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Interviews with Artists: Martina Billi

01 Feb 2016

Art pieces by Martina Billi instantly draw people's attention: big wooden panels with illustrations of wolves, bears, crocodiles or monkeys drawn only with ballpen or ink. We met Martina at Ilustrisima 2015 and we couldn't (or wouldn't!) pass on the opportunity to talk with her.

Tell us a bit about yourself: How did the road began for you to get into art and illustration?

My education as an artist began on the Art Institute in Florence, my home town. It is a beautiful building that actually used to be the stables of the Pitti Palazzo. I later graduated on the Fine Arts Academy at Florence. There, I had the chance to study painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, and engraving, among other things, in a very creative and estimulating environment.

Martina Billi

A key part of your work is the material you work on: wood. How did you get to focus on wood? What do you find special about it?

Wood is a material I've worked with during years. Studying Fine Arts, we used to experiment with a lot of materials and media, and I always felt more comfortable painting on wood than on a canvas. It gave me a way stronger foundation that wouldn't deform on pressure and was more resistant to brushing.

When I arrived at Madrid, I began collecting and recycling all the wood I could found in order to experiment with it, now with ballpens and ink. I liked the warmth of the final result, and the challenge of working over a tough surface with a lot of "personality". Wood ended being part of the composition and the art piece.

Where do you find inspiration for your work, and how do you melt your sources of inspiration to create a unique style like yours?

A big inspiration for me is photography, specially black and white pictures. I like to collect old photos that I find at antique shops or flea markets. I look for unusual characters and instantly start dreaming about stories or events I didn't take part on. This images are a true, unique treasure for me, always at hand if I want to look at them. I feed this collection from old magazine scraps, too. Making collages is very inspiring and fun!

Another side of my work is based on the observation of the animal world and the animal's anatomy. The thorough execution on medium and big formats are also a good foundation to develop other compositions that blend humand and animal traits.

Martina Billi

What qualities does a client and project need to have for you to feel comfortable and motivated?

I like challenges and also getting my clients to be happily suprised and satisfied with the final result. Some people have a clear idea of what they want and guide you step by step through each line you draw, which is sometimes curious, educational and a real zen exercise for the artist.

In other ocassions, like the last comission I made, people who trust you give you complete freedom without interfering in the process. When talking about projects, I like them to be collaborative and fit my own sensibility and ethics.

And last, but not least: any advice for aspiring artists and illustrators just starting up their careers?

If art is really what motivates you: full-time dedication to it, no tricks!

Thank you Martina!

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