This past weekend, we shared with you some sweet and surreal illustrations by Alessandro Gottardo or Shout. We were able to get in touch with this young, award-winning illustrator to ask him more about his work. How did his alias Shout come about? What tips could he give aspiring illustrators?
But first, just how did he start down this creative path? “I started drawing when I was a child,” he tells us. “I understood that I could become a pro by working on my natural drawing skills. When in school I studied Lorenzo Mattotti's work. He convinced me that you can tell a full story, a novel, through one image. I decide that I wanted to try doing something like that.
“I started in 2001, a year after my graduation from the Istituto Europeo del Design in Milan. I worked eight months on my portfolio and then I started looking for assignments in Italian magazines. I contacted ADs, went to a few meetings and little by little I started doing some illustrations. The problem was job continuity, in Italy illustrations aren't used that often, so you always have to look for more work. It was very hard for me at the time.
“Therefore I looked for a rep agency abroad, I found one in Canada. I started working with them in September 2002. I stayed with them till 2005, then I decided to ‘walk alone.' My work is represented by the UK agency Dutch Uncle for the European market only.”
I asked Shout to tell us about the first picture in our previous post, titled Free Yourself. “It was an illustration for an Italian magazine,” he says. “It talked about fear and how to defeat it. In this article, the writer talked about a little girl who was afraid of water, a sort of phobia; the psychologist suggested her to defeat her fear by jumping from a high trampoline. The image on your post is the first in a series of three. In the second image, you see her reaching for the water which reflects her and in the third one, you see the girl embracing her own reflection in the water.”
Why did you choose the alias Shout?
From 2002 to 2005, I was represented by a Canadian illustration agency. They were good agents but they didn't allow me to try a different way of expression. I had signed an exclusive contract with them so I didn't have a choice. I think they were scared of losing some clients by showing different stuff from me, even though I didn't work that often with them. During my years under this agency, I never stopped working by myself, looking for my own voice. I worked very hard, trying over and over again to find my own way of expression.
Something clicked in October 2005. During that month, I found a way…my way. An assignment in particular made me change my visual language: I tried to think more about the concept and put less attention on the “make up.” I was really happy with the result but the client rejected my sketches; at that point I decided to walk alone. One of my first illustrations of my brand new deal was Shout, a man shouting from a hole in the ground. I chose that name to hide myself from the agency, I started looking for clients on my own, in 6 months I collected more than 2000 art directors' emails. Shout was born and I left the agency.
How would you describe your style?
Idea and message come first, style comes later. I think “style” may get old, while a good idea is a good idea always, today and in ten years from now. That's what is important for me, that's what I always try to pay attention to in my images. I want the audience to be interested in something in my picture, I always try to talk through my images.
What are some of the most rewarding parts of your work?
Well, for sure when your client is very happy of your work. Every time the client gives me total trust, when I can push for my favorite idea and I can work freely. The result is always a good one when I have this kind of freedom. These are the images I've won most awards with.
What are some of the most challenging?
Politic assignments from New York Times Op Ed are always very demanding, they give less than 24 hours for reading several pages on complicated international issues, sketches and final artwork. However, every assignment is different and demanding.
Any advice you'd like to give to aspiring illustrators?
First rule, believe in yourself, don't be afraid of anything, be positive always, also when you don't get any feedback.
Think about the whole world as your hunting-ground. The Internet allows you to do that, you can reach clients all around the world. Don't think too much about the clients close to your door, be open-minded. Take a look at all illustration social networks, look at thousands of different illustrators, learn the visual language as a spoken language. Find the difference between one illustration and another. Study the best pro in the world, look for him/her in annuals, online, wherever you have the chance.
Don't copy anyone, be inspired by everyone.
Prepare a portfolio always thinking about the magazine you are doing this for, read whatever kind of article you want (sports, political, business) and try to translate it with an image. When you send a low-res image to a potential client, be aware to match it with the contents of the magazine.
Always remember that visual language is universal, everyone can understand you.
Finally, any quotes you love or live by?
“Draw with your head not with your hand.” – Guido Scarabottolo
Thanks so much for the interview, Shout, and for inspiring us with your wonderful illustrations and personal story.