my particular identity was. It was only recently that I realised one was developing. If I think back I guess that cinema has been key influence. I tend to use cinematic shots for my compositions. I also love to rotoscope (painting -digitally or manually – over footage). It’s fascinating because it has this dreamy vibe of real and unreal. It intrigued me the first time I saw it. Colour is very important to me. I often look at abstract expressionism for inspiration, especially the work of Mark Rothko.
I mainly work digitally. Photoshop is my best friend. I love the freedom working digitally has. It gives you the chance to make more mistakes, and work faster. And the more mistakes you make, the more you learn. I usually start with a sketch by hand, then I clean it up and colour in Photoshop. To do so I use a Wacom Cintiq 13”. I have an infinite library of brushes that I create myself by playing with the brushes properties, simulating different techniques like watercolors, oil pastels, etc. Once in a while I do feel the need to go back to analogue. I paint with very diluted acrylic and watercolours. But this is mainly for pleasure, when I need to chill and feel free from cables and plugs.
When I’m not working in the studio I love watching documentaries. I’m an avid fan of anything narrated by David Attenborough. I’m pretty sure I’ve watched everything he’s ever done. It’s impossible for me to watch a nature documentary with any other voice over. I travel as much as I can, and love camping. My parents have a house in Tuscany where I can retreat. I also love tiny objects, of doll-house dimension. There’s a whole world on Youtube about people cooking tiny dishes with tiny kitchens…it’s pure bliss!
I find inspiration in many places. But I recently saw a short documentary that really captivated me. I didn’t know what it was called at the time, but I’d later find out it was ‘The World That I’m In | JAZZ NIGHT IN AMERICA’. It’s narrated by Mike Reed and animated by Tessa Chong and Lee Arkapaw. I loved it, and immediately wished that I’d done it. My dad is a jazz musician, and I really like jazz myself, but I’d never thought about working with jazz myself. The animation is exquisite, simple and striking, with the kind of aesthetic that makes you think “why do I overcomplicate things?” Watch it here!
I’ll soon start working on an animated documentary. It will be my most ambitious project so far, consisting of around 20 mins of animation. I’m really excited about it! There’s also a project that will take me to the Isle of Skye in April to interview a great mind. I’ll be traveling there with Sentio Space, the studio where I’m freelancing. I can’t say any more about this though at the moment…unfortunately!
I have another project in mind also, linking VR experience, with PTSD disorder, and rotoscope animation. I’ve never worked with VR, but I’d love to explore its potential and how it can impact upon psychological treatments. There’s a whole world of literature out there about it. I find it really fascinating. Apart from that, I want to make some erotica. I’d love to rotoscope a good erotic film but I still have to find the right material!