Carlotta Notaro

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in Anzio, a coastal city below Rome, Italy, where I work as a freelance illustrator and animator!

My job gives me the possibility to work on a lot of very different projects, so I love jumping from animation projects, to children’s book illustrations, to commissioned portraits, to my own personal art… it keeps things interesting, since I have a tendency to get bored of stuff very quickly.

Honestly, I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, so I self-taught myself the basics and then studied Illustration and Animation at Istituto Europeo di Design in Rome through a scholarship: design school was useful for finding my art style and also giving me some basic After Effects animation skills, which I kept learning on my own for fun.

What is the main medium, content, and/or themes that are frequently present in your work?

I make most of my works mixing pencils and digital color in Photoshop, and I use After Effects for animating. I love mixing analog and digital together because I can keep the expressiveness and roughness of my pencil sketches alive, while taking advantage of the sharpness and precision of my laptop at the same time!

Also, incorporating traditional textures adds a level of randomness which, I have found, is veeeery hard to achieve completely digitally: of course, computers are great at randomizing (you can have some cool randomization in Photoshop brushes), but I feel the result is never unexpected enough. I need to have some unplanned “accidents” to have fun drawing, things that make me go «ok, this wasn’t what I planned, but it looks cool, so I’m gonna keep it».

Recurring themes in my art are never something I do consciously, but I do tend to draw people bonding with animals, immersing in nature and enjoying simple relaxing activities.

No matter how hard I try, I often end up drawing people with animals, probably because my poodle Molly is always nearby, sleeping under my desk while I draw, and she follows me everywhere!

I always make sure to fill my images with as many hand-drawn patterns as humanly possible, to make my eyes happy, and a touch of humour here and there.

What is something you want our audience to know about you or your work?

This is not new information, it’s a popular opinion about social media, but still: my images that you see on the internet are a careful selection of the things I draw, and you don’t get to see aaaall the failed shitty drawings behind the scenes.

Every artist on the internet knows this, but I feel it is important to state once more! It’s so easy to compare yourself negatively to other artists, so, always keep it in mind and do your own thing.

What have been some critical moments or challenges in your career/work that have shifted your perspective creatively?

The thing I’ve learned about my job is that I either get zero projects, or I get five interesting projects at the same time. There is no in-between, it’s like a law of physics or something.

A while ago I worked on two long term projects at the same time: some book illustrations and an animation, and I found this quite challenging. To create, every day, one book illustration and the assets for one scene for the animation, I was forced to take some shortcuts and I realized one thing: oh my god, I can recycle stuff from one project to the other!

So I started taking things from the book illustrations and putting them in the animation, and vice versa, with a bit of mirroring/distorting to change things up. Both projects had a lot of vegetation/plants so they were easily swappable!
Since then I started doing this quite often, there is always a bit of recycling and artistically cutting/pasting details from older drawings. It’s a digital collage, and it fits well into my artstyle, and to be honest, it’s even made it a little more fun! It sounds very logical, but somehow I never realized I could do that before.

Tell us about your artistic process.

A lot of my works start as minuscole scribbles in my hand-bound sketchbook. To be honest, I have a tendency to draw better and more freely on the shittiest loose paper and post-its (particularly the pink ones, they enhance creativity, I guess), so I often glue those small sketches right into the sketchbook and pretend they were done there in the first place. 

Usually, I fill my sketchbooks beginning from random pages, instead of starting from the first. Somehow it makes my sketching sessions more relaxed. To be fair, my entire workflow is a battle against my own mind!

“Usually, I fill my sketchbooks beginning from random pages, instead of starting from the first. Somehow it makes my sketching sessions more relaxed. To be fair, my entire workflow is a battle against my own mind!”

I normally sketch with dark colored pencils and semi-dead markers, but one of my secret weapons is…the rainbow jumbo pencil they give to kids. I love it because you never know which color you’re gonna get, and this lack of control works well for me.

When I like what I see, I scan it and start coloring it with layers of Photoshop magic, and my trusty Intuos Pro, while trying my best to keep the textures of my sketch intact.

When designing for animations, my process is pretty much the same, but I try to simplify my style a lot, since the animation process is longer, and setting up my Photoshop file for animation should be as stress-free as possible. This also influences my illustration work, since I can apply all the time-saving stylizations I learn through animation!

In animation there’s also a lot more preparation and further sketching behind the scenes, because before moving to After Effects, I need to be absolutely clear on what will need to move, how and when, otherwise animating will be absolute pain. But when I finally have all my pieces and all my exact instructions of what to do with them, animating is a zen-like experience, and truly feels like putting a puzzle together.

Sometimes, especially for big client projects, I sketch roughs digitally with this nifty little pen I have that works on my laptop screen. And I use, I kid you not, the Windows Snip & Sketch app: it’s supposed to be just a note-taking tool, but it’s fluid on the battery, it keeps my laptop ice cold, and the limited colors force me to create effective and contrasting color palettes.

If Microsoft removes this app I will be ruined.

What are your hobbies and interests outside of creating art? How do these affect you creatively?

I like brisk-walking outside listening to music, which helps quite a bit with creativity, because the elimination of outside noise really enhances vision in some way, it makes you absorb what you see better, if it makes sense (I do pay attention to my surroundings, don’t worry!).

I also like crafting stuff from time to time: binding my own sketchbooks with spare papers I have been hoarding since like 7 years ago (!) which are finally coming useful, upcycling stuff instead of throwing it away…

I got a sewing machine recently, and while I’m kinda bad at it, it has been very satisfying to refashion some old clothes I didn’t wear at all, into something cute that I now wear all the time! 

I think this mentality also feeds into my art: these days I’m building a digital folder of textures from old/unfinished works, because nothing goes wasted, not even the failed drawings.

How do you find inspiration and what are those inspirations?

When looking for inspiration I mainly throw myself into my hobbies, force myself to listen to new music (despite my brain suggesting we should listen to that one Stereolab album for the 100th time, in case we didn’t “listen well” the times before), and try to spend time in nature visiting new places around me.

I’m always inspired by color combinations and patterns in nature! I think the reason I’m really drawn to patterns and repetitive stuff is because putting them in my images really keeps me focused on the act of drawing, and helps with achieving a flow state. When I was younger, I was also into plant macro photography, always searching for cool textures up close, and I think that’s where it came from.

“I’m always inspired by color combinations and patterns in nature! I think the reason I’m really drawn to patterns and repetitive stuff is because putting them in my images really keeps me focused on the act of drawing, and helps with achieving a flow state.”

I also explore new art on the internet to get inspired of course, sometimes on Behance, but I do this only as a last resort, because when I’m not working I prefer to not to spend time in front of screens.

Do you ever find yourself in a creative block? If so, tell us how you get motivated to push past it.

With time I have realized that having an art block doesn’t mean that I don’t have any ideas of what to draw, but that all the ideas I have don’t seem fun enough to draw! This is my own personal experience of a creative block, of course, so you may have a different definition of it.

So, my personal solution, as dumb and basic as this may sound, is to sit and think of the most visually cool things you saw in the last month. And draw some of them.

Because chances are that if something looks just *so pretty* to you, if you like the colors, the patterns, a particular texture, you will have fun drawing it.

This differs from the classic “draw what you know” advice, which personally doesn’t work for me: there are some life experiences or feelings I could talk a lot about, but which would be boring or even straight up depressing for me to draw!

So, draw your favorite-looking things: the favorite pieces of clothing in your wardrobe, a cake you ate that looked very nice (I drew my favorite foods a while ago to get out of a rut), the best photo you have ever shot with your phone, the actor/actress you have an unhealthy crush on at the moment… I guarantee you’ll draw smoothly!

Caprese

Who are artists or people who have influenced you?

When starting out, my biggest inspiration was definitely Jamie Hewlett, and he was mainly the reason why I decided to consider a career in the arts. At the moment I’m really inspired by some contemporary illustrators from around the world:

Clover Robin, from Britain, who makes incredible painterly collages of British landscapes, and whose art makes me cry;

Patricio Betteo, from Mexico, who has many different techniques, but all with the same soul (I particularly like his inky characters and their crazy proportions);

Marc Martin, Australian, he has an amazing collection of watercolor paintings, lots of pretty buildings with greenery and stray cats/dogs sprinkled in;
I also got inspired a lot recently by Ryo Takemasa, a Japanese illustrator who makes these sleek covers for a series of magazines from his homeland. The compositions look so simple, but believe me I have tried, it is so hard to do striking stuff like this, you need a special talent…

Follow Carlotta’s creative journey: @Carlotta_Notaro // carlotta-notaro.com

Purchase Carlotta’s prints on INPRNT.

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