Daniele Serra is an award-winning Italian illustrator whose work has been published in Europe, Australia, United States and Japan. He has worked for DC Comics, Image Comics, Cemetery Dance, Weird Tales magazine, PS Publishing and many other publications. A recent commission was the brilliant cover for my short story collection, Open Waters. Daniele kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions, so here wo go:
Hi Daniele, welcome! Please tell us a bit more about yourself.
I am a 36 year old guy, I live in Sardinia, an island in the Mediterranean, I’m married to a beautiful girl and I have three cats. I have a nice collection of b-movies and gothic books. I make a very quiet life and routine, and a full-time job as an illustrator.
A writer’s training is often highly informal. Did you study art and painting at school or college?
My course of study is very different from what I am doing now. I studied electronics, so little akin to illustration. I am mainly self-taught although I have attended two courses, one comic and one of oil painting, which I think are essential to me and have had a great importance. Before trying to work seriously in the field of illustration, I worked for seven years as a graphic designer, that has allowed me to develop professionalism that I consider basic to turn a passion into a job.
I know your work through your book cover illustrations. What other commissions have you done? How did you come to work with DC Comics for example?
As well as working as a comic artist and illustrator I also accept commissions for storyboard and characters design. Anything that can be illustrated interests me, especially comics, which I think are a beautiful art form. Being able to tell a story has always been something that interested me, but I’m no good as a writer so working with a writer I have the chance to tell a story through my drawings. I had the opportunity to work for DC Comics for a web comic out a few years ago, a very nice experience that allowed me to grow very professionally, I hope it will happen again in the future. Now I have several projects for comics with writer friends that I hope will see the light in 2014, a lot of covers, and I hope to do some project staff with whom I would like to try my hand.
To my untutored eye the style and lighting of some of your work reminds me of the Impressionists in general and Turner in particular. How did your own individual style arise and develop?
Thank you David, I love Turner and the Impressionists , as well as Schiele, Goya and many others. I do not know honestly if I have a personal style, I start from the belief that we are what we see, hear, read , and mine is just an elaboration of something that already exists . I never put a table thinking of working in a certain style because I do not have considerable studies behind it that will allow me to use different techniques. My approach to design is very instinctive, difficult to know exactly what will come out at the end of a job. Such as for your cover, everything that I had in mind was a rough sketch with the right balance of elements and spaces. Colours, lights and small details have come to the moment, while I was working.
However, I always studied my masters (like those mentioned) reference, that have allowed me to arrive at solutions rather than technical I would say that emotional. Hope it become increasingly evident in my work. But the road is very long!
I see commissions such as covers as interpretive work – creating an image that complements the mood and style of the book. Given a free hand what subjects and themes fascinate you?
I think the cover has an important and sensitive role in the book, in some ways it is the first emotion that gives the reader a book, so I feel very empowered in this way, and I understand how the authors take us that my work is done on best as possible, that’s why I try to better interpret any subject, but my favourites are definitely the most obscure, arcane and with a sort of romantic decadence. Much also depends on the publisher and the writer, how accurate is their idea and how much space I have to play. As I said before, I always try to work on emotion than that to stylistic perfection, I very much need to communicate my emotions, perhaps because I’m shy and I do not talk, the design is a way for me to communicate what I feel and what I dream.
The support, friendship and advice I’ve had from my writers group has been invaluable. Is there any equivalent for artists?
I think so, I have artist friends with whom I like to exchange opinions, being able to compare is something very important. It’s one of the downsides of living on an island, I’d have a chance to go see more conventions, exhibitions, but the travel costs are very high. Ultimately I am not part of a specific community of artists, but this is mainly due to the fact that I’m very introverted and I struggle a lot to speak my mind. In addition, most of the artists I know are not Italian and my English is not very good…
It’s born this summer thanks to the editor Paul Fry who proposed to me the idea of creating an art book with my work. To start it was supposed to be a collection of covers that I’ve done in recent years, but then we decided to do something completely new with a concept that could bind all the illustrations in this book. It was a job that lasted more than 3 months and finally got the art book was released just recently. I am very happy because it is a work that I care particularly, I have always worked in tandem with writers and this is my first job solely mine. The concept is right in the title: “Veins” to represent the life that flows and “Skulls” which identifies death. A comparison between life and death, with some flashes of eroticism very diffused.
Are there any other projects we can look forwards to? Will there be any exhibitions of your work?
I currently have several projects in progress including some comics that I hope to see the light soon. For the rest I always do a lot of covers and a dream: to illustrate Marlowe’s Faust. Also, I’m planning some exhibitions in Italy, we’ll see …
Thanks for your kindness David!
In 2012 Daniele won the British Fantasy Society ‘Best Artist’ award.
Daniele’s own web site: http://www.multigrade.it/