In Conversation: Valentina Vinci

In Conversation: Valentina Vinci

Valentina Vinci's illustrative approach is a vibrant blend of mixed media and method, using various digital elements alongside handmade drawing and typography to create imaginary scenarios where bold colors and contrasts take centre stage. Here the Italian based illustrator answers a few of our questions.

Could you define the style/approach of your work?

My style is definitely collage, although I mix it with handmade and print marks plus a bit of typography sometimes. I like to create surreal but quite probable situations, where colours play a big role defining the mood of each story.

Which piece of work or project have you learned the most from?

One of the most useful projects in terms of learning was a cover I did for L'Espresso magazine with my favorite art director Stefano Cipolla, about a big money laundering scandal involving men very close to Trump and Putin (September 2020). I have to say that in Italy it's quite hard to find an art director that helps you improve your image, taking it to the next level, where you may struggle to get to yourself. Stefano's aim is to create really good illustration like the type we see in The New York Times, so we worked hard on textures, composition, body figures and colours to reach a really considered outcome. Getting a chance to work with an art director like Stefano is a true blessing for an illustrator because he always pushes for the best with such a gentleness and precision that's hard to find anywhere else.


Which illustrator alive or dead do you most admire and why?

Nate Kitch (He is alive!). I love his textures, his characters and colour palettes; in his work you can see the simplicity and at the same time the complexity of composition and layers, which look so perfect to me. Seeing his illustrations is a pleasure to my eyes and such an inspiration. His style is so instantly recognisable.

What is the most challenging aspect for you of being a ‘working' illustrator?

I reckon the most frustrating thing is having to be a graphic designer in order to afford being an illustrator. Bills have to be paid and our profession involves waiting for invoices to be settled by clients, so it's difficult not having a full/part time contract and not having a constant workflow coming in. I'm working really hard to be able to focus only on editorial illustration in the near future as it's the thing I love the most. Everything else might be part of the process and I love to be challenged and to develop a broad skill set, but that's my very final aim to live a good life; essentially feeling like not working while I'm actually working. It takes a long time to build a roster of clients that give you commissions on a regular basis, and if you find a collaboration of this kind, there's no guarantee that it will last forever, so it's very important to always be on the move and send emails to art directors.


Who would be your ideal client to work for and why?

My dream is to illustrate for The New Yorker, and everyday I work with this in mind. I admire the work of all the artists I see in that magazine, where there seems to be a stunning poetic behind every image, and the highest level of beauty in terms of image making/illustration. First, the content is a pleasure to look at and I'd love to work with them because it means I would be seen beside illustrators that inspire me the most. Second, it means that I would have reached a certain level of maturity within my art practice.

I recently got a crazy coooool commission through my agency Mummy Brown for Rolling Stone magazine (the American one!!) that just appeared this February and which I'm so proud of. I'm still pinching myself lol! It feels very weird as it's the most important goal I've achieved so far (after L'Espresso) and it was a total surprise. I never thought I was ready for these types of clients, especially a big prestigious American one like Rolling Stone that related to music and not directly to visual art. I really thank the good work of my teachers at university, especially in teaching us how to handle these aspects of professional practice.

So in general I'd love to work with The Guardian, The Economist, these kinds of publications that discuss news, politics and social issues. Magazine work involves quick commissions and it feels right to my approach as I love to see fast results, as commissions usually take no more than a few days.

What do you think defines ‘good illustration’?

I think with a good illustration everything feels like it's in the right place, not because something has just been dropped there but because you decided it had to be placed that way. A final piece involves a sort of problem solving where you've balanced distances, weights, contrasts and colours to build the focus on whatever is most important, like a hierarchy of elements. Then, there has to be your mark making, elements that appear in your work to make it distinguishable, not only for the purpose of being recognized by others, but also because it is your 'timbre' - as unique to you as your voice. Lastly there has to be a narrative, some sort of poetic feeling, not just a cold disposition of things.


If you weren’t an illustrator what would you be?

If I wasn't an illustrator I would be a singer making my music, but I'm hopefully on track to do both! Actually the two disciplines do cross a lot as music needs visuals, so being a musician that can also create my own visual imagery would be so much fun.

What actor/actress would play you in a film about your life and what would the name of that film be?

I'd definitely be Amélie from Amélie (Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain). I live inside my head, dreaming of things that have never happened in real life. I guess it's my way of making them happen for real at some point.


What was the last film that made you cry (in sadness or in laughter)?

One of the last ones that literally cracked my heart was Love by Gaspar Noe. Anyone that's seen it knows what I mean. I'd love to illustrate it, it might be easier than talking about it!

Valentina illustrated the article 'Alone Together: Antonioni's Modernity Trilogy' in Beneficial Shock! Issue 7.

See more of Valentina's work at: