Leonardo Sala is a aspiring artist based in Florence, Italy. Currently studying at Nemo Academey of Digital Arts focusing in animation and visual deveolpment.
Connecting and sharing knowledge with likeminded artists across the globe is one of the many reasons I love interviewing creatives. Through reading Leonardo's response it is evident he has a refreshing passion for developing his art and succeeding in his work. I hope any inspiring artists can read this and take comfort in knowing they are not alone and their goals and reaches are shared by others.
Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? For example: What is like growing up in Italy and how has the culture inspired to take a path towards being an artist?
Hi Jess, first of all I would like to thank you for the interview.
My name is Leonardo Sala, I was born in Italy in 1993, in a small town near Venice called San Donà di Piave. As many artists, I've been drawing since I have memory, and I grew up watching cartoons, animated films, reading comics and playing video games. At the age of fourteen I started my studies at a scientific liceum. I know, it sounds strange but paradoxically in Italy many people don’t think art can grant you a future; so I was sort of forced to keep my passion as a hobby ... yeah, so sad.
Once I completed my scientific studies I was not happy at all. I understood that I needed to find my way and follow my dreams, no matter the risks or the sacrifices I had to face. Since then, I started practicing constantly, I felt like I had to make up for the time I lost, and that I should begin dedicating my whole life to art.
In 2012 I abandoned the reality of my small town and moved to Florence, where I took up my studies at Nemo Academy. Living in such an artistic environment gave me a chance to be inspired every day and explore my identity as an artist. I spent my days drawing people, landscapes and sculptures with an eye on the great masters. I had the opportunity to visit many museums and see some of most popular works of art in the world.
You are third year animation student at Nemo Academy of Digital Arts in Florence Italy. What have you been learning the past two years and what are you focusing on in your final year?
In the last two years I had managed to touch every single aspect of animation production, from character design to storyboarding, focusing on the animation technique. I learned traditional animation, as well as flash animation and three dimensional developing.
Nemo Academy has given me the possibility to develop a solid base of fundamental skills on almost everything that concerns animation. So I switched to try and grab some deeper knowledge on the subjects, thus studying and practicing on my own. I read a lot of books about the great masters, the anatomy, the colour theory and so on; I studied from tutorials, livestreams and youtube channels. In the last year I've been focusing on a greater task: an animated short for my graduation project, concretising what I've learned in the last years.
Tell me about your style of art and how you came about this process from start to finish, focusing on your recent Fox visual development pieces.
In the last year I struggled a lot looking for a graphic language, trying to feed my mind with a huge amount of the stuff I like and mirroring everything in what I drew; and it's anything but easy!
I always loved pinups and vintage stuff, for example, yet I love surreal and magical settings too. I could say that I just open my mind and let my tastes, cultural background, emotions (and also unconscious needs) flow, thereby reflecting on what I'm doing. It's sort of the James Joyce's "stream of consciousness" applied to artworks ahah… Furthermore, in the last period I'm constantly developing and evolving my style, so it's difficult for me to provide a clear answer to your question at the moment.
For what concerns my drawing/painting process, it all starts out without even drawing! I love to take my time, searching for the right references and also the right music (don't underestimate the importance of music!) and close my eyes, trying to visualise in the most detailed way I can the subject I'm going to immortalise.
Once I have what I need clear in my mind, I start setting up the scene using quick thumbnails (also for colours). Once I've arranged a inspiring scheme, the real work kicks in, which consists in thinking about composition, perspective, shapes, weight and three-dimensionality of the masses, silhouettes and everything that could define my artwork and fill with interest the viewer. Then I start considering values organisation and colour schemes applying the theory, projecting myself into the right mood.
This is my approach for these kind of works, from colour scripting to illustrations for visual development. Obviously every subject has its respective rules and approaches (such as the creation of props, for example), so don't think this one can be applied to everything!
What is the film/art industry like in Italy? Are there many studios and artists you take inspiration from, do you have mentors?
Many foreign artists tell me, "You're so lucky to be living in Italy! It's the homeland of art!”
Well, in my honest opinion, nowadays, artists have no future in Italy; in particular within a field like animation. It's hard to say, but the situation is extremely sad in Italy. The only way to get a job here is to kill every ambition and surrender to being exploited by someone who doesn't believe in your work or ever care about it.
I love Italy, don't get me wrong, but I love the artistic beauty of it, not its system.
For this reason it's easier for me to imagine myself following my dream overseas in the future. Despite the situation, Italy has a lot of amazing artists. I can name two of them who helped and inspired me a lot in the last years: my great friend and super talented artist Sylwia Bomba and the master Antonio De Luca. We have many awesome comic artists and illustrators aswell, such as Mirka Andolfo (Sacro/Profano), Alessandro Barbucci and Barbara Canepa (Sky Doll) and many others!
What are your thoughts on social networking and marketing yourself online as an artist? How has this helped you gain a following or given you opportunities?
These days social networking is the most powerful tool for an artist.
With social networks we can share our art with the world, get in touch with other artists and studios, make new friends and be inspired. We can create opportunities, so we can create our future.
I can say I'm pretty new to the world of social media, in fact my artistic social life started about two years ago with a Facebook Page, and it's only recently that I started expanding through other social platform (like Tumblr, Instagram, Artstation and so on...) in order to gain more visibility. Thanks to social media, I've been contacted for commissions and I even worked for some book covers and character designs. Lately I even worked with the awesome guys of 3D Total, who contacted me to take part on their book "Beginner's Guide to Sketching".
Who and what inspires you as an artist?
Well, I think inspiration comes basically from thoughts and emotions. We can say that inspiration can be found in anything that makes us think about something (situations, mood, feelings, etc).
On my PC I keep a lot of folders where I put every picture I find interesting, some of them stolen from the web, others I took them myself, not necessarily works of art, but everything that makes my mind endeavour. Being inspired sometimes doesn't come easy, so we have to train our brain to get inspired! Open your eyes, don't take for granted what surrounds you. Search for the beauty in the smallest details, colours, light schemes, situation and interaction between people. Realise how everything flows around you. All that you see has a past, a present and a future, and nothing stays unchanged. You just have to get aware with both your eyes and your heart, and start feeding your brain! You'll realise that everything is perfect in nature, It's all about taking a particular object out of it’s material context and re-imaging it.
What illustration/concept art or animation tutorials have you found useful that you can recommend?
I recommend to follow the artists you like and look for their speed processes or tutorials on their social networks, follow some useful youtube channels and websites like Concept Cookies, Level UP, Proko, Bobby Chiu (Schoolism), 3D Total, and many many others. Take a look at the online courses of Schoolism (they're awesome and super professional!) or maybe if you're lucky you can attend to some live workshops in your city!
Study from books! I would suggest all of the books by the masters Andrew Loomis (which deeply influenced my style) and James Gurney (Colour and Light). If you like animation you should buy every "The Art of" book, I'm collecting them and they're super useful and interesting. If you are an animator you MUST have "The Animator's Survival Kit" of Richard Williams, I consider this book like "the bible of animation".
For 2d animation or even flash animation you can search for "Draw with Jazza" channel on youtube or Aaron Blaise's channel if you like a more traditional approach with digital support (like me). 3D animators could take a look to iAnimate online school, student's reels speaks for itself.
What is next for you? Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
My plan after graduation is to make money to start my plan. I need to build up the best portfolio and attend at every convention I manage to, at the CTN in primis. After that, I think my hunt for work will start in Europe, maybe UK or Germany, to try and gain experience in small studios first. In the next five years I see myself overseas, maybe in a big Animation Studio, you know... worlds belong to those who have the courage to follow their dreams.
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