Illustrators at work – interview with Riccardo Guasco

November 23rd, 2013

Riccardo Guasco is an illustrator and a painter working with a variety of styles and mediums – ink, watercolor, acrylic, Chinese brush – in addition to creating digital illustrations for clients such as Eni, Diesel, Rizzoli, Moleskine, Thames & Hudson and TBWA. In this interview Riccardo talks about what influenced his taste, not wanting to be tied to a single technique, and conveying motion in a static medium – particularly in his collection about cyclists.

Photography by Lorenzo De Simone

Kirill: Tell us about yourself and how you started in the field.

Riccardo: My name is Riccardo Guasco, I am an illustrator and a painter born in Alessandria, a small town in the northwestern part of Italy. I’ve always been drawing: since I was a little boy, I’ve always got the chance to attend art schools, till the School of Fine Arts in Turin. And this experience helped me to improve my hand and my style, up to turn my passion into a job.

Kirill: What informs and shapes your taste and style?

Riccardo: My style has evolved over time, matured with the passing of the years and with the settling down of my passions. During my studies, I got very interested into Picasso’s, Futurist painters’, Russian Suprematists’ and contemporary street art. Later, my passion has been enriched with comics – with the characters coming from Il Corriere dei Piccoli, the first Italian weekly comic magazine -, posters, or thanks to artists creating advertising placards since the Forties – such as Savignac, Cappiello, Seneca, Dudovich. It is a style taking inspiration from simple images, made up of few lines but full of expressive and emotional content.

Kirill: Your portfolio has work in multiple mediums – ink, watercolor, acrylic, Chinese brush. Is this a challenge to yourself to explore different directions and styles?

Riccardo: I love my art can become a language applicable to all media and through every technique. Technique is just a tool, a mean to communicate; the most important thing is having a message. I don’t want to tie myself down to a single technique or even worse to a single software, I want to try them all. My next collection I have in my mind, it will be a ceramic dinnerware set; this technique is really attractive to me, but I have never tried it up to now.

Kirill: What are your thoughts about digital illustration hardware and software tools?

Riccardo: I often use hardware and software tools in my job. Photoshop, Illustrator and Cintiq digital tablet are useful but not essential tools, luckily. As I told you before, I don’t want to tie myself down to a single software or a single hardware. Almost all my works arise from the paper first, and several times I prefer not to switch them into a digital format because I do not want to loose the freshness they have on the paper.

Kirill: How do you approach capturing and conveying movement in this static medium, particularly in your illustrations of cyclists?

Riccardo: My collection about cyclists was one of my earlier works. I wanted to convey the more introspective side of each cyclist, rather than to portray them just as racers; my attention was addressed to their thoughts and their soul, I wanted to tell something only through their profiles. So, I decided to eliminate the bicycle and everything that was redundant for me. And I was left with faces belonging to heroes, profiles speaking about struggle, noses stuck out in order to reach the finishing line they would have passed shortly.

Kirill: Do you ever find yourself so immersed during painting that you lose track of time?

Riccardo: If I could, I would draw nights and days, and if I am doing a job I like I don’t care about tiredness and time passing. I experience like a trance and my attention is completely enchanted by the work till the end. On the contrary, I never spend too much time on the same painting or illustration because I do not want to loose the freshness and spontaneity of the very first idea I’ve put on the paper.

Kirill: What goes through you head when you look at your own work from a few years ago?

Riccardo: It is a continuous metamorphosis, my works and my style change with the passing of the years (luckily). When I go back to my old works, I see naivety and defects that I would not make again now and I think the same painting or illustration would be different today.

Kirill: As you went back to the academic world, do you miss the more hectic side of client work? Any plans to go back to freelancing or agency?

Riccardo: I like to work with customers and/or agencies that ask me for unusual illustrations. I think that facing and dealing with brief and customer’s requirements is like a training. Usually, I try to explain to the customer that first of all we need to rely on each other and have a mutual consideration; only in this way it is possible to discuss and create an illustration satisfying both. I know I have a really peculiar and codified style, and this is a luck that helps me to meet customers who are exactly looking for my illustrations because they appreciate and consider them interesting from a quality point of view.

Kirill: What do you do when you run out of ideas and get stuck?

Riccardo: I think inspiration does not exist. Creativity and ideas are the result of a teamwork of eye, brain and hart. At the end of this process, the hand realizes what the other three players have imagined. This process cannot be stopped because it is like breathing or running: you need training and perseverance.

Kirill: What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?

Riccardo: The best thing about being an illustrator is the availability in your own hands of a universal communication medium: “drawing”. Having the opportunity to create an image able to reach and touch millions of people in a short time; if you try to think about an image, you realize it is more straightforward than a book, or a song, or rather a movie; but it has a strong tension inside that needs to be well and carefully handle.

And here I’d like to thank Riccardo Guasco for his outstanding work, and for taking the time to answer a few questions I had about his art and craft. You can find his work online at his main portfolio site and his Behance profile. Selected works are available for sale at his Society6 shop.