Just when you thought the efficiency of the digital age would wipe out any form of time-consuming expression, illustration is enjoying a revival. Faced with increasingly perfect – and overtly retouched – images, some artists reacted by embracing the spontaneous and lively act of drawing. Pablo Piatti‘s illustrations are stylish, inviting and evocative. Whether he depicts fashion, still lifes or interiors, the Antwerp-based Argentinian has an innate sense of elegance, making his pictures timeless and beautiful.
Where were you born?
I was born in Buenos Aires and grew up there. I went to art school, but quit at the beginning of my fourth Year. I met a couple at that time who worked in Belgium. The guy was a polo player and talked me into moving there. I had wanted to get away from Argentina for a while and ended up living in Antwerp.
When did that happen?
That was in the 90s. I met Brian Redding – who launched Scapa back in the 60s – and he saw some of my drawings, which he really liked. Even though I didn’t really have the intention to work in fashion, he commissioned me to draw some images he wanted to showcase in his stores. That’s how it all began.
And how was that first experience in fashion?
It was a great learning curve. Brian’s daughter started a new line and asked me if I could design for her. I worked on seasonal collections and learnt how clothes were made, even though I didn’t have any prior knowledge in that field.
Did you keep on drawing while you were designing?
Yes, I did both at the same time.
Do you remember your very first drawings?
I was a kid, probably 5 or 6 years old. My father used to draw well and I think I learnt from him. I was never attracted by photography or film, but drawing felt instinctive for me.
I think illustration has more to do with dreams than reality. There’s something unfinished about it, which opens up your imagination.
What do you think illustration brings, which feels fresh and exciting now?
I think illustration has more to do with dreams than reality. There’s something unfinished about it, which opens up your imagination. It doesn’t try to copy reality. Illustration lets you exaggerate certain things or play with proportions. It allows you to create a whole universe around one object.
Is illustration still relevant in advertising?
It’s not so much a question of relevance, but taste. I think there’s a return to things that are handmade and imperfect. Craftsmanship has never been so important and valued, especially in the shaky context we live in.
Fashion illustration had its heyday in the late 80s and early 90s. Several illustrators -such as Mats Gustafson or François Berthoud– had their work published in magazines like Vogue or Marie-Claire. Do you think illustration offers an alternative to fashion photography?
I don’t think there is a substitute for fashion photography. I’d rather think of illustration as a way to complement or enrich images. Why not have the two working together? You can use collage or other techniques to create new effects.
Can you tell more about the accessories and animals series?
I started out with one drawing and it kept on growing. People seemed to like the series and I thought it’d be interesting to continue along the same lines. I’m currently working on jewellery drawings with birds.
What do your clients expect of you when it comes to illustration?
It depends on the people you’re dealing with. Some clients give you carte blanche and others are much more directive. They either ask for sharp and detailed drawings or let you do what you feel. I guess they’ll give you more room if they like your style.
Which projects are you currently working on?
A famous Antwerp architect asked me to illustrate a new book about his work, with drawings of his home. He wanted to mix photographs with more impressionistic images.
Is there something more poetic about illustrations then?
Yes, definitely. Illustration is more suggestive than photography.
Which elements inspire you in everyday life?
It can be anything, like plants or a landscape. I’m not focused on one particular type of object.
What about people? Do you like drawing them?
Not really. I guess they feel more anecdotal. I try to avoid faces and portraits, too. They don’t attract me at all.
Do you think drawing is more appropriate for certain compositions? I like the way you create different atmospheres in your illustrations.
Well, you certainly don’t have to ship exotic flowers to make your drawing happen. You don’t have to worry about the light either. It makes the logistical dimension easier, I guess. With drawing, it’s all in your head.