ARTFACE Artist of the month, a view from the studio.

MARCO VENTURA by Allan Manham, The Artworks September 2002.

The son of an artist/designer, Marco Ventura grew up in Milan, observing his father Piero Ventura at work. From the tender age of 14 he started assisting in the colouring of Piero’s pen and ink book illustrations, very much in the age-old tradition of apprentice studying under a master. It was at age of 19 that he finally decided to abandon his initial ambition of becoming a professional footballer (he was by then a promising goal-keeper) and instead to seriously pursue the goal of being an illustrator. His formal art education began at the State Fine Arts Academy of Brera in Milan, followed subsequently by RISD in Rhode Island and School of Visual Arts in NYC. After returning to Italy, he worked for three and half years in a packaging design studio. ” It was before the advent of computers, and I was doing a lot of watercolour and gouache layouts for presentation, with most of the type hand-rendered. As I was even then very interested in technique, there were occasional opportunities for me to do some of the actual illustrations.” It was during this period that he also collaborated with Piero, on some of his book projects. The illustration Anna dei Porci which he did for his father’s book was a turning point for him, as it was awarded the Silver Medal at the Society of Illustrators Show in New York in 1988. And it was this that finally propelled him into the decision to pursue a freelance illustration career.

Working very much in the tradition of the Old Masters, he usually starts with very small rough sketches which are concerned at that stage mostly with composition and idea. It is only then that he produces a more refined pencil sketch which is usually transferred on to a gessoed paper or panel surface with a very hard lead pencil and a silver point. This under-drawing is very accurate and shaded. The Chiaroscuro makes the building up with colours far easier when he begins putting down oil colours, with fine small brushes. It is after all the colours are laid down that he starts refining and adding more contrast with glazes of transparent colour. Occasionally a cracked effect is finally rendered to give the finished painting an effect of antiquity.

A poster created for The Body Shop in 1991 gave Marco the opportunity to create a piece of art that not only fulfilled the initial idea of the brief, but in a way that often happens when an illustrator is encouraged to contribute just more than a rendering of an idea, and the finished piece can really be transformed. In a strong but simple graphic solution, it was Marco’s idea to paint the double upside down poster which when inverted creates a new poster that perfectly matches the other.

Andrew Kner, Art Director of Print Magazine briefed Marco to illustrate Print’s European Regional Design Annual cover for 1997. A prestigious commission that presented an American audience with a very European take in both mood and execution.