Illustrator Profile - Alessandro Gottardo (Shout): "The life you live is the art you will produce"

By Robert Newman   Thursday March 16, 2017

Alessandro Gottardo is a Milan-based illustrator who goes by the name of Shout. Gottardo/Shout’s smart, elegant illustrations have graced the pages of numerous magazines and newspapers in the US and Europe, book covers, posters, and more. His work is noted for its powerful conceptual skills; Gottardo explains that it’s important to keep “the idea of my work clear and strong.” He’s a busy guy; in addition to creating over 200 commissioned illustrations a year, Gottardo and his wife are celebrating the recent birth of their first daughter, Leda.

My name is Alessandro Gottardo. I’m an illustrator and go by the pseudonym “Shout.” I live in Milan, Italy. I’m married to a beautiful, smart and lovely woman and our first child, our daughter Leda, was born in January.

I grew up in the northeast of Italy, in a classic Italian family: mum and dad, an older sister and brother. I had a very happy childhood—my dad was an owner of a small company and my mum was a housewife.

My mum is a self-made artist (my grandparents didn’t want her to go to art school), painter and engraver. I grew up seeing her drawings and paintings on a daily basis. My mum saw I was talented and enrolled me in a “liceo artistico” (art high school) in Venice, a city which is 100% art. I would take the train every day from where I lived and still recall the feeling I had when the train pulled into the station in Venice. The station was a sort of time-machine as I was thrown into another era: the Scalzi bridge, the canal and the church domes. I felt like a time traveler. It was so exciting—I lived one of the happiest time of my life.

My school had a Venetian garden—its windows overlooked the Canal Grande—while ceilings of the classrooms were decorated and painted. I was so happy drawing every day. My passion for drawing and painting was stronger at the time, maybe because I was doing it for myself and wasn’t following any assignments!

I graduated in 2000 and received my first assignment in July 2001, so I’ve been working for over 15 years.

I work in a nice studio inside my apartment, in the center of Milan, a few steps away from Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Supper.” My studio has a lot of light and is neat and tidy. I need an organized space to work and silence (instrumental music like jazz is OK); when I was young I was messier, growing up I learned I needed order around me to focus on my assignments.

My wife and I will be moving into new apartment close to the city’s largest park. I will have a bigger studio and the neighborhood is just as lovely. Plus I can run in the park!

The first step (sketches) is always pencil on paper. This is the most important stage of my work: I think about concept, composition, perspective and weights of the image. I then move onto the digital step by adding color and textures with Photoshop.

In 2005 I felt the need to change. Change came when I stopped thinking about the style of my images and focused on their message. That’s where the minimalist style of my illustrations comes from, as a consequence of wanting to keep the “concept” and “idea” of my work clear and strong. No details meant no distraction, and Shout was born.

When I thought I was ready to show my work, I sent three separate emails to three top art directors: Arem Duplassis (The New York Times Magazine), Brian Rea (when he was at The New York Times OpEd) and Nick Jhelen (The Progressive) and received three assignments on the same day.

Painters Giorgio Morandi, Antonio Donghi, and Vilhelm Hammershoi. However, on second thought, I believe I’ve been heavily influenced by literature rather than figurative art. I became a passionate reader quite early, around the age of 15. My Italian teacher took me under her wing and following her recommendations I began to read Thomas Mann, Milan Kundera, Goethe, Arthur Schnitzler, Oscar Wilde and many others; their novels fascinated me. The thing I enjoyed the most was the characters’ psyche and I learned a lot about myself through reading. My secret dream was to become a writer but I was more confident of my drawing skills and therefore decided to become an illustrator. Illustrations tell stories through images. An author who influenced my way of telling stories is Ray Carver as well as other great American writers: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Bukowski, Asimov, Dick, Poe, Bradbury…this list could go on and on.

Hard to say... I believe the people I admire the most are dead! Picasso, Hemingway, Pina Bausch, Finn Juhl, Piero Portaluppi, Antonello Da Messina, Miles Davis….

I admire David Hockney’s work, which I find very fresh, no matter what medium and tools he’s using: pencil, oil or watercolors, digital media, a brush, finger or a fax machine. His art is goes beyond the medium and technique. I like what he’s telling through his work.

In general I appreciate artists who evolve, whose work changes as time goes by.

I think everything inspires me and I therefore try to live my life to the fullest. I go to the theater to see plays and concerts, I read and travel a lot. Life offers many inspirational sources.

I actually enjoy working on my own and managing my business in an independent manner. I am an extremely disciplined worker and follow a precise working routine. I need my own space and don’t want to be distracted. However, I do miss human contact from time to time.

I was very lucky to receive a double assignment for the 2016 and 2017 Savannah Music Festival poster, working with creative director Larissa Davidson. Aside from the assignment itself, this job gave me the opportunity to travel to Savannah last April (charming city), meet up with Larissa and the rest of the festival’s staff (all amazing), and go to 18 concerts in six days (all different music genres). The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) aIso invited me to give a speech and visit their amazing facilities. This is what makes illustration so special: it allows you to travel and meet people—both life-enriching experiences.

I don't really know… I did movie posters, festival posters, book covers, animation, product design, cover magazines, illustrated books, music album cover, animation, advertising campaigns—I achieved many goals. I put the same effort and dedication into all my assignments, no matter the client or budget.

I enjoy having the chance to do something new and being surprised by an assignment I’ve never thought about before.

I am about to turn 40 and take myself less seriously.

One of the most beloved art directors in the field is SooJin Buzelli (Asset International). She is the creative director of four different magazines and commissions over 300 illustrations every year. She doesn’t put boundaries during the creative process and always gives you the right advice. SooJin really “directs” you (you can tell when she is not happy; she never tells you so, she simply guides you to understand when something in the image is wrong). Asset International publications are mainly financial—the articles are long and hard to understand— but SooJin is of great help as she sends you a brief with a short sentence encapsuling the full story. The magazines she art directs are probably the best-illustrated world-wide.

My mentors are the Italian illustrators Lorenzo Mattotti, Guido Scarabottolo, Franco Matticchio and Beppe Giacobbe. All of them are capable of telling an unforgettable story through a single image. I also admire Guy Billout, Mark Ulriksen and Robert Hunt and many others.

I had the chance to meet most of the people listed above and what makes them special is their ability to stay hungry in an intellectual way after so many years. They are also extremely humble and think this is a humane virtue as well as the secret to living a good life. They believe you should be honest with yourself, as a human being and as an artist; you don’t have to show or prove anything to anyone, you should do what you enjoy the most at your best.

I’ve worked on different projects with an Italian independent label (279 Editions), based in Milan.

My first personal project was JetLag 1 published in 2006, followed by JetLag 2 in 2007. Both books are a series of portraits of strangers around the world, travelers who spend the night in big, anonymous hotels across the globe country. The project is about globalization and how people’s hectic life is constantly running behind schedule. In 2014 279 Editions produced hand-made silk-screen prints of 6 JetLag portraits.

With 279 Editions I also published two monographs: Mono Shout, i.e. the best of my commissioned work in the years 2005-2010 and On Shout, the best of my commissioned work in 2010-2014.

“Untitled” (2012) was a series of 4 big drawings (40x30 inches), made entirely by black and red ball-point pens. The concept behind this project is similar to Dazed. Here is how I work with ball-point pens.

I gave lectures on my work in Barcelona, Hamburg, and Savannah, Georgia. I enjoy meeting students in these occasions rather than teaching.

I think about the changes of our market constantly. I’ve been extremely busy in the past 10 years (around 200 commissioned illustrations every year, which means around 500 sketches/ideas per year) and I barely find time to experiment. I decided to slow down this year by taking fewer assignments and found time to draw for myself. I don’t want to reach new clients; I simply want to have fun and be passionate, which is the key to high-quality work. I’d love to produce a personal animation (I did the script already, my agent is thinking about how to produce it) and work on more product design.

When I was at the beginning of my career I entered all illustration competitions. I think it was important at that time, when nobody knew my work. Nowadays, I update my clients by email. I don’t use social media, but may do so in the future. I believe they are great tools if you want to promote yourself and find new job opportunities, but I am scared by the fact that working life and personal life may be mixed together.

Be curious and satisfy your curiosity. Be open to things you do not know/have yet to experience and not only things you are good at. Find inspiration everywhere: in the face of a stranger, in food you never tried before, in a city you’ve never been to. The life you live is the art you will produce. Make mistakes, because by mistakes you learn. We are all going to die one day and most of us won’t be remembered or praised as artists, so do not take yourself too seriously and enjoy life as long as you can.

See more Shout illustrations, new work and updates:
Shout website


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