I don’t know if you’ve ever received a book by Richard Scarry as a gift, back when you were a child. I, for instance, got the “Storybook Dictionary”. Well, you were lucky if you ever got one of his books.
Scarry’s drawings are thick and colorful and I loved to watch them closely; you could always find one little guy hidden somewhere. Children are inquisitive, they go through stuff to process everything. Adults can be inquisitive too, but they tend to forget about it.
That’s why the premise: one night I attend a music festival, one of these festivals where they hang illustration pieces on the walls, and I see my very first Francesco Caporale aka FRA! delving into the details.
FRA!’s works are full for shapes and you really have to focus to recognize them all. Each tiny element contributes to create an harmonious, enveloping whole.
This is the interview I wanted to do with him.
1. Hi Francesco – or FRA!, should I say -, for starters I’d like you to introduce yourself a little bit.
I was born and raised in a small provincial reality into the deep south, Altomonte.
I attended a scientific lyceum, although it was crystal clear to everyone it wasn’t my thing; my artistic nature got the best of me, when I graduated with an “illustrated” dissertation about shadows, and discovered the pleasure of connecting images and words.
When the time had come to decide what to do with my life, I didn’t have much doubts and I landed in Milan to major in Graphic Design & Art Direction at NABA.
I chose evening classes, ’cause I had to support myself economically, and even though I was caught in the middle of a thousand jobs, trying to survive the cost of city life, I succeeded in graduating the 3rd of July 2013.
While I kept working in the restaurant industry, I began collaborating with some communication agencies in Milan, but my classical background had me searching for a language of my own, looking for a golden mean (Est modus in rebus) between form and content.
2. Usually, people who choose to turn their passion into a profession are driven by a great fury. What drives you? And how did it all start?
Since I was little I had this artistic nature, but I think that’s natural, and common to most of my colleagues… If you’re asking me what drives me to drawing, it’s just an unstoppable desire to “communicate”.
I want to express myself, to be understood, and to share, now that it’s so easy to do it on social networks and yet so difficult in real life.
It scares me how much people talk and how little they do actually communicate. I try to make contact with others, to go calling those who follow me inside their own houses, to be understood and to understand in return.
I’m constantly looking for a connection.
3. Looking at your “thick” drawings, I can’t help but asking myself: Is there someplace you prefer to start from, to fill up the sheet?
I start from the upper left of the sheet – just like writing.
4. Let’s talk a bit about your work methods, tell us about how you make your illustrations and the materials you use.
I use simple materials – or better, ESSENTIAL materials: a blank sheet and a pen. That’s it. No golden chamois hair brush (I don’t think that’s even a thing!)… I rather focus on the content, even though my works are often figments of my imagination. Sometimes there is no concept or purpose hidden. That’s my dose of ignorance!
So, I’m constantly searching for a golden mean between sign and significance and to do this I often use nibs with many different points, so that I can create various dimensions for various reading levels.
5. Nowaday many illustrators work with digital tools, while you draw with gloves and pens on big sheets or moleskine pages. What’s your relationship with the digital technique? Do you ever use it?
Actually, for speeding up, and for optimizing, I have to use it frequently. It’s a fundamental key to my professional growth.
Both working with digital tools only and rejecting them completely it’s undoubtedly limiting. If you really want your art to be well-rounded, you have to operate with all tools available.
6. Looking at your Facebook page I was struck by Pasticca N.3 (Tablet N.3) and its information sheet. Can you tell us about this series?
The piece is part of a project that was born this summer, Pasticche di Saggezza (Wisdom Tablets).
The idea is to reinvent the popular “pills of wisdom” (idiomatic form for “pearls of wisdom”, in italian) and readapt them to fit modern subjects and circumstances.
I just had to turn the ideas swirling in my head into images and link them to effective words that would give the right message. For this last part I got help from a friend, Alice Piscitelli. Now we’re both the brain and the brawn.
For us, tablets are where the lucid and dispassionate reasoning of our grandfathers meets with the 21st century metropolis: with sushi, with ruthless criticism and – that’s the case of Tablet N.3 – with the selfie. We wanted to emphasize an act that seems self-celebratory and, too often, aims to make look interesting things that are not.
But our project is not about criticism, we don’t want to be or to appear superior.
We just observe and report reality. This is our purpose.
7. Among your drawings, I chose this one for my living room (Give a Hand). Each time I look at it, I find out a new hand!! I feel like asking you – looking at this one drawing and at the others as well (except for color) – if there’s a reason for the black and white predominance or you just like it (which is one of the most reasonable reasons).
The black and white is a direct reference to the written word.
I put a message into my illustrations, just like a writer puts one into his words. This is why I fill my works with faces on the verge of saying something: people wait for them to speak, but, as a whole, the illustration already did spoke.
8. As a tattoo lover, I can’t help but thinking that someone who is talented with the blank sheet must try his gift out with the skin too. Have you ever drawn a tattoo for anyone? And if you haven’t, would you like to?
Many asked me, but I didn’t want to, not yet. Being a tattoo artist is plan B, or C even – I wouldn’t know where to start… But if one day someone wanted a tattoo of one of my illustrations, I’d like to be the one that draws it.
We asked FRA! to redraw our logo with his style. I have to say we’re very excited for this gift.
Here it is!
Where to follow FRA!