In Focus: Marta D’Asaro
UK based art director and illustrator Marta D'Asaro grew up in Sicily, daubing the walls of her parents house. In our latest interview, Marta opens up about her journey into the world of illustration and art direction.
Tell us about your background and journey?
After studying graphic design at the Istituto Europeo di Design in Rome – and after entering into what turned out to be a super stressful job – I took some time to travel Europe and the US, working as the music editor for VICE. What was intended to be a sabbatical interlude, lasted three years. Wanting to get back into graphic design I then found a job in the publishing industry, and became the creative director of a literary magazine. Working with a small budget, and wanting to illustrate the first issue, I decided to do it myself: this is how my career as an illustrator began.
Where do you currently live and work?
I’ve spent the last five years in Milan, where you can stumble across all kinds of people (I once ended up at one of Ettore Sottsass and Fernanda Pivano’s best friend’s home). The creative scene is so vibrant, there are so many exciting projects happening all the time. Maybe it’s not as beautiful as Florence, but it has an energy that has always amazed me; it’s a very inspiring place. However, I do find that a big city can be very distracting, and now that I have a full-time job as an art director, while also working as a freelance illustrator, I increasingly find the need to find my own time and space to focus. I think that’s why I’ve just moved to rural England…
How has your identity as an artist evolved over the last few years?
As a graphic designer, I’ve always been a minimalist, hence why I’ve kept the same approach within my illustrations. After a while, I realized I needed to change my style if I wanted to develop strong conceptual skills, instead of making just nice images. I therefore started experimenting by adding elements that I’d never used before, like human figures or shadows; learning how to keep the illustrations clear without jeopardizing the message. It was quite challenging!
One of my main ambitions for the coming year is to get an assignment from Leo Jung, the creative director for The California Sunday Magazine.
What do you most enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I am an avid music and art lover. In my spare time I keep myself updated with new releases and visit as many museums and art galleries as possible. It might sound like a cliché, but artists such as William N. Copley, Edward Kienholz, and Carsten Höller, can change the way you look at things. I also love to lift heavy weights; I am an amateur powerlifter.
If you had an unlimited budget and time, what would your dream project look like?
It would be an illustrated book about all the weird food that people of my hometown used to eat; both a cookbook and a botanical guide to the wild flowering plants – some of them toxic in large quantities – with which the recipes were made.
Describe your workspace/studio…
My studio is wherever I can get a decent cappuccino! Now that I’m in the UK my house is surrounded by trees and not much else. I find myself spending more time at home, but coffee shops are definitely my favorite place to work. The only thing I miss about having a proper den is painting, which is far more spontaneous than what I do now. I tend to buy a lot of magazines, then collect all the photos and the illustrations I like the most. The Gourmand, Apartamento, and Fuet are my most-loved editorial projects of the moment.
Can you list the 3-4 most read and treasured books on your bookshelf
I’d have to say… “I Fatti Della Fera” by Stefano D’Arrigo, “A Short History of Decay” by Emil Cioran, “Psychotic Reaction and Carburetor Dung” by Lester Bangs, and “Post-punk 1978-1984” by Simon Reynolds.
What is your creative toolkit made up of?
My schedule is very tight, and the workload often very high, so if I don’t want to get swamped by the many due dates I have to turn work around pretty quickly. As I travel a lot my toolkit consists primarily of just my laptop. I tend not to make drafts or sketches; when the right idea comes up I put it straight into Illustrator. I recently bought a Cintiq, but still prefer the trackpad.
What can you tell us about what you’re currently working on?
I’ve just received some assignments from agencies in London, and the company I work for has launched a partnership with Queens College. In the next few months, my work will be focused on sustainable publishing and printing. There are also some exhibitions on the way, and will be heading back to New York City in the spring to work on some new projects…