Interview: Elia Colombo


Name: Elia Colombo

Where do you live: Milan area, Italy

Known for: Conceptual illustration

Currently working as: Freelance illustrator and designer

When did you realize that you were going to work in this area?
It happened when I had a real job and I started realizing how depressing it was. The painful idea of having to work my entire life, led me to a turning point. I decided to work the way I do now cause life is too short to get a real job.

If you could choose one place only to live, where would that be and why?
It could be probably a quiet, warm city by the sea.

How would you describe your creativity?
The keyword for creativity nowadays is “curiosity”. It seems if you’re not curious, you can’t move even a step into the design world. Well, basically, I’m not curious at all and I’m greatly proud of this. My work is all about “saying something” in a critical and/or clever way. I like to turn a “critical theme” into something positive, but also denounce a bad thing behind a “good message”.

I believe in universal concepts and I don’t focus that much on specific themes. For example, if it comes to work on a political theme, such as corruption, I would never approach the theme complaining how much X, Y or Z are corrupt. I would rather analyze what is corruption itself, and maybe evaluate its benefits.

How and when did you start to work with this in a serious manner?
I don’t think there’s a specific point. I am always in the “not yet serious” situation, always trying to make better than before. It’s a continuous process.

What do you do at the moment?
I’m involved in a couple of big design projects as a freelance in my country, as well as in different minor projects worldwide. I’m always up for new collaborations

A recommendation for those who think about starting and running a creative business?
Since it’s not that easy to run a creative business, I think the first thing you must to fix in your mind is that nothing, and no one, can give you back the time you wasted doing a job that you dislike (this was, and currently is my reason).

My recommendation has nothing to do with the “do what you love to do” advice, which has no value, if it isn’t sustained by a strong reason. You must to find a reason before searching for what you love to do: thinking positive without a solid basis is like trying to fly without the support of air.

Tell us how it all started.
I started working as an illustrator just for fun, by combining my passion for drawing with the digital media potential. I approached the world of t-shirts first, but I moved away from it because of my vocation for elevated concepts that doesn’t work on t-shirts. It took me some time to get in touch with creative directors, and self-promotion is still an important aspect of my job.

What is the most important thing in a workplace/studio for you?
Silence is the most important thing.

What is your favorite film?
The first Matrix, Into the wild, Woody’s, and pretty much everything is produced by Studio Ghibli.

Who would you like to invite for a dinner and why?
Probably Emanuele Severino, who’s the greatest thinker currently living.

How do you like to spoil yourself?
Lying on my couch doing nothing. Letting Thought flow and just seeing what happens. Another great way is to read books.

What is luxury for you?
To be able to afford the best food.

What is the nicest compliment you’ve received for your creative work, and from whom?
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people that supported my creative work in recent years. I’d like to be able to return all the beautiful words I get and even more!

However, I received the best compliment from my professor of philosophical hermeneutics, who said immediately after my examination: “Congratulations, it’s clear that these are just your things!” Even if the compliment is not really about my work, it was like receiving an incomparable shock from the deep.

What do you fear most?
Every no-way-out situation, such as being buried alive or standing in an overcrowded place; but also an office job or simply a marriage.

What is a happy life to you?
The life of those who know what is life.

What does a regular day look like for you?
I wake up and I have my breakfast. Most of the times I work from home, so I turn on my computer and I start; alternatively, I move to the place where I have to work. When I work from home, and the work takes the entire day, I stop only for having my lunch and my dinner (I cook them by myself and I like to take my time when it comes to eat).

I spend my spare time either reading, or going out for a walk (I love walking). I spend my nights out, preferably from Thursday (my favorite night) onwards, avoiding the first few days of the week.

Tell us about your dream project.
In my country, we say that if you tell others your dream, it won’t come true.

Who is your professional role model/inspiration?
Diogenes, I suppose. When Alexander the Great met the philosopher, who was relaxing in the sunlight, he asked Diogenes what he desired the most. Diogenes simply replied that he wanted him to stand out of his sunlight. So, Alexander the Great, the conqueror of the world, bowed to the philosopher. Nothing but sunlight: compared to this wisdom, every other “role model” is unnecessary to me.

How would you describe your work style?
In two words: soft and powerful.

Which is the one thing you can’t live without?
If I were in my 2 years old again, I would definitely say: tomatoes! But now, I say books.

What inspires you?
All things, the good ones as the evil ones.

A book that has changed your life?
If I have to choose one, it would be “Thus spoke Zarathustra” by Nietzsche, for the vertigo of its contemplative summit.

Follow Elia on Instagram
Find his his work at Behance & Dribbble & Society6
Check out his awesome website

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