Every now and then, I pester my creative colleagues with five questions about their work. Most of these folks are friends, a few are secret enemies, and one has been blackmailing me for years.
Alberto Dal Lago and I have never met, but the moment I saw the fabulous cover he painted for Lord of Runes, I had to reach out to him via social media. He responded with friendly cheer, and it didn’t take long for me to ask whether he’d answer some Creative Colleagues questions. I can’t tell you much more, but join us for this first exchange in what I’m sure will be a beautiful friendship.
1. What are some of the works of fiction—novels, comics, film, or any other narrative work—that most inspires your visual imagination?
I grew up in the 80s, so I fed my imagination with all those terrific movies that inspired me and that I still adore. I’ve been watching everything that could give me some spark of inspiration and somehow made me to (try to) reproduce what I saw. I must admit that I’ve been also a huge horror fan since I was a child: my parents didn’t want me to see those movies, but I always found a way to get away with it! Those movies influenced my unconscious: in fact I love to paint zombies, vampires, demons and so on.
I read all kind of books. I love many authors; it depends on what genre of books I’m engaged with.
In comics, I’m not a big fan of superheroes. I love Alan Moore and all his masterpieces; and I loved all of Mike Mignola’s work, the Preacher series, Hellblazer, and some great Italian and French authors.
2. Which of those movies from the 80s remain some of your favorites today? And what images from those movies stand out in memory?
There’s a bunch of movies from the 80s standing out in memory. Speaking of my favorite genre, I’d surely mention The Exorcist, especially when Regan’s possession slightly turns out. I was also frightened by David’s face in An American Werewolf in London: while he’s dreaming, he suddenly stares at the viewer with evil yellow eyes wide open—it made me jump out of my chair! And also Lucy’s face emerging from the shade of the crypt in Dracula (1979), the one that starred Frank Langella. Oh, and how to forget Alien’s chestburster scene?
3. Turning back to comics, how does telling a story in pictures differ when you have only one frame to illustrate, as in a book cover?
I think it’s a matter of conceptual approach: the storytelling in comics is built through consequentiality. If you want to tell something, you have to develop the action through different frames. You can do it with or without balloons.
An illustration is very demanding in this sense because you have to make the reader/viewer know what is going on in one single picture: composition, storytelling, basically what that picture is about. We have to remember that, during the wars, where there could be no photography, illustrators depicted scenes of what was happening. They had to be accurate and report the events with a single image.
In my case, the book cover resumes the content of the story. I have to pay attention to its readability, composition, and color palette. The book cover must be unique and stand out among the other books. All is made with the purpose of leading the reader’s eye to the book and make him understand what the novel is about.
Oh, and make him pick up that book, of course.
4. What advantages does a single image have over moving pictures? That is, what can a painting do that a movie can’t?
I guess it’s all about what our brain wants to record/register. To me, the single image offers an immediate scene to focus on. It crystallizes feelings, mood, and atmosphere. Every time you look at it you may notice new details or imagine a different interpretation, although the whole scene must be clear. I could spend hours staring at the paintings of the old masters.
5. Do you often work in different mediums (electronic, oils, acrylics)? If so, how do you decide which medium suits a particular project?
I started with acrylics and watercolors when I was attending art school. When I discovered digital art, I fell in love with it. I prefer to work digitally because it’s quicker and handier if you have to meet several deadlines in a month. Furthermore, it’s flexible if you want to achieve different results.
I’d like to have more time to come back to the traditional art; I try to keep a daily warm-up with pencils before I start to work.