Lightspeed Magazine Interview


Giuliano Brocani is a designer and illustrator living in Italy. His portfolio and blog are at You can follow him on Twitter @notpill.


Our cover image this month is your fabulous illustration, Leviathan. Such a visually stunning piece, harrowing and visceral. I noticed it was based on a Concept Art Character of the Week contest (and the winner too, congratulations!). How did you come up with the idea for this piece?

Let me start by saying that I’m really proud to be featured in Lightspeed. I’m an avid sci-fi reader and many authors featured in your magazine have been part of my literary and artistic growth.

This is a hobby to me, which means I don’t have an awful lot of time for my passion, or at least not as much as I’d like, but there are always so many things I want to paint, be it for study or just because I feel like it. I keep some kind of a mental list of things I want to draw sooner or later, and when I look up the current activities on the forum, I always find something to do that’s on my list. An astronaut left to his own devices in space was definitely on that list, so I sketched it down very quickly and I have done nothing else but refining it, following here and there the advice of the forum users. [Link: The Making of Leviathan]

In your biography, you state that you work in advertising and paint for fun. Can you tell us a little about your background, such as how you came into the creative field and what sort of crossover there is between your advertising/design work and your illustration/painting work? Do you ever consider making painting and/or illustrating your career?

I grew up in a family that breathed art. My father and his six brothers all made paintings, sculptures, drawings, even if they were kept busy with their jobs that had nothing to do with art. Art was not particularly encouraged, there were no pressures, it was just . . . normality. I started working for an advertising company when I was looking for a summer job, as a porter, something for a month or so. I got out of there nineteen years later as art director. I’ve opened a design shop with some friends and here I am. It’s the job I love, but, despite what many young people think, it has nothing to do with art. It is method, technique, problem solving. It’s not art. That’s why I need an art-release-valve, that’s why I spend all my spare time on forums and Photoshop. To be honest, I never thought illustration could be my main profession, but you never know . . .

You paint mostly in Photoshop, is that correct? I noted you did a few experiments with ArtRage and Painter; do you experiment with other software as well? Do you ever work with traditional mediums? Sketch things out pen on paper, etc.?

First of all, I want to specify that I love traditional painting. I’m crazy about oil painting. My approach to illustrations is nothing else but an attempt at simulating that method, with the advantage that I don’t have to wait for the colour to dry off, clean the brushes, set up the easel . . .

I’ve used Photoshop since its version 2.5 (!!) so you can imagine how comfortable I feel in that environment. I tried everything out there. I used Painter when it first came out (it was made by Metacreations and it only came for Mac and it was . . . dunno, a long time ago!) and it was stellar, with its palette to mix colours . . . wow, it was great! . . . but it didn’t feel like home to me. Now and then I try to do something with other software, but Photoshop is still my first choice. I am one of the lucky Wacom Inkling early adopters—I bought it specifically to improve my analogue approach. If you ever jot down a sketch on your moleskin, hey presto, with Inkling you already have it in digital format.

Since I started my full-digital adventure, I got rid of all analogue tools. I rarely sketch my drawings in pencil, and when I do, I sketch them in digital. Mine is a process similar to sculpture: I start from undefined shapes that step by step become characters or landscapes. I use PS like a canvas, only a few layers (two or three generally) with just a few settings—I then merge them as soon as possible.

Who are some of the artists that have inspired you? Where do you go to get ideas for your next painting? (And if you ever find yourself stuck on an artistic problem what do you do to get past that?)

This is probably an answer you get a lot of times, but there are too many artists that inspire me. I try to buy all the art books I can lay my hands on. Spectrum albums are a yearly appointment I can’t miss and then all the “The Art of…” [insert_a_movie_title_here]. Many of them are also artists that are not well known to the public, like Wesley Burt, Marko Djurdjević, and all staff at Massive Black, Inc. If I really had to name one, I’d say the one who really shocked me is Jon Foster. If you look at what he does, you can never be sure whether it’s traditional or digital painting.

More than by individuals, though, I have been influenced by the community. Everything I know today about digital painting comes from forums like CGSociety,, Names like Philip Straub, Jason Manley, Nicholas “Sparth” Bouvier, Marko Djurdjević, and many many more that, with great humility, offer their expertise and advice to everybody. That’s why I actively and constantly participate in the forum: to give back, to reciprocate the favor. There’s no doubt this is a wonderful era for sharing knowledge.

I generally draw to relax. I don’t work on commission, so I rarely face complex artistic problems. My professional experience has taught me, though, how to work with very specific briefs, so I’m quite comfortable in solving issues that seem quite intricate. That’s also why I’m interested in online challenges. If there’s a brief, there’s a solution.

If I can choose, I usually try to push myself out of my comfort zone. For instance I know I need to work hard on anatomy (among other things), so if there’s a challenge that requires the study of a character, I’m quite happy because it’s an opportunity to develop my skills.

I’m intrigued by the Francis Goya quote you have across the banner of your website: “Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels.” This feels like a very apt pairing with your art, which is gritty and fantastical. What were your reasons for selecting that quote and what are your thoughts about the place of fantasy in our arts and entertainment?

I was intrigued by this quote as much as you are. I realize more and more that the art of illustration is one of the foundational elements of entertaining, but it is bound by the readers’ reason. Their awareness and rationality are our chain. The more we are able to break that chain, the more we’ll be able to take them to wonderful worlds.

Thank you very much for talking to me, Giuliano!