Daniela Tordi – Illustrator Interview

As you know, I like to share a little of why I am interviewing today’s guest on my blog. In Daniela’s case, besides loving her artwork, Daniela is Italian and also has a home in the Luberon, one of my favorite areas of France (think Medieval hilltop villages, deep gorges, vibrant small-town markets, sun-gilded drystone walls, ochre-washed homes, terraced fields, shady squares with gurgling fountains, vineyards & cherry orchards…. Okay, you get the picture, I was missing France and Italy, and I think in this interview you will sense the cultures I love so much, and how refreshing different ways of perceiving are!

 

[JM] Illustrator or author/illustrator?  If the latter, do you begin with words or pictures?

[DT] I’m am an author/illustrator so I usually write a story and then concentrate on drawing… 

[JM] Where are you from/have you lived and how has that influenced your work? 

[DT] I’m from a small medieval town in central Italy called Orvieto (my family has moved to Rome when I was 5) and I guess that being born in a small and ancient town has influenced my general attitudes. I’ve been very impressed by the  tranquillity of certain afternoons, spent in the silence of my grandmother’s house – no noises from outside, apart the swallows flying low … My imagination has certainly improved far from the urban crowd. I also remember my efforts to entertain myself during the summer holidays (that used to last 3 months at that time!) spent in the countryside in the ’60s. Much of my creativity comes from the need of avoiding boredom. And being in touch with nature has probably developed my naif side… 

[JM] I remember riding through Orvieto on my motorbike on my way south to Rome. Please tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as an artist.

[DT] I’m a self-taught illustrator and I started drawing in my 30’s… it happended abruptly and misteriously, I just couldnt stop, like if a secret wave was submerging me. It was very natural and very unatural alltogether, I was surprised, but felt good. I had no plans about it… but somehow I was determined to go on and do something with it. It was simply a primary need coming to light.

[JM] What is your preferred medium to work in?

[DT] I’ve been working mainly in digital up to this point, but also my relationship with Photoshop is very naive – now… I’m trying both to improve this technique (or, at least, to be more accurate) and experimenting with mixed media. 

[JM] Can you share a piece or two for us, maybe from a work in progress, and the process of creating them?

[DT] Lately, I’m working on a very ambitious project, the adaptation of a movie into a children’s book. I’ve done hundreds of drafts… then I’ve adopted an unexpected (for me)  pattern: silouette! The story I’m dealing with takes place int the ’50s, so I needed to reproduce a retrò atmosphere. And silouettes (so clean, so “light”, so old…) are very helpful for achieving this goal. I draw very quickly and roughly, then I fill in the spaces and make a big cleaning work. The big surprise is that although the forms you obtain are “blind”, they can reach a high level of expressiveness. And elegance… pure forms can be very refined, compact and incisive.

[JM] I love this style, Daniela. Which book do you remember buying with your own money as a kid?

[DT] I don’t remember about buying my first book as a kid… but my first memory of an illustrated book is a selection of stories by Lev Tolstoy (especially the story of an old, hungry lion living in the Moscow zoo adopting a baby cat who entered entered the cage, who was supposed to be devoured in half a second).

[JM] What does your workspace look like?

[DT] I do work here and there, I often sew Dandolls sitting at the kitchen table… anyway, here are some pics for my studio.

[JM] What artwork do you have hanging in your new home?

[DT] As for art on my walls… I like empty frames and woods  (spontaneous land art!)…and  funny things, which inspire irony and play. 

[JM] What’s a dandoll?

[DT] Dandolls are very funny fabric girls who use my hands to come to life… they’re quite different from each other, but like being together (and in fact I haven’t still opened a virtual shop for the sale… I find very difficult to let them go!) 

[JM] What differences have you noticed between picture books in Italy and the USA?

[DT] In USA the market is much wider than in Italy. Children’s books cover a large field of interests, They’re usually more concentrated on stories to be told and informations to be given, while in Italy they tend to be more…artistic and/or poetic. We lack almost completely biographies for example… and don’t always take into the right consideration the need for good stories. The Anglo-Saxon culture is usually more informative, I think… which I appreciate a lot. 

Four Fun Ones to Finish?

[JM] What’s your favorite park (state/urban..) in the world?

[DT] I like the open countryside better than parks… nature constrained into boundaries makes me suffer – that’s why I’m moving from town to country, I definitely need open spaces to be happy!

[JM] Cats or dogs?

[DT] Cats AND dogs! I’ve been living with cats for 25 years… now I’ve a dog. I see many differences of course, but I feel perfectly comfortable with both. My present companion is a male 3 years old cakled Struffo, he comes from a rescue and is very polite and well balanced (don’t tell him, but I’m, I’m in love with him). 

[JM] What a sweetheart! Fact that most people don’t know about you?

[DT] I’ve no special secrets – but I’m provably a bit wild when they don’t see me… I like being free and far from sight.

[JM] Go to snack/drink to sustain your creative juices?

[DT] I eat a lot while working unluckily… I get nervous until things don’t “fix” and I stand up every ten minutes searching for food!

Daniela, it was so lovely to chat to you, and I wish you all success with your creative work.

 

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