The DART Interview: Giovanni Alberti

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday May 2, 2019

Peggy Roalf: Which came first, the brush or the pen?

Giovanni Alberti: First of all, the pen. That’s how I instinctively give shape to my first thoughts or feelings. Drawing with the pen allows me to highlight the most important aspects of the image, then I can use a brush to give greater depth, or to better convey the idea of substance.

PR: How did you choose art as your metier?

GA: Ever since I was a child I was always addicted to drawing. I remember how in high school my classmates would ask me to draw their assignments from the teachers. This really amused me. Later, after finishing high school, I consciously decided to take this path. This is why I enrolled at the Academy of Fine Artsin Bologna, studying sculpture. Later, I got closer the world of illustration and in 2016 I obtained a master's degree in illustration at the Mimaster Illustrazione in Milan, an experience that allowed me to better understand the workings of this profession. However, the fact that today I deal with drawing and illustration I believe it still linked to my primary interest in sculpture. Drawing and sculpture, while different mediums, are both closely linked to spatial research. In sculpture the space is real, while in the drawing it is the white sheet.

PR: Please describe your work process—is most of your work done directly, or do you also use digital media? 

GA: I tend to choose different techniques, depending on the project. However, all my works start from a drawing on paper or from the subject. Later, very often, I scan the work and finish it digitally, especially when adding colors and textures. 

PR: What was your first big break—how did that assignment come about?

GA: When I was in the master's degree program at the Mimaster, in Milan, one of my illustrations was chosen as the cover of an Italian trade magazine, Liber, which deals with literature for children and young people. It was fascinating to see how a first draft from my sketchbook was finalized into the image that then went public.

PR: I was intrigued that your website presents mostly personal projects. Can you describe to the readers what is your process in self-directing pieces such as these as marketing tools? For example, do you have an audience in mind or do you work primarily from imagination?

GA: Without imagination I could not work. So that always comes first. But it is very interesting to see how different projects, as they take shape, propose common themes or interesting links for a certain type of audience. Specifically, Ten Commandments Street (top) is a more artistic and somewhat satirical project. In making it, I realized that it was probably a project more linked to the art world than to publishing. Voices (below left), on the other hand, is more suitable for the editorial world, as it deals with mental illness, a very current and in-demand topic. In fact, in general I try to combine my imagination with themes that may concern literature, but also the psychology and current affairs. But the common thread to all works always remains an existential view of the world.

PR: I also noticed that many of the pieces on your website present ways to characterize cerebral notions—for example: the end of dualism; contrast; the wild. Are these your favorite kinds of assignments? Do you also enjoy assignments that involve visual description rather than conceptual ideas?

GA: My work moves along two tracks: the more conceptual one, and the more narrative and descriptive one. Both are interesting to me. The most descriptive works must surely be measured against the actual reality, as well as the (often short) time allowed to realize them. In fact almost always they are drawings from life, from direct observation. This aspect is very fascinating as it forces me to be abstract and to quickly get to the point. In this sense I feel close to the world of graphic journalism. Particularly in projects like Barcola (second from top), or The Gold of the Vagrants. In more conceptual works the synthesis must be translated into an image. So in a sense the process is reversed. Certainly both tracks reflect my need to reflect and tell stories about life. 

PR: What are some of your creative inspirations—artists, music, literature, culture in general—that you draw from in your work?

GA: Without doubt, in the art world, I am inspired by Alberto Giacometti. I'm also very interested in the work of Antony Gormley. As for illustrators, it would be mainly Richard McGuire, particularly in his book, Here. In literature, among others, Albert Camus, and Dino Buzzati—in their writing I find a timeless, dramatic and delicately surreal atmosphere with which I feel somehow close. In music I don't pay much attention to genres, the important thing is that there’s always good music in the background. I listen to many genres, from classical to hip-hop. In this regard, I recently made a series of portraits of great composers for Masada Classica, an association from Milan that promotes classical music. In this case it was the music itself that showed me the direction for creating the images. 

PR: Where do you live and how does that place contribute to your creative work?

GA: I live in Trieste, Italy. I feel it is a city suspended in time. Perhaps because, as a border town, surrounded by the Carso plateau on one side and by the sea on the other,it almost seems to be an island. This restless suspension, like the wind that passes through it, helps me to produce a strongly psychological work, even before being political.

PR: Please describe your workspace and how it contributes to your work and process?

GA: I currently work in a studio with a designer and a jewelery artist. Here, on my table, are my tools: the ink pen, the paper, a pencil, a scanner, the computer and the graphic pen. However, for what I do, the most important thing is to always have a sketchbook and a pen with me, to work out ideas, and to draw people's faces. So in fact, I could work anywhere. Moreover, as a social worker at a homeless center, I take great inspiration from this hidden world, rich in diversity and faces and stories that are both suffering and inspiring. My project, The Gold of the Vagrants (right), came to life there. 

PR: How do you take a break when working to a deadline? 

GA: Smoking a cigarette, going for a walk, stretching my legs. I would say that moving is always the best way to refresh the mind, or the heart. Perhaps it is obvious to say so, but I believe that taking a break from work helps a lot to carry out the project in the right direction. I would almost say that the pause is a necessary and not negligible part of the creative process.

PR: What are your favorite kinds of assignments, and how do you market yourself to attract this kind of work?

GA: It depends. Certainly the book covers, as well as the editorial illustrations, give me the opportunity to work on a conceptual synthesis that can be subtle and perhaps enigmatic but also seductive. I am also very fascinated by the world of fashion and theater, in fact several recent projects, like Mirrors, focus on the sculptural quality of garment design. I'm lucky to work in the most diverse fields, where I can be both inspired and creative.

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

GA: I would say a project that merges several art disciplines, perhaps something that combines sculpture, drawing, narration and theater. I think it's a bit the dream of every artist.

PR: If you could live and work anywhere, where would that be—and why?

GA: Anywhere I can see the sea. I certainly wouldn't want to live in a place where everything is always stable. In fact my imagination is more active where there is movement and vital imperfection, like the motion of the waves.

After graduating in sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, Giovanni developed his artistic work especially in the field of drawing and illustration. In 2016, he obtained a master’s degree in editorial illustration at Mimaster in Milan. His illustrations range from life drawing to designs inspired by the world of fashion, taking sometimes a measured approach, sometimes one that is more biting and seductive. In short, ranging from a conceptual spirit to one that is more impulsive and naive. He currently lives and works in Trieste. His project, Barcola, which depicts people relaxing at the seashore near Trieste, is included in an exhibition at Ugly Duck for the Cluster Art Fair, May 1-5, in London. Info dart-interview