Q&A with illustrator Elisa Macellari

Based in Milan, Elisa Macellari is a Thai-Italian illustrator whose colourful and bold graphic style offers a fascinating new way to look at the life and work of international icon, Yayoi Kusama. We caught up with Elisa to find out more about her working space, where she finds her inspiration, and her research for Kusama.

 

What’s your favourite thing about being an illustrator?

I love to read good texts and imagine how to draw them, to find the visual synthesis to tell a story. I also like to write and draw my own stories. I am happy if someone enjoys my illustrations and feels empathy with my characters.

What piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to start creating their own art?

To be original and to create a world with your own cultural references. Not only illustration, but contemporary art, fashion, design, music, food. Everything can contribute to your aesthetic universe. Work hard, spend most of your time creating and make your art with passion.

Where is your favourite place to find inspiration and/or illustrate?

My favourite spot is my studio in Milan. It is quiet with two desks, a bookshelf full of graphic novels, a sofa, a big window and beautiful natural light. There are also my friends’ artworks hanging on the walls. It is comfortable; a nice place to work.

Who would you love to collaborate with most?

I would like to collaborate with my husband Luca Pozzi, who is also an artist. He is fond of theoretical physics and it would be challenging to work with him on a common project. Actually, we already have something in mind. We started to talk about it about three years ago and I think this is the right moment to make it real.

Do you have a consistent creative process you return to or do you change how you work each time you have a new idea/project?

Most of my works have the same creative process. I like clear, hand-drawn outlines and flat digital colours. Sometimes I like to use watercolours, inks or gouaches, but it depends on the project.

What does an average working day look like for you, from morning to evening?

I usually start to work at around 9 AM. I spend around an hour reading and writing emails before starting to draw. Sometimes I have a break for a cup of tea, reading a magazine or just to take a walk. I try to practice yoga twice a week… it really helps for backache.

What did you find most interesting about creating Kusama: A Graphic Biography?

Kusama’s world is eccentric, captivating and inclusive. I just took a small step inside it and her dense life mesmerized me. I read Yayoi’s autobiography and watched the documentary Infinity by Heather Lenz. Then the millions of articles and pictures found on the internet helped me a lot in creating the storyboard. Her experience is an example of a woman, strong and fragile at the same time, who is transforming herself into art (she is 91 years old). I tried to find my own language, using graphic signs as the polka dots or small circles to create a visual rhythm. I also loved choosing the colour palette, which tells a story full of contrasts.

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