Nicola Sammarco

Where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an artist?
I was born and raised in the beautiful city of Taranto, in south of Italy. Thanks to my father, who's painter, I started drawing since I was a child. Before starting art school I wanted to become a painter just like him, but then I developed a deep interest for animation, and now at 24 I'm sure to have made the right choice!

Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
At art school I started to study anatomy and many different painting techniques. Meanwhile, I was also studying comics and illustration with some friends. After high school I decided to move to Florence to attend the Nemo NT Academy of Digital Arts, where I studied animation, before the third and last year I had to left school because of some personal issues. I continued my artistic formation though as a self-taught student and I continued to draw and learn through books. I've also keep myself inspired by watching tons of cartoons and many comics.

Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
My mother's role has been crucial in my training, without her support I wouldn't have achieved anything. My father supported me as well, but probably he would have preferred to see me follow his path as a painter. Despite this, I could always count on his contribution and support. My girlfriend Nunzia Marzella, who I have I met during my high school years and who is a painter as well, has always supported me throughout the many years together, even when we separated for 2 long years (at the time when I was living in Florence). Art is really an important part of our relationship and makes it unique.

What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
I've been following a lot of artists for many years, I read a lot of comic books and I watched many animated films, but when I discovered the work of Glen Keane, I immediately thought: ''That is what I want to achieve''. His drawings, his life, his characters, everything was in tune with what I felt. The animated picture Hercules has also always given me a positive charge, especially when listening to the song "Go the Distance."

Did you have a favourite subject to draw when you were a child and do you still have one today? If you do, what makes it so special?
Tarzan! He has always been my favorite character! The anatomy is amazing! His gesture, his soul, I always wanted to be him. I love Glen for that too!

From the initial client idea to the final work: what goes through your mind when you are designing and what is the method you use when starting a project? Could you describe it?
Each project and idea has its own development, there is no fixed method. Usually, after listening to the client, the first thing I look for is reference. Then I start working digitally and traditionally on some of the character concept, silhouette, shapes, lines, drawing until I find the right balance of form and line. After several changes, new proposals and guidelines, I create the final version. They may be one or more definitive versions.

What is your process in colouring your art and what type of tools and media do you use?
I mostly work digitally (Cintiq and Photoshop). About the coloring part, I love to use a watercolors, acrylics and pastels. For drawing I prefer to do work traditionally on my animation desk, with animation paper and black Polychromos Faber Castell, 9B pencil and Ebony Prismacolor. When I work digitally I start with a traditional or digital sketch, then I start rendering my piece in grayscale and finally I apply the color directly with the color palette that I prefer. I really don't have a precise coloring method, I often change technique and color style because I do not like to be repetitive.

What part of the creation process is the most fun and easy and what part is the hardest?
Research is certainly the most exiting part, exploring the subject without rules is what I enjoy the most. Draw ''T'' poses is the part that I like the least! I always prefer to draw gesture and action poses.

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work/collaborate with?
I currently work as a storyboard artist at Illumination Mac Guff on the new movie "The Grinch". My day starts with a meeting with the director (depends on which sequence I'm working on), then I go back to my office and I prepare the thumbnails and beatboards about the sequence and after lunch or at the end of the day I meet the director again to show him my work. When everything is ok, I start working on the storyboards. When I get home, I love to work on some of my personal projects.

What are some of the things you have learned from other artists who you have worked with or whose work you have seen?
I am the youngest in this department and for this I have much to learn from my fellow artists! I love being in touch with so many great designers, I feel that there is nothing better than to learn new techniques and learn from more experienced people.

Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
Yes, but it is still top secret! Soon I will be able to post something about, stay tuned!

What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
As I mentioned above, I currently work as a storyboard artist on The Grinch for Illumination. My last project with Disney is Finding Dory was where I worked as a layout artist for the official graphic novel. Previously (again for Disney) I worked on Tinkerbell. In addition I'm working as a director for a short film, but I can not tell you anything yet.

What is your longterm career goal and what would your dream project be?
My goal is to work for a few years as a storyboard artist. Then it would be great to direct a feature film, it would be great to work for Disney or DreamWorks! After that, my biggest dream would be to create my own animation studio in Italy, in my beloved city of Taranto.

Working for a company or freelancing: what suits you best? And why?
I worked for many years as a full time freelancer, so I will say that there are surely pros and cons for each of them. As a freelancer you have the freedom to work when you want and you don't have extra expenses because you can comfortably work from home. But you're always alone, there is no difference between work and home (because you are constantly there) you don't have colleagues that can help you and teach you the ''secrets'' of your craft. Since I work full time in a studio now, I can learn much more from the different departments, and when I get home I can draw without thinking about work (although many times at home I make thumbnails), the negative part of the full time job is that you have not much time available during the day and you can't disconnect whenever you want.

What advise would you give to an artist who is dealing with an art-block? How do you boost your imagination and keep yourself creative?
DRAW DRAW DRAW! It really is the answer for everything! If you want to improve you have to draw anatomy, design, animation, illustration, expression, gesture, everything! The drawing way.. is the only way!

Concept art, animation, illustration, comics, there are lots of choices. When you’re young, sometimes you know only one thing: you love to draw. What should a young artist take into consideration to make the right decision when choosing an artistic path?
Personally I had several jobs in different fields. I worked as a concept artist, cartoonist and illustrator, then as character designer and lately as a storyboard artist. I think storyboard is my way. Initially, I I wanted to become a visual artist, but then I felt that telling stories is what I prefer and what I do best. I also worked on many jobs to gather enough money to live, I met many artists who had great financial resources and they could concentrate on what they preferred, but it wasn't the case for me. I've always changed jobs in order to make enough money to study, and this has helped me to improve more quickly and to find my way. An advice I can give you is to listen to your heart, don't worry if you have no money to study, drawing is always the right way, that count for illustration, comics or any other visual art. You can always find your path.

Many art teachers and schools suggest to their students that a commercial artist should always work in one consistent style if they wish to have a healthy career. In your own experience, do you believe this to be true?
I beleve that artists should always be true to themselves. Of course, it is true that if you can be flexible with your style, you can get more jobs. I have always tried to adapt to any situation, but at the same time I have always tried to push a bit my style to my customers. The major studios need flexible artists, but at the same time they want unique artists in their field, and that's why it's not very easy to work for a major studio. In my opinion it is much easier to work as an independent cartoonist or illustrator.

If you had to recommend only one art book (a comic book, graphic novel, children book, ''how to'' book) to a fellow artist, what would it be and why?
My favorite book (which is currently published in Italy and maybe in France) is "Il Porto Proibito", created by the talented Stefano Turconi and Teresa Radice, two great artists and friends of mine.

What’s your point of view about the industry today: what are the expectation for someone who wants to make a living with an artistic career?
I always try to be positive, even though the economic crisis in Italy has obviously shacked this industry as well. Personally I haven't found any difficulty with my work, but I know many artist's friends who have lost their jobs because of some nasty decisions made by some a few multinational companies, which unfortunately don't value enough the job of the artists who work for them.

We have a soft spot for hand drawn animation, what is your opinion about the future of this art form?
I think there will be a return of the fabulous 2D animation. As I always say, 3D animation cannot replace the traditional method, the two are different and can coexist with each other. Back in the days Acrylic paint did not replace Oil paint, and so will be for 2D and 3D.

Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favourite designs out there?
The artists that I follow the most are Glen Keane, Jin Kim, John Nevarez, Tom & Tony Bancroft, Wouter Tulp, Shiyoon Kim, Claudio Acciari, Tony Fucile, Toby Shelton, Cory Loftis, Claire Keane, Lidsey Olivares, James Lopez, Stephen Turcotte, Manu Arenas, Enrique Fernadez, Juanjo Guarnido, Barbara Canepa, Alessandro Barbucci, Gigi Cavenago, Massimo Carnevale, Corrado Mastantuono, Serpieri Paul, and many others.  Pre-production drawings are the kind of artworks I prefer the most from these artists.

Social networks, crowd funding websites, print on demand online service, you name it. New media on the internet are connecting the artists directly with their fans like never before. In your opinion, how is this affecting the industry and what are the pros and cons?
Thanks to the Internet we can cut the distance with each other, all artists through social networks can display their talents and have that little bit of notoriety that many times can land you a job. I got my job as a storyboard artist by sharing on Facebook my CERVA story ( you can watch it HERE ). A recruiter of Illumination noticed my story and contacted me to offer me the job. This is the power of the Web. Crowd-funding has been perhaps the greatest innovation, a great tool for those who have talent but maybe has little luck or living in remote locations. I think it is of fundamental importance for the artists take advantage of these new roads, everything can become a reality, even a feature film! (Eg "Hullabaloo" James Lopez). I can not see the negative sides of it because in this field there is meritocracy and consequently, there can not be pretenders.

Finally, Where can we see your art online and get in touch with you? How can we buy your creations and support your work?
My Facebook page ( ) is where I share most of my work, but I also use Tumblr ( ) and DeviantArt ( ). Thank you so much for your interview! Good art to everyone!

Thank you Nicola :)