Johnny Cobalto was born and raised in Milan, where he still lives today. He has been drawing for as long as he can remember and has always been infatuated with both the beautiful and the ugly. He graduated in commercial art and transformed his passion for film into a job, spending 8 years turning out music, catwalk and narrative videos. Discovering his lazy streak at a little over age twenty, he decided to hang up his video camera and dust off his pencil, with which he has cultivated an intense relationship characterised by a mixture of visions, study and terror. He has been featured in a number of collective exhibitions and has even been published by a few nutty publishers. He now splits his time between personal projects and agency work.
Every two months BASE welcomes an artist selected with the help of Illustri, an association that brings together established and up-and-coming illustrators. The artists spend a week with us, staying at casaBASE, working in our project house, the burò, and taking part in the initiatives underway at BASE. The creative output of Johnny Cobalto’s residency became the poster for BASE’s February-March 2018 magazine.
ON JOHNNY COBALTO’S DESK
We asked him to introduce himself by sharing with us the things he keeps on his desk and what drives his creative process.
My survival kit has to contain a tin of tuna, which reminds me of my bohemian years. My love of pink might just stem from those tuna binges. I’m also very attached to a Lego brick that I have – pink, of course – which I see as the first tool in the creation of something new and a source of inspiration for taking my imagination apart and rebuilding it in an isometric vision, a kind of 360° pixel art. Fundamentally, what I do in my work is to set everything in an imaginary grid, a pattern where I can weigh up the full and empty spaces, first of all in my own head. I keep packs of cards to remind me to play with clean, almost vectorial colours, and shapes that keep on revealing different details by reflecting each other. My way of working is characterised by solitude. I don’t do much live painting, it drives me crazy. I’m in my element when I’ve got my headphones on and I’m cut off from everyone and everything. I usually only share my work once it’s finished, no previews. I always make sure I have a book of science fiction on my desk. I’ve been obsessed with them ever since the time when my father used to write little stories just for me: I wonder what made man write the first piece of science fiction? Was everything on earth not enough for him? Science fiction reminds me to push myself to open up wider worlds and not to stop at the limitations dictated by physics. That’s the greatest power any art form can have: pissing outside the box. That pretty much sums up my attitude to work, which is to not to be too attached to the brief, to shake things up and take an unorthodox look at everything surrounding the initial idea. In this field it is particularly wrong and counterproductive to do things because you have to, because you’re in a rush or because you’re trying to prove something to someone. “Wannabes” have no place in the creative professions. Doing an illustration is no more compulsory than making rap music. Being a cook is cool now? … Look, if I decide I’m going to start cooking, call 911!”