In the Studio with Michael Marsicano

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday May 12, 2022

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

Michael Marsicano: For me, the brush always informs what I'm doing on the tablet.

PR: Where do you live and how does that place contribute to your creative work? 
MM: I currently live in Sarasota where I teach in the Illustration Department at Ringling College of Art + Design.  Coming back as an instructor and teaching alongside my original instructors and the world-class artists who've joined the program is incredibly inspiring. It really keeps me on my toes.

PR: Please describe your work space and how it contributes to the illustrator’s basic condition of working alone. 
MM: As a freelancer, I spent ten years alone in my apartment working at all hours. It was a welcomed change to re-engage with humans when I took the position at Ringling. But now in the new house, my workspace is the garage where for the first time absolutely all my gear is set up. No more having to put things away because my workspace is also a living room.

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

MM: I bought a Craftsman tool chest to house all my gear. It's a dream of orderly inventory.


PR: I noticed that you use gouache, painting in small sketchbooks, to make “casual observations” of your surroundings. Could you talk about how this medium suits your nature, and how these small captured moments inflect your assignment work?

MM: I absolutely love the immediate nature of gouache. It's like drawing and painting at the same time. As someone who has a tendency to over-render, gouache reminds me to make a decision and move on due to its degenerative qualities when you over-apply. 

PR: Do you use photographic reference materials very much? If yes, how do you avoid the pitfalls that can arise when working from reference?

MM: Yes—it’s always best to have the information if you need it. When drawing, I usually stop looking at the reference once I have the sketch blocked in. Painting is a different story, though. The best is to not have the reference in front of you the entire time.


PR: If you could work in just one medium for a year what would that medium be—what would you do to start out?

MM: Right now, I'm having a resurgence with charcoal. You say so much with so little. I especially enjoy creating a full charcoal rendering as my under-drawing. It allows for deeper textures than I've previously worked with.

PR: What kind of breaks do you take to clear your head when working to a deadline?

MM: I read from an analog book. It's a point to get away from the synthetic glow of the screen.

PR: Do you see a lot of museum and gallery shows?

MM:  Not as many as I used to when I lived in NYC.  However, Tim Jaeger who runs the galleries at Ringling, brings in some stellar artwork.   

PR: How do you know when the art is finished—or when to stop working on it?
MM: Ideally, when there's nothing else to fix. Usually, the zero hour when the deadline arrives.  


PR: What are some of your creative inspirations—artists, music, literature, culture in general—that you draw from in your work?
MM: As of late, comic artists like Sergio Toppi, Takehiko Inoue and Matteo Scalera have been on my study list. On the inspiration list George Pratt, Don Kilpatrick, Sena Adjovi & Aryz.

PR: What would be your dream job—the one thing you have always hoped for in an assignment?
MM: The MTA Arts for Transit poster gig was something I longed for as I rode those long late-night treks back home in NYC. I've been out of the city for five years and I'm still thirsty for that call. Hey, Sandra Bloodworth—get in touch!

Michael Marsicano is a freelance illustrator whose work has received honorable mention from Society Of Illustrators, Society of Illustrators West, Communication Arts, American Illustration and CMYK. A graduate of School of Visual Arts’ MFA Illustration program, he has spent the past twelve years working on a wide variety of clients across various markets. 
Currently, he is a full-time faculty member in Ringling College Of Art + Design’s illustration department.