The DART Interview: Davide Bonazzi

By Peggy Roalf   Friday February 15, 2019

Peggy Roalf:  When did you know that you would become an illustrator?

Davide Bonazzi: I’ve had an interest in drawing since I was a kid, so I can say I’ve wanted to become an illustrator my entire life! More specifically, I got interested in illustration around age 24, while attending a postgraduate course in illustration at the European Institute of Design, in Milan. At that time I didn’t know too much about this discipline. I discovered a beautiful world and I wanted to be part of it with all my might.

PR: While your work is highly conceptual, there is always a narrative thread. When did you realize that storytelling was an important part of your toolbox?

DB:  I find fascinating the ability of great illustrators to tell a complex story with just an artwork. For example, an artist like Sempé can really open your eyes regarding what an image is able to say, without using a single word. As I started making art for editorial and advertising, I came across the same need to tell a story with the fewest elements possible. Conceptual art could be a life saver in this synthesis process, though over time I came to find that it could be an end in itself if not supported by a more personal narration.

PR: Even when you create an image that involves dozens of people at work, there is usually some element of landscape that seems to make the scene coherent. Do you have any particular connection to rendering landscape outside of your illustration work? 

DB: I just love when an illustration presents an actual, credible setting where people are, because it makes you feel like you are or have been there. This really can make a difference between a great artwork and a stereotyped one. As many great architects and designers of the past said, the environment shapes our lives, it creates a connection with our inner landscape, so this may be true also for illustrations. Landscapes are also my favorite subject when I sketch outside. Some time ago I started a personal project called “Urban Wildlife” ( where architectural and animal forms are mixed together, just for the sake of drawing these subjects.

PR: Do you often get assignments where the AD left the concept and the realization entirely up to you? How did this affect your working process?

DB: Art directors generally give me the subject and some other key notes about the story, leaving the concept and realization up to me, at least for the first round of sketches. Some times there are no amendments to be done at all, and everything goes smoothly from the sketches to the final artwork. I feel this is an optimal working condition, though it’s also a responsibility: when clients give me full authority, I generally make every effort not to disappoint their trust.

PR: What is your favorite non-paper or non-glass background for your illustration work? How does creating work for a non-traditional environment affect your process?

DB: As I do my illustrations entirely with digital tools, my favorite non-glass background is paper. For my sketchbook I use mostly brush pens and markers, occasionally pencils. While my illustration process is quite meticulous and consolidate, I can’t describe the process behind the drawings I made for fun because it’s quite random. I use the sketchbook mostly to do experiments.

PR: Some of the subjects that engage your stylus are: the future; big data; political extremism: procrastination; the opioid epidemic, and the like. These are surely abstractions of complex subjects. To what extent do you participate in the naming of a story when you work with art directors?

DB: I don’t have an active role in the naming of a story, but most times titles and heading are modeled after the illustrations are done, in order to make the issue more engaging. The fun thing is that I frequently use the provisional title they gave me as a starting point for my concepts, but often the final title changes at the late stage. This means that the naming is quite marginal after all. The most important thing is the straight-forwardness of the concept.

PR: Do you feel weighed down by the serious issues you become involved with in order to create the pictures?

DB: Oh yes, I always empathize with the issues that I illustrate. I think the more profound the connection with the issues, the better the result will be. Things like political crises, war, poverty, climate change can really weigh one down, but the process of illustrating them acts like a kind of therapy—firstly for the illustrator, but hopefully for the readers as well. Right now I’m doing an editorial illustration about how public figures twist the truth and how truthfulness seems to be losing its prestige in public life, and this really gets me mad!

PR: Is there a subject so complex and impenetrable that you can’t wait to get your hands on an assignment that deals with the subject?

DB: It might be an assignment about dictatorship of the past, and their reflection in today’s world. Representing something unequivocally evil is challenging and cathartic at the same time.

PR:  What is your favorite activity when you take a break from the studio?

DB: Quite simply, take a walk—preferably on the riverside of the park in my city.

PR: How do you re-charge when a difficult assignment is nearing the deadline?

DB: I don’t have a regular method. I think the most important thing is to avoid any collateral kind of stress, staying focused but rest as much as I can, conserve my strength, listen to good music. Someone much wiser than I once told me that relaxing is an important aspect of work.

PR:  What would be your dream job—the one thing you have always hoped for in an assignment? 

DB: As I was raised in the 90’s, my dream would be a commission from a museum of natural history somehow related to dinosaurs. Having to travel on the trails of a group of paleontologists, illustrating their process of discovering a prehistoric skeleton, would blow my mind!

Artwork, top to bottom:

How to break the school-to-prison pipeline. Client: Monmouth University magazine.

The Internet isn't forever. About the fragility of digital archives online. Client: Internazionale.

Peacock. From the series "Urban Wildlife", personal project.

The Broken Wing. Personal project.

Davide has been working as freelance illustrator for clients worldwide including major publishers, advertisers and institutions, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Science, UNESCO, Gatorade and many others. He aims to create clever visual solutions to represent complex topics, as well as narrative, witty images. His work has been recognized by The Society of Illustrators of NY, American Illustration, Communication Arts, 3x3 Magazine. 




Pinterest:  roalf.dart.interview


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