Slick realism from Federico Paoli
Capturing gritty, urban observations with a stylish realism, Federico's work often results in intimate, poetic illustrations. We took some time to catch up with the artist and find out more about his work...
At the age of six, when people asked me: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, I used to answer, “I want to become a painter!”. I’ve always been fascinated by the great Italian Renaissance painters (especially Caravaggio), and the more contemporary American artists. I attended a Science High School, and then went on to spend two years in an Engineering Department in Pisa (I was very good at Mathematics!). Fortunately I soon realised that what I was doing, really wasn’t for me, and so I decided to change direction and focus on Industrial Design, moving to Florence. Here my childhood dreams and aspirations were suddenly reawakened; I felt able to be more creative!
I live and work in Montecarlo, a little village near Lucca, in the heart of Tuscany, not far from Florence. The absolute absence of chaos and the strong presence of nature, inspires me everyday, allowing me to work in peace. I’d like to live and work in a bigger city, such as Berlin or London, seemingly full of opportunities and events, but it’s a hard decision to take. I’m “addicted to the sun” and in such cities, it feels like a rare thing!
The secret is drawing, drawing, and still drawing…until you understand what your visual identity is (the hardest point of being an illustrator, I think!)
When I was a kid, I drew Disney characters (Walt Disney was a genius, his cartoons are masterpieces!). Growing up, I loved drawing portraits and sunsets, creating characters of my own. I’m interested in drawing faces, places, and evocative situations that let me explore and express my emotions. I define my illustrations at “realistic sketches”. I love the power of sketching everyday people and everyday situations.
I tend to do my sketches on paper, using pencils and aquarels yet my illustrations end up digital. Photoshop and my Wacom tablet are my creative companions. I almost always put on my headphones and listen to jazz, country, or electronic music.
I love my work: it’s my favourite hobby! When I don’t work, I like skating and surfing with my girlfriend and friends, along with watching films (I love looking for little known old films) and travelling (I’d like to do it more). I’m also passionate about taking photographs and finding time to take my dog Bobby out for walks, in the woods near my house. As an Italian, I naturally also love good food… but I’m not sure I should think of this as a hobby!
My studio is minimal: an old wooden table, a laptop, a graphics tablet, accompanied by open windows and good music! These are the basic requirements for me. But my table is always a mess, covered in sketches and pencils, alongside a lot of journals, books and comics. I think I’ll need a bigger one soon! The books I keep close, that have enriched me most, are “Uno, nessuno e centomila” (L. Pirandello), “On the road” (J. Kerouac), “1984” (G. Orwell), and “The Praise of Folly” (Erasmus of Rotterdam).
I tend to do my sketches on paper, using pencils and aquarels (sometimes also Pantone markers), yet my illustrations end up digital. Photoshop and my Wacom tablet are my creative companions. I almost always put on my headphones and listen to jazz, country, or electronic music.
I’ve thousands upon thousands of ideas in my head, but an enduring aspiration is to get my work known as much as possible, all over the world! Most recently I’ve finished the book cover of “The Little Book of Kindness” by Bernadette Russell, for the Italian Editor Corbaccio. Excitingly I’ve also started collaborating with an American client, all while I try and balance working hard on more personal projects.
A dream project would be to create a movie or cartoon, made up of hand drawings. It would be a long, complex work, but would also be greatly satisfying!
An example of a project I really love is “The Gallery – Milano City Life”, a series of illustrated murals for the Milan subway created by Emiliano Ponzi (one of the most talented contemporary illustrators…in my opinion). It’s a great project, the subway’s a perfect place to show your works to a great number of people: it’s just like a “great street exhibition!”