collage artist︎ Italy
february 19, 2020
Would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself? Where are you from and what’s your background?
My name is Nazario Graziano, and I was born and live in Italy. I am mainly an illustrator, and since about 2002/2003 I work a lot in publishing and for international brands.
As I wrote in the bio on my website: My world is romantic, ironic, dreamy, with good background music. I like to think of it as... “A dive in the past with gore-tex lifesaver.”
Do you have any formal art or design education?
No. I am self-taught. I have always had a passion for everything that was graphic, illustration, photography, design, and I liked to buy books (including school books) on this topic that I studied alone, privately. My education was immediately the experience in the field. First in a few web-agencies, then in graphic and communication agencies. I started working in this area when I was around 20 ... for about 10 years before officially becoming a freelance illustrator. It was a good apprenticeship, very hands-on.
Would you talk about your development as an artist over the long term?
I always feel the word "artist" is too heavy, especially considering how it has been abused in the past few decades. I consider myself essentially an illustrator and at the same time a happy person who figured out how to turn a passion into a (creative) job. Over the long term - I don't know, creative work is always evolving, so you can never stand still or feel like you have arrived, but have to always experiment, research, and find new paths and ways of communicating.
The collages and the works I create today are different from what I did 10 years ago, but also from the ones I did in 2018. But the fact remains that if I analyse them carefully, each of them tells something about me, of a certain period, of my visual language of those years, and obviously of my inner world in general.
What originally drew you to collage?
Nice question, and one that I have answered many times. I'm not sure what and where the origin is... I think it was a natural expressive element that came out when I was a kid. I remember that after school I used to draw on sheets, then I added heads, arms and other elements, or I created strange creatures and characters cutting out various items from magazines and newspapers. I believe some of the things I have done when I was 8 or 9 years old would in some ways be in line with some of the things I do today.
Especially in your personal work I can see a lot of music and film references. I somehow picture you as someone listening to music all day long and happily working along on a number of projects. Anyone’s dream. Well mine at least. Who or what are your influences?
Exactly, you got it right!!! That's it. I believe that without music I would not be able to live, even less to work. The references and influences are infinite and change constantly, also because I am basically an omnivore, a researcher, and curious by nature. I go from jazz to punk, from ambient to HIP HOP, from Pink Floyd to The Clash ... and in between all of this, there is all this new stuff coming out. I listen to music for about eleven hours a day, sometimes even in bed, and I always discover new things. Music, like art, is infinite, and full of stimuli. Recently, I discovered very interesting and very stimulating things about Ethiopian music. When I find something I like (not only in music), I go to the origins, I study it, I absorb it ... then maybe I get bored, I get saturated, and I look for something else. New inspirations, new ways. The only thing that never bores me are the Beatles, lol.
Can you describe your artistic process when you sit down to work on a piece or series?
We are talking about artistic collage here, so I avoid talking about commission related processes and commercial briefs. The free or personal works are my favourites, and they are the ones which allow me to express myself to the fullest and to experiment with new paths and new techniques. As I often say to the people who attend my workshops, inspiration can come from anything, especially when it comes to collage. And this is 100% true for what I do myself. Sometimes I start from a face or from a photo that inspires me, sometimes from the phrase of a song that is playing on Spotify, sometimes from a word I find in a newspaper, sometimes from an abstract element or simply from a piece of paper with nice colour ... and slowly, starting from that element, I create a story, visions, images, a world, a language.
You work both digitally and analog. Do you have a preference and if so what and why?
Analog collage is currently a purely artistic form of expression for me, personal, perhaps primitive, and a little naive. A sort of therapy, a moment of relaxation, but at the same time, it allows me to discover and experiment with things that I also apply to digital collage and to commercial works. I can't discern the two collage modes ... although technically they are different, at the end they merge into one "world", a bit like Yin and Yang.
You are not afraid of colour or patterns and your collages are rather explosive and abundant. How would you describe your work yourself?
No, and that relates to what I said before about research and the evolution of my collages. It's true, lately, I have started to work a lot with brighter colours rather than muted tones. It has been a long creative process that has also shaped my analog collages, and that has brought a stronger emphasis on colour choices rather than on graphic and photographic elements. But then again, the opposite thing happened some time ago…
Do you work in any other media?
A few years ago I combined acrylic paints and oil pastels creating a sort of mixed-media. I haven't been using that technique lately. I try to keep the collage as pure as possible. As for other media ... I really like calligraphy and hand-lettering (I have an Instagram page I find hard to keep updated www.instagram.com/helloblackdrop). I have also started to study the art of sign painting. I bought paints and brushes, but I would need 36 hours in a day to do everything.
You do a lot of commercial work. Do you think there is a division between design and art?
There is certainly a difference. Art has no rules ... design, publishing, advertising and advertising design yes. I speak from my point of view, differentiating my personal (free) work from commissions, with briefs, many directions to consider, and a series of revisions, which are necessary but which obviously make you lose some spontaneity. A lot also depends on the client who commissions the work. There is commercial work where the client respects the artistic side of the illustrator very much and gives you carte blanche, and others where you risk cold compositions determined by dozens of rules to follow. There is conceptual work where you are a little freer to create, and others that is very didactic and where you are a little trapped. Needless to say that artistic or conceptual work is my favourites, and the one that is obviously better with a stronger visual and artistic impact.
The bio on your website mentions your daughter, wife and your cats as a source of inspiration. Does your personal life play a big role in your work?
Absolutely. I am surrounded by women, and each one has a fundamental role in my life ... and also in my work.
What personal or professional aspirations do you have for your work in the future?
As I said before, I am happy to be able to do a job that I love, and this in itself is already an aspiration achieved. 2019 was a positive and important year for me, not only because I celebrated ten years of being a freelance illustrator, but also because I saw my name and some of my works in connection with ever larger brands and very stimulating and important projects, and with new possibilities and openings on the anolog collage front. So I hope that 2020 that has just begun will bring other stimulating work and projects like those of the last few years. Maybe this interview will be a bit of a lucky charm! Let's hope...
Thanks Petra ... and thanks PCC.
Nazario Graziano: ︎ ︎ ︎
interview: Petra Zehner
translation: Francesca Mazzucato