Shout, the illustrator, reveals the creative process that led to the image of the FOG Festival
FOG Triennale Milano Performing Arts, now in its fourth edition, is the performing arts festival of Triennale Milano Teatro. Since 2018 it has been bringing the public the most fascinating, hybrid and unconventional expressions of contemporary theatre, music and dance at the national and international level, with a particular focus on multidisciplinary approaches.
FOG is a witty, romantic tribute to the popular imagination of Milan, but above all a message of discovery, risk and surprise that recalls a landscape in which all the senses are amplified, vision becomes poetic, uncertain and imaginative, while borders change, and a seemingly timeless dimension makes way for listening and reflection. Fog offers a different way of looking and listening, creating unusual and surprising images. In other words, it is a festival that listens to the city and the world.
To convey the imaginary world of the festival, Umberto Angelini, the artistic director of Triennale Milano Teatro and the chief curator for theatre, dance, performance and music of Triennale Milano, asked the illustrator Alessandro Gottardo (aka Shout) to create an artwork with an evocative, surreal and irreverent tone that reflects the multifaceted, vibrant world of FOG.
We asked Alessandro Gottardo to tell us how he took up this challenge.
FOG is a performing arts festival that highlights the best of the best on the contemporary scene. We know you love theatre, but have you ever worked on an art project that conveys an image of this type?
I’ve made a number of festival posters, such as the one for the Pesaro Film festival and one for the Savannah Music Festival, as well as some for the seasons of the San Francisco Symphony, but never for a theatre festival like this, so it’s really the first time.
The imagery that emerges from FOG is highly evocative and your artwork has reinterpreted it in a playful manner. How did you approach the challenge you were given?
I was helped by archive photos from previous shows. Of all the stunning shots I saw, I was particularly struck by those of Philippe Quesne’s L’Effet de Serge, which is wonderfully evocative. Without having seen the show, in which a man appears in an astronaut suit walking through a forest in the fog, I nevertheless tried to imagine it. I also took inspiration from pictures of other shows, such as Kinkaleri’s OTTO, where a man appears on the ground holding some red balloons that float in mid-air, as well as from Philippe Quesne’s La Mélancolie des Dragons. In a rather Stanislavskian manner, I kept the visual heritage of the previous editions of FOG well in mind so that I could to get into the part. I love Pina Bausch’s dance theatre and Bob Wilson’s imaginative and surreal approach, to give two examples, so I wanted my image to convey the same magic.
Where do the visions and effects you put down on paper for this artwork come from? What caught your eye?
To put it simply, I can say that every image I create comes from the life I lead, from the books I read, from the travels I go on (or rather, went on), from the music I listen to, and so on. Contrary to what one might think, cinema is not one of my sources of inspiration, but really only a distraction. I prefer to let my images be inspired by a text or a piece of instrumental music, rather than by other images.
But in this case, theatre is an exception, unlike cinema. The energy of the actors always manages to give me a burst of creativity and when I come away from a show that I’ve enjoyed, I sometimes feel I want to go home and start drawing.
But there are some visual directors, like Fellini and Greenaway, who strike me more than others, though possibly in a less conscious manner than other sources of inspiration.
Do you think illustration can be a means of storytelling the way the performing arts can be?
I certainly do. An illustration attempts to tell a story in a single image. The difference between an illustration and a comic is the same as between a short story and a novel. Short stories try to say a lot in just a few pages, and illustrations try to do the same thing: to say a lot in a single image. I’ve no doubt that, over time, this way of communicating will become increasingly popular and loved.
Can you describe the artistic process that leads you to create an illustration?
I first start with photographs that convey the sense of the brief, then I make a folder with what I find online, starting from the key concepts – though I didn’t need to in the case of this project since I was given plenty of pictures. I then put on my active noise-cancelling headphones to listen to one of my jazz compilations and start sketching freely, trying to come up with as many ideas as possible. Once the client has approved the sketch, I turn it into the final version using colour. In most cases, as soon as I start colouring it, I already have an idea of what it’ll look like when it’s finished.
Alessandro Gottardo (aka Shout) was born in Pordenone in 1977. After graduating from the Liceo Artistico, the art school in Venice, he completed his studies at the Illustration Department of the European Institute of Design in Milan. He works with many Italian and international clients including The New Yorker, TIME magazine, Newsweek, The Saturday Evening Post, Le Monde, New York Times, Die Zeit, El Pais, L’Espresso, Einaudi, Coca Cola, American Express, Volkswagen, Lloyds of London, Penguin Random House, Little Brown, and Simon & Schuster.
His work has received numerous awards, including four gold medals and three silver medals from the Society of Illustrators in New York, the gold medal from the Society of Publication Designers, the D&AD Graphite Pencil, and the Cannes Bronze Lion.
He has put on several solo exhibitions in Los Angeles, Montreal, Belgrade, London and in various Italian cities, including a retrospective at Palazzo Chiericati in Vicenza in 2014.
He was included in TASCHEN’s final anthology 100 Illustrators, and in Laurence King Publishing’s anthology Fifty Years of Illustrations.
Two monographs have been published with selections from his many years of work: Mono Shout (279 Editions, Milan, 2010) and On Shout (279 Editions, Milan, 2014).
In 2016 he was the president of the Society of Illustrators Annual, a prestigious competition for illustration professionals held in New York.