Michele Patruno is an Italian illustrator and creative director currently living in Trani, Italy. He studied at the Instituto Europeo di Design in Milan, specializing in marketing and communication, then he followed a career in advertising, as a creative director.
In the past years, Michele worked in cities like Mexico, New York, Madrid, Barcelona, Torino and Bologna, but of all the places he lived and worked in, he loves Europe the most. He doesn’t care much for how the Americans work, saying he prefers the British style, because illustrators there get more freedom in experimenting with their various styles.
He recently started doing illustration again and is currently a freelancer, working with clients from Europe. His next dream job? Tattoo artist.
Travel enriches everyone; it helps you grow intellectually and professionally
You worked all over the world. How has that changed you, personally and professionally?
Travel enriches everyone. The traveler is a curious person by nature. Our curiosity leads us to do new experiments, this is called the pursuit of beauty. Traveling helps you grow intellectually and professionally.
I started drawing very young, five years after I drew my first comic. I read Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, Salgari. These readings have stimulated my travels, especially the reading of the book “Around the World in 80 Days” by Jules Verne. The colors, the lights, the new food, the people who speak another language contaminate your original and primitive way of thinking. Your thoughts are confused, your ideas are shuffled and your mind produces new impulses to your hand. Your designs, your colors are transformed by creating new harmonies, new beauty.
My experience in North America let me down, asked me only one style of illustration
During our previous Skype call, you mentioned feeling more comfortable with the way Europeans work, compared to the Americans. Why is that, what are the differences?
I have always traveled, I always mixed my soul with other places and other people. I am passionate, Latin, Mediterranean, Renaissance and romantic. I am Italian, I believe in my soul to preserve the artistic past of this land. Wherever I go, I always wear with pride this way of being.
Here in Italy, in Europe, we are eclectic and always try new experiences. This happens in the arts, music, photography, painting etc … We Italians are not schematic, methodical, we Italians always love change, experiment with new styles, new passions. I can not seem to produce only a subject, my illustrations can be worked in different techniques, different styles.
In America it’s the opposite, the North Americans follow a style, are single-issue. My experience in North America let me down, asked me only one style of illustration. I’m back after a few years in Europe, in my old Italy, where we have different foods, different dialects, different climates, all very close between them. These small differences change my way of being every day.
In America, baked chicken tastes like apple pie.
How about Italy – how would you describe the way people work there?
I currently work as a creative in advertising and illustrator. These are two very different work activities, what they have in common with each other is creativity and search for beauty. The biggest difference is that in advertising, creativity must compromise with the market, while in illustration you will have larger margins of creative freedom, because you have fewer compromises with the market.
The problem sometimes is that the two activities take up a lot of time and you work very much, neglecting the travel and life. Advertising in Italy is well paid and still has plenty of business, but the illustration is not paid well and is not very widespread. My illustrations are more popular in other countries than in Italy. We love the beauty in Italy, but here we work badly, because the bad policy favors the mass culture kill the artists and craftsmen. But I believe that mass culture is a worldwide problem.
I love tattoos and even today I think my next job will be a tattoo artist
Tell me a little bit about your first job. What were your expectations, dreams, back then?
I started working very young, I studied at art school and university of communication in Milan. I started my career working as a graphic designer, I’ve always wanted to do this job. I’m glad when I look back at my past experiences. I’m glad about my first difficult times, when I was earning little. I would say that today, however, things have not changed much… you gain a little more and are more respected professionally.
I once left the arts world to dedicate myself more to the world of advertising (very different, the two things). Now I’m back to my first passion, drawing. I love tattoos and even today I think my next job will be a tattoo artist. Do not ask me, I do not even know why.
You worked as an art director in many agencies over the years. What is basically the job of an art director, if you had to sum it up? What sort of experience do you need to have, and what responsibilities, in order to be a good art director?
A good art director must have three “spirits of fire”. The fire of curiosity. The focus of beauty. The focus of the seller.
When these three things combine, art can tackle the difficulties of the market. The market changes every day; the media, the technologies are the major variables that keep a young art director in advertising careful with them.
The greatest responsibility that an art director in advertising has is to convince and sell the product. A sold product helps the economy, the economy helps companies and the people.
The greatest responsibility that an art director in advertising has is to convince and sell the product
You have worked both as an art & creative director, as well as an illustrator/graphic designer. Which one are you more comfortable being? As a creative director, in my case, I work and I earn a lot more. As an illustrator, life is a little harder…
The nickname you use on social networks (Arte Da Parte) is quite catchy and memorable. How did you come up with it?
In Italy there is a proverb that says “learn the art and put it aside” (impara l’arte e mettila da parte – arte da parte). The synthesis of the phrase is my nickname. I learned the art and put it aside to make it a great treasure. Very nice idea and then in Italian it rhymes.
What is your work process? When you have a new job, how do you approach it, what are the steps you follow?
My approach to a new project is always different. There are no rules, there must be rules.
Everything is like a high speed train, lots of sounds and images that flit in your mind. So the thing to do is jump on that train. In this train there are so many ideas. When you begin to understand how to combine your art, your knowledge of your good taste with the rules of the market, you’re done.
The next sequence step is to be good at selling your idea, ready to defend it to the hilt. When I work at illustrations and I have no client who will buy my project, I’ll take that train and I do not stop anymore.
I went through various artistic periods, academic, futurist, expressionist and trans-avant-garde comics. Today I have fun without thinking
What are your favorite tools to create your art?
I love all the techniques, I love change forever. The techniques that I love the most are the classic pencil and paper in black ink. I’m not a good lover of the nuanced hyper-realistic style, I love the sharp colors, black and strong lines that mark the paper. I went through various artistic periods, academic, futurist, expressionist and trans-avant-garde comics. Today I have fun without thinking.
You did some tattoo artwork. How did you get to do that?
I have just started working on tattoos, I’m attending a school for tattoo artists. As soon as I finish school I will start working tattoo on human skin. Until now, only pork skin and a few friends.
I believe that the characters really exist and think and when I draw them they know what to do on the sheet, they are like actors in a movie
Your character designs are very expressive (especially the caricatures). How do you create a character, to make it believable, what is your process?
To this question I could not answer, I do not know how to do it. I believe that they really exist and think and when I draw them they know what to do on the sheet, they are like actors in a movie.
You are currently a freelancer and have your own studio. For people who would like to work with you, what work do you do now, what type of jobs are you open to?
I currently work as a freelancer, I occupy the position of creative advertising for a political campaign. I also have lots of illustrations to do … I have little time for myself.
What would you advise aspiring illustrators who want to become really good?
I hope that everything I mentioned could be of help, but in the end I say that to be successful you have to work, gain work experience. Working with pencils and reading good books, listening to good music and taking many trips… or a walk in the park or at the beach.