Simone Massoni: The Q&A

By Peggy Roalf   Monday June 30, 2014

Peggy Roalf: Originally from Rome, what are some of your favorite things about living and working in Florence?

Simone Massoni: I was born in Rome even if I cannot say I'm a Roman guy. I was raised in Lucca, a small town in the heart of Tuscany and now it's more than 18 years that I've lived in Florence. So that makes me a Florentine. People might think Florence is a big city because of its history but actually is a small town compared to other famous Italian county seats. For that reason you can still find a lot of craftsmen and small family shops right next to a big mall. Not to mention the fact it's an international city where you can grab a bike and get to the countryside within few minutes. That is priceless.

PR: How and when did you first become interested in art and illustration?

SM: I've been always interested in anything that has to do with visual arts. I tried to make a living as a comic book artist at first... so far it has been the epic failure of my career. Less than 10 years ago I finally succeeded as a children’s book illustrator, then I shifted my interests, experimenting with different media and age targets.


Recycling; cover illustration for Opere magazine.

PR: Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between the art you create on paper versus In the computer?

SM: I always have a sketchbook with me. Unfortunately that doesn't mean I draw and use it as often as I would like to. I've grown more accustomed to "sketching" ideas in my mind while I'm working on different commercial projects to save time, so I regretfully have lost the habits of the sketchbook for work. I still draw in it though; I love people watching, as well as people sketching

PR: What do you like best about your workspace?

SM: The mess. I'm not an organized person at all, but somehow it helps me doing what I do.

PR: Do you think it needs improvement, if so, what would you change?

SM: The improvement is always a need, in everything. In my case I need more space to collect more rubbish on my desk. I wish I could say “on my desks.”


The 40s: The story of a decade; publisher: The New Yorker / Random House.

PR: What is the most important item in your studio?

SM: Never thought about that. I now realize that I don't have one. Just give me anything that can leave a trace on and I'm happy.

PR: You use a lot of pattern in your illustrations -- when did you discover you had a talent for this kind of design art? 

SM: I've always been interested in graphic design. My style suggests a sort of handmade look in my artwork, even when I use vectors. I think I need patterns (which i see as a rigorous kind of visual communication) to balance the rough side of my approach.

PR: What was the strangest or most unusual assignment you’ve taken? What made it a success or a failure?

SM: It wasn't an assignment actually. Very recently I've run with some friends a non-stop 24-hour workshop. We built a little illustrated story for an Italian illustration magazine ( from scratch with 12 brave attendees. The result was a chaotic, crazy-beautiful story of a very long train voyage through 12 pictures. It was a lot of fun, and we felt that we really earned a rest once it was finished.

Cyrano De Bergerac: left, cover illustration; right, interior; publisher: Eli Readers.

PR: What was your favorite book as a child?

SM: Do you mean a picture book? Anything by Richard Scary without doubt, I know it may sounds predictable. I remember afternoons and evenings spent over those books, reading (or pretending to read), in an infinity loop, the adventure of Bananas Gorilla and Mr. Frumble.

PR: What is the best book you’ve recently read?

SM: I literally felt in love with Cyrano De Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. It was at first a work assignment. I took the opportunity through this job to finally read a book I've heard about since when i was a child. I never though it would have affected me in such an intense and deep way. 

PR: Who and what are some of your strongest influences?

SM: Traveling. I'm interested as anyone else in paintings, photography, art in general, anything that has to do with the visual. But what really boosts ideas and concepts for my shows and my art is traveling, discovering new places and people, looking at them and at their different behaviors, depending on which culture (and part of the world) they belong to. 

PR: What was your first professional assignment and how did it turn out?

SM: It was an assignment to draw 10 illustrations and the book cover for David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. I am still ashamed of the result. I was very young professionally speaking, because at that time I was doing a variety of small and somewhat inept projects as a graphic designer, so the final artwork for the project is the undeniable evidence of that.

Jewelry Legacy;
VO+ magazine

PR: What are some of your favorite blogs/websites for inspiration?

SM: which I was introduced to almost a year ago by a friend and I've been hooked ever since. I find the staff's picks very elegant and tasty, especially the art section. is another website i often check for inspiration. The choice of artists and designers they spotlight rarely disappoints. Editors of the site's content make me see things from a different perspective, show me that sometimes it's very easy to get inspired by things one might never imagine.

PR: What is/would be your karaoke song—and why?

SM: ny song by Ennio Morricone would work, I love soundtracks and most importantly, they (usually) don't have words. I'm so terrible at singing.

PR: Where did your idea for your bookThe 40s: The Story of a Decade, for the New Yorker, originate? What was the most difficult part about getting from idea to finished art?

SM: I had some guidelines from the art director I was working with. For some illustrations the direction was very clear without leaving any room for interpretation or experimentation. Other chapter openers needed to be figured out from scratch and I was very flattered that the art director gave me her trust.

The most difficult part, which at the same time was also the most interesting, was the historical research I had to do. As an Italian, I didn't have a strong knowledge of many aspects of the American 40s, such as people’s habits, fashion trends etc. I knew the main historical facts related to the WWII and the McCarthy era but I needed to get a more specific knowledge in order to treat the theme properly, even if eventually it all ended up in less than 10 illustrations. For me it has also been a chance to examine in depth a slice of American culture.

PR: What would be your last supper?

SM: A pizza, or at the very least, a pizza-flavored soup.

Summer Butler; cover ifor Vara Gids magazine.

I'm Simone Massoni, an independent visual artist. After starting my career as a children's book illustrator, I moved my interests to be aligned more with visual design and arts, mixing short animated films with motion design, graphic posters, pattern design, and illustration for fashion brands. I've participated in several live painting exhibitions as well as group gallery shows. In 2005 I founded my own brand, SketchThisOut®, which I mostly use and art direct and to spread passion for everything which I find visual stimulating. I'm currently living and working in Florence, Italy. Clients include: Nokia, Guess Kids, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Wired, GQ, Vanity Fair, Carhartt, Sundek, Kompost Tv, Direct TV, Sky TV, Emirates, Gold, Benchmark, Humanoides Associèes, Timbuktu Mag, Oxford University Press, Usborne Publishing, International Publishers Ltd., Feltrinelli, Eli, DeAgostini, Giunti, Mondadori, Piemme.

Recent works have been featured in American Illustration 33, 2014 and AI32, 2013; Print Magazine 67, 2013; Society of Illustrators 56 (silver medal) and show 2014, 55 and Show, 2013; Communication Arts Illustration annual 2011 and 2012; 3x3 Illustration annual 2012; Selected C by Index Book; Print Magazine; FRESH Cutting edge illustration by Slanted; New Typography by Zeixs Publishing; Playboy 2013; Computer Arts 2014.