Emiliano Ponzi employs negative space in haunting, lyrical ways to spin telling conceptual narratives. His minimalistic landscapes are populated by metaphors that are Magritte-esque in their playful simplicity, while his anonymous figures, understated color palates, and unusual vantage points artfully balance emotion and concept. Emiliano's conceptually driven compositions combine the universalities of idea and emotion with a strikingly clean visual language.
Emiliano is an international artist whose roots are firmly planted in Milan. If his stylish glasses aren't a clue to his Italian heritage, then just take a look at his work. His textured backgrounds and crisply rendered figures are influenced by Beppe Giacobbe, his professor and mentor at the Istituto Europeo di Design in Milan. Emiliano also draws inspiration from fellow Italian Lorenzo Mattoti, whose work he describes evocatively as "mak[ing] room inside you like a high speed train." Emiliano's strong connection to Italy shapes and informs his perspective as an international artist.
Emiliano Ponzi's clients include The New York Times, Le Monde, Time, The Economist, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Random House, Penguin Books, and Saatchi & Saatchi New York. He has received numerous honors, including the coveted Young Guns Award from the New York Art Directors Club, and medals of honor from Society of Illustrators New York, Society of Illustrators Los Angeles, and 3x3 Magazine's Pro show. Emiliano has also received awards of excellence from Print, How, Communication Arts, and American Illustration. His animation for Amnesty International, "Voices for Freedom" has won multiple awards, including the gold medal in Society of Illustrators New York's first annual moving images competition and top ten Best in Show in the Print Magazine motion competition. He has been featured and interviewed by Il Post, La Repubblica, Klat Magazine, 10answers, Bonsai TV, Illustration Mundo, Corriere Della Sera, Contemporary Standard, Boite, and Arskey.
Emiliano regularly works with international clients, and this requires his work to be accessible across a variety of contexts. Emiliano treads a line between unique expression and universality with each assignment. In his introduction to Emiliano's monograph, acclaimed New York Times art director Nicholas Blechman describes Emiliano's work as "universal without being generic" - high praise for an artist who strives to do just that. Emiliano tailors his work to an international audience and always strives to transcend cultural boundaries.
Sometimes when Emiliano has a creative block, he seeks inspiration by looking out the window of his studio. He likes to "look at everything that [he] can see, and imagine what [he] cannot." This, in essence, is his role as an illustrator. Emiliano takes the everyday and infuses it with a sense of what is un-seen, a sense of what is hidden beneath the surface.
In an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Emiliano repeats a favorite quote by Marcel Proust, saying, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." As a conceptual illustrator, Emiliano finds new eyes each time he begins an assignment. He will often take a familiar element, like an apple, and re-contextualize it, making the known unknown and the familiar unfamiliar. These conceptual challenges are why Emiliano says illustration is "a job that needs to be reinvented everyday."
Emiliano's first monograph was released in late 2011. The book serves as a chronicle of his decade-long career as an illustrator. He titled it 10x10, after his number of years in the industry, and in reference to the 10x10m room where he began his career. The book contains over 60 images and original emails from art directors, clients, and friends. The images and accompanying text illustrate the growth of Emiliano's career and his burgeoning relationships with notable clients. The book is currently on sale in bookstores and museums all around the world, including PS1 in New York and the Tate Modern in London.
For such a young illustrator, Emiliano has made remarkable achievements in a short amount of time. He has twice annually contributed artwork to Doctors Without Borders, and was twice honored to moderate the auction in his hometown of Ferrara, Italy. He recently designed the commemorative September 11 cover of Italy's La Repubblica newspaper. He has also lectured and been the subject of a solo exhibition at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). His work garners praise from competitions and clients alike. Patty Alvarez, art director at Newsweek, has said about Emiliano, "Every once in a while you come across an artist who makes you want to jump up and down with excitement. Someone overflowing with ideas that are smart, sophisticated and conceptually on point. An artist who's able to convey the right amount of sensitivity and humor with the simplest stroke. Except for drinking American coffee, there is nothing this superstar can't do."
If Emiliano could describe his work in three words, he would choose: minimal, communicative, and intense. To read more about Emiliano and his work, visit his site www.emilianoponzi.com.
Click here for downloadable items - desktop wallpapers and a high-res printable letter sized promo.
Q&A with Emiliano Ponzi
What's the first thing you do when you are stuck on a project? What are your best sources of inspiration? The word "inspiration" makes me think of a painter with his canvas painting a beautiful sunset from a French river shore. In reality, inspiration can't be a daily workmate. Usually, and especially on tough projects, I need to come up with a smart solution in a couple of hours. So, I face the job as a math equation, and from that comes the creative spark. This sounds very pragmatic, but what I mean is, sometimes inspiration and intuition are feelings that can be produced by logical thought.
What's the best and worst part of being an illustrator? Well... besides the more common positive aspects of doing a creative job (being in touch with great pros, seeing our images on magazine covers and billboards), I love that every job is different and I receive topics as diverse as philosophical dissertations on Nietzschean theories, treatises on the political roots of the American constitution, articles on New Yorkers' Christmas habits, and pieces on how many hours to sleep per night to keep yourself young. This is important because you have to be interested and informed about many subjects.
What is your ideal studio like? Total white.
What are some sites you have bookmarked in your browser? I tend not to bookmark websites for work, I try to have random inspirations.
Do you listen to music while you work? What's the best and worst kind of music for getting work done? When I have to come up with ideas, small noises can be disturbing because this is the most sensitive part of my work. When it's time to go with the final/color version, I often listen to music or just keep the TV on the news channel... sometimes being a bit distracted with a flux of information helps you find different solutions. I did a great illustration once while listening a friend of mine complaining about his boss. But, this is not so common - usually not paying attention means a big mess.
If you weren't an illustrator, what would you be? Hmmm....difficult to say, too many sliding doors to pass through... on one hand I probably would have sold stuff, like real estate, on the other hand I would have been a therapist.
What's one tip you want to share with other creative professionals? An action I find very useful is taking the most meaningful jobs done in the last 6 months to a year and looking at them all at once to understand what solutions have been applied, how style has improved and how often the same concepts are recycled.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Invincibility, the ability to recover after a big dinner with my family, the ability to teletransport myself to different places within the blink of an eye... tough choice
How influential was art school in your formation as an artist? Is it something you recommend to aspiring illustrators? Art school was just a starting point. I discovered what illustration was and the available options of work, but the path I followed was completely redesigned once I faced the market.
Describe your creative process. How much work is done by hand and how much is done on the computer? 5% by hand and 95% by computer. I guess that makes it sound like I have a supertech AI that does all the work instead of me. :) I brainstorm keywords and ideas with very messy sketches on paper, just to lock on a concept, and then I do a better and clearer version of the sketch directly on the screen before I color it.
You can only take three things to a deserted island. What do you take? 3 bottles of water. I suppose. :)
What is a typical work day like for you? How do you portion off your time? That's very difficult. It can be quite easy to overwork yourself when you're a creative working in a field you enjoy. In part because having sudden ideas can require more time than scheduled, and in part because it's easy to linger on the details. My best way to portion time is to schedule appointments or dinner meetings so I know I won't have all day to work.
What's your favorite place to go on holiday? The best place is the one where people speak a different language and have different habits. This helps me have the perception of being elsewhere, not just physically but mentally. It helps a lot to unplug from my daily life and from my habits. Changing the food, the weather and the numbers on my clock really mean I can recharge.
You identify as a conceptual artist. How do you create the concepts behind your work? Did it always come easily to you? I once read a quote by David Lynch - he said that to catch bigger fish, you need to go deeper. Behind an easy concept is often a hidden cliche. Creativity is the ability to create new things from a combination of memories, so the first ideas to appear are often those that we are very familiar with because we have seen them on TV, the web, daily life... To arrive at another level, we need to recognize cliches and set them aside. Sometimes it's quite easy and sometimes it isn't. I think it depends on how much we like the topic and how well we know that subject.
How has your work changed since you've become an illustrator? How do you see your work progressing in the future? During the years, I've left behind the "horror vacui" attitude, the fear of empty spaces inside images. Very often we feel the urge to fill the page, all of it, especially at the beginning, because we find no sense in negative spaces. Working, I learned that those spaces have a big meaning, because emptiness gives sense to the other elements of the composition. The same for details, many of them look scattered at first sight unless they are read as one. This doesn't mean you should create simple illustrations, but simplified illustrations. It means you add meaning and subtract the unnecessary and the obvious.