Mystery, dream and imagination. These are the three elements that Jacopo Starace, Italian illustrator, blends in a cinematic way. He’s the designer of the poster for the 2019 edition of the Trieste Science+Fiction Festival, but his work goes beyond mere graphic and illustrative competence: he creates a photographic image very close to surrealism. Jacopo begins telling the story, then it's up to us, the public, to imagine how it ends. We met Jacopo and he catapulted us into his utopian world, which he jealously holds on to.
I think that where my imagination gets stuck, the others’ imagination begins. Every drawing in my mind is just a trace, a starting note that I whisper to the viewer of my drawings but it's up to the others, with their imagination, to complete the work.
Hi Jacopo, how are you and where are you from?
Hi, I'm Jacopo, I'm 31 years old and I'm an illustrator and cartoonist from Milan. I think all in all I am good at, but I'm never too sure about that. And it doesn't make me feel great.
When did you start drawing?
The obvious answer would be "in kindergarten," but I really started to realize how much I liked drawing during the second year of university (2009) and since the beginning I have studied to understand which was my method and apply it. It's going well, fortunately.
An imaginary world. That's what your work says. What do you think about that?
I think that where my imagination gets stuck, the others’ imagination begins. Every drawing in my mind is just a trace, a starting note that I whisper to the viewer of my drawings but it's up to the others, with their imagination, to complete the work. I think that the funniest part is understanding that each drawing is always different depending on who is watching.
Tell us about your creative process, does it start from a source of inspiration?
Not really. I studied scenic design and I'm used to think about space in a certain way, with a certain setting and my studies have led me to a working method focused on the creation of the right atmosphere. Usually I look at random figures (depending on what the unconscious suggests me) and I let myself be carried on a flooded river from which I find shelter only when I see an image that matches a particular memory or emotion. From there I try to imagine how to transform that image into a dream, or into something alienating and I concentrate on figuring out how to use light and shadow.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be?
A comic artist, definitely.
In your works, the human being is a constant presence. What is the role of man in your drawings?
The human being is a constant presence, but it is always accompanied by figures that make him magical. This is also part of my creative process, we often create the characters first and then the context in which they live but for me it's the exact opposite, I tend to give more importance to the context (the atmosphere) where the subjects are immersed and elevate them, making them magical. It's a mental approach that is neither right nor wrong, but for now it works and intrigues me.
Illustrator, cartoonist and you also published a graphic novel called INN. What is the role of comic in our increasingly digital world?
I can't tell you what comic’s role in our world is because I guess it is one of those deep questions nobody can answer to. If you ask me, though, comic is one of the most ductile and malleable existing media, easily able to express itself in such a forceful and effective way on digital supports as well as on traditional paper. What is really important for me is to determine my limits, to study as much as possible and to do my part for the so-called in Europe “Ninth art”, comic, taking new paths nobody has ever explored before. Experimenting means shaking the water so that it doesn't stagnate: those who stop doing it are lost.
Flying trains, giant hands sticking out and scarcely believable living things. Your works look like surrealist photographs. But deep down, what are your creations screaming?
I won’t say it to stress what I was explaining before. It is up to the observer to understand my art’s meaning and/or the subtext, because my message changes and speaks different languages according to its observer. The moment I complete a drawing I no longer exist. I deeply respect my creations, and this means I don’t want to manipulate their expressive power. Instead, I tend to detach myself and look at them with a normal observer’s eye.
The moment I complete a drawing I no longer exist. I deeply respect my creations, and this means I don’t want to manipulate their expressive power.
You have chosen a free trade, which knows no rules. What is illustration’s only limit in your opinion?
In a world based on poetry, I'd say "nothing". In a world based on capital, I'd say "luck".
Do you have any future plans?
I have many, all aiming experimentation and all quite complex to develop, but this doesn’t mean I am going to back down. I can't reveal anything at the moment, but everything will find its own place in the world.
Follow more projects by Jacopo Starace's on Instagram.
Interview & Article by
Vivian di Lorenzo