Marco Mazzoni is an illustrator based in Milan. Working exclusively with coloured pencils, he builds dramatic pieces inspired by nature and Italian folklore, particularly Sardinian herbalists who were persecuted and branded as witches by the Catholic Church. These women were pagan healers, midwives, mother figures and counsellors to remote village communities whose practice was marginalised […]

Marco Mazzoni is an illustrator based in Milan. Working exclusively with coloured pencils, he builds dramatic pieces inspired by nature and Italian folklore, particularly Sardinian herbalists who were persecuted and branded as witches by the Catholic Church. These women were pagan healers, midwives, mother figures and counsellors to remote village communities whose practice was marginalised and outlawed by a new tide of Christianity.

The clash between man and nature, competing value systems and the old world versus the new are all key themes of Marco’s work. The eyes of the women he depicts emanate light and dark, and this hallucinatory contrast gives his work its immediate impact. It’s an absolute pleasure to feature Marco’s art in our final print issue before the summer break.

What attracted you to the art world?

Being alone in front of the silence and the white paper.

What was your experience of studying fine art in Milan? Was it beneficial to your practice or did you develop most when working on your own?

I don’t know. My years at the art academy in Brera were really strange. Teachers wanted me to paint but I’m not able to. I’ve never used liquid materials. They were important years, sure, but mostly because they helped me understand that if I didn’t accept a certain type of advice, then I was sure of what I wanted to do. Maybe it was a bad experience that I’ve brought the best out of.

You take inspiration from old Italian folk talks for the ideas behind your pieces. Do you take visual inspiration from anywhere? For example, do your birds and butterflies come from your own imagination or do you use source materials?

At the moment, imagination. I’ve done so many sketches of those animals that now I can create them without any kind of inspiration.

Your work seems to have a lot of layers. How do you build up a new drawing?

I start with black and white. The shape comes through hoops with pencils by hand until I find a shape that pleases me. When I have a form, I begin to insert elements to obtain a chiaroscuro, a black and white drawing. After that I go over it with some colours. I usually play with two complementary colours – green with red or pink with blue.

Did you try using other media before you settled on pencil and paper?

I tried with oil but found it impossible.

How have your technique and aesthetic changed over the years?

I see a certain obsession with filling that has increased over time. Maybe I’m slowly going crazy.

Who are your favourite contemporary artists?

Nicola Samorì, Marta Sesana, Andrew Hem, Nicola Verlato, Fulvio DiPiazza, Martin Wittfooth and Tara McPherson.

What are you working on at the moment?

My exhibition at Thinkspace Gallery in LA in November. It’s my first solo in Los Angeles. They will be all new works in a new cycle about the conflict between humans and nature. I don’t have any images of those yet.

Good advice you wish you’d been told earlier?

Do not trust anyone who offers unsolicited opinions.

marcomazzoni.tumblr.com

01

Picture 12 of 12

Sam Walby.