An interview with Paolo Barbieri, illustrator, guest of the XXI Edition of Romics.
When did you become a passionate about drawing and when did you realize that it would have also been your artistic path?
At the beginning I didn’t realize that it was my path because I was only six years old. I used to draw cartoons but at a certain point I felt the need to create new robots, new characters. Tv has developed my fantasy. Movies such as Indiana Jones, The Goonies, Labirinth which transmitted a unique magic have done the rest. When I decided to work as an illustrator, I attended the School of Art in Mantova then two years at a private Academy in Milan.
Which artists have inspired you the most?
Boris Vallejo, Rodney Matthews, Michael Whelan. I have tried to understand how these great masters would be able to transform the real world into fantasy. It is not easy, after persisting in making comparisons with them I have finally created my own style. At the beginning I didn’t manage to see it: however other artists managed to recognize my work.
What about your career beginnings?
The beginnings were not easy. I was strongly criticized. They told me I would never have worked in Italy, then I met Studio Baroni, a graphic studio for publishing: they trusted in me so I started to work on some covers.
Why did you decide to work on Dante’s Inferno, one of the most famous and illustrated book in the world?
It was an idea of Mondadori. It is a script full of violence, quartered bodies. I wanted to translate it into images without making it become a splatter.
You have illustrated several covers for books of important authors such as Umberto Eco, Wilbur Smith. How does the idea for a cover come about?
I usually consult the art director and I try to ‘’translate’’ his idea into a cover. Sometimes they give me a synopsis and some descriptions of characters and I feel myself more free, but the real freedom is the one I benefit with illustrated books.
Which advices would you give to those who want to do your job?
Draw a lot. Waiting for inspiration is a romantic idea. As time passes, you are no longer afraid of a blank sheet, as soon as you learn you create your own discipline. Inspiration becomes a method of work.