Love, Hate, and Dadaism: The Art of Nazario Graziano

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Finding inspiration in everything from ’50s sci-fi movies to his charming wife, Italian illustrator and graphic designer Nazario Graziano has created an aesthetic that is uniquely his own. Graziano takes elements from all forms of art, absorbs them, and plays with them, crafting images that exist somewhere between dreams and reality. Over the past few years, he has created designs for everyone from GQ to MTV to Toyota, exercising his ability to appeal to an international audience on a massive scale. His work reflects a chaotic world that is ironic and relevant while staying true to his sense of romanticism and beauty in an ever-evolving culture. We caught up with Graziano to see where he draws his design inspiration, which artistic hat he prefers, and his hopes of designing album art for his favorite bands.

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In what medium did you begin creating art? Did you draw as a kid, paint, play around with collaging and mixed mediums? At primary school my notebooks were full of doodles of robots, shapes, bubbles, puppets, words and letters, all drawn with pen, pencil or crayon. As I got older, I improved and created an imaginary world which I still draw in creative moments.

Did you ever see any artwork when you were young and be like, “Wow, this is what I want to be like, I have to be an artist?” When I was a kid I was a skater and I was fascinated by the drawings of Jim Phillips and his graphics for decks such as the historic designs for Jason Jessee, Eric Dressen, Rob Roskopp. Even today I fall in love in front of his “Screaming Hand” for Santa Cruz or colorful “Slime Balls” logo. I think those graphics led me into the world of graphics as a lot of graphic-designers come from comics or the street-art world.

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Where do you draw your inspiration other than traditional art? The Dada movement, Raymond Savignac, Jackson Pollock, 50s sci-fi movies, illustration and photographic books of ’70 and ’80s, old italian movies and actors (Fellini, Mastroianni, etc.), Alfred Hitchock movies, and a lot of good music, I can’t work without music.

Me neither. What drew you to this this very specific medium? I honestly do not know, but it is natural to me to create something like this.

Describe your creative process? Do your pieces start with a general idea and expand from there? I don’t use a standard process. If work is commissioned by a client the first thing I do is analyze the brief and try to understand what they would like. When drawing “free-theme” illustrations, everything starts with a blank Photoshop canvas and I let myself be guided and influenced by all the messages coming from the outside world: mood, music, films, articles, climate, etc. I believe that my work is very sensitive. As for my technical process, I like to mix digital elements with paper/physical elements. I like to draw with pen and pencil, scan it, then combine everything with images, brushes, pictures and more.

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Is there a favorite role you play in terms of art director, graphic designer, or illustrator? My favorite role at work is 360-degree art-direction, which allows me to use all my skills. I love working in the music industry and with fashion brands as well. My secret dream is to draw a series of decks and t-shirts for skateboard brands.

You have such a creative and innovative aesthetic. Have you seen a lot of work that has “borrowed” from your portfolio? When it comes to art, it’s very important explain the difference between “taking inspiration” and “stealing ” Sometimes I get so many emails from young artists and students who ask me for advice or tips and show me their work, saying they find plenty of inspiration in what I do. This makes me very happy but sometimes I get too many emails from friends about people who take my graphics element or entire illustrations and use them make personal artwork, posters for events, CD covers, flyers, etc … now that is not okay.

If you could describe your aesthetic in one sentence, what would it be? A romantic dive into the past with a Gore-Tex lifesaver.

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Tell me about RevolverLover and your other creative studio endeavors. RevolverLover is my second skin in graphic-design. It’s a portal for graphic, art, illustrations, and photography; we have an eye on new ideas in art. A project related to RL is ANTI, a magazine/showcase about graphic, art, illustrations, photography and more.

Who has been your favorite client to work for? I think that the best customers are those who trust you 100% and entrust the entire project in your hands.

Is there a dream client you have? I’d like to work for skate or snowboard companies or big fashion companies. I’d also like to design an album cover for one of my favorite bands like Grizzly Bear or Radiohead.

What do you hope people take away from your work? I hope that people find something romantic and sometimes ironic in my art.