Interview: Inside the World of Rubens Cantuni.
by Daniel Haim
In the ever-changing art world, the iconic style of Italian illustrator Rubens Cantuni remains. He is an individual who runs a multi-channel business. From illustrating to writing, to publishing and collaborating, he does it all while showing much respect and adoration to other illustrators, designers, tattoo artists and any other type of artist under the sun. If you find his work familiar it might be because we have featured Cantuni in the past (summer of 2009). Now, even more experienced, working on greater projects, Rubens takes us into his world of Tokyo Candies.
Daniel: Rubens, this isn’t the first time we sit down to talk about your skills at Bloginity. You were one of the very first interviews we published at Bloginity.com but as some of our old-followers know, we’ve unfortunately lost a lot of our data. Firstly, let me thank you for taking the time to sit with us again and discuss your new projects, and let our readers know what you’ve been up to. But let’s start from the basics: In a paragraph or so – introduce yourself to Bloginity’s audience.
Rubens: First, thank you for inviting me again on your site. My business card says I’m an illustrator / graphic designer / nice guy. I live in Italy, in Genoa, northwest of Italy, to be precise. I was born in 1982. I like pizza, I hate soccer.
Daniel: Take us through the creative process of making an illustration, creating something from scratch from the concept to the coloring.
Rubens: Usually I start from a sketch, this can be very rough or more refined. It depends if it’s just for me (first case) to define spaces and the basic idea or to show to a client (second case) before starting the vector work. If the sketch is very rough I usually do it with my Wacom Cintiq directly in Adobe Illustrator, otherwise it’s pencil on paper.
After the sketch I start with the real job using calligraphic brushes on Illustrator with my Wacom. After sketching the lines, I go for the main colors, usually I try some combinations. Sometime I have a clear idea of the color palette I want to use before starting the coloring. Then highlights, shadows, details, final touches. Basically that’s it. Very straightforward process.
Daniel:How did you get started in this industry?
Rubens: Despite my long time interest in drawing and creating I started revealing my stuff to the world very late, in 2009. I studied Industrial Design (which has been totally useless for what I was doing at that time and I’m doing now) then started working in an advertising agency in 2007. In August of 2008, I started koikoikoi.com with my friend and colleague Danilo Rolle. Some months later, in January 2009, I thought “why showcase other people’s work and keep my stuff just for myself? Maybe I could be one of these people I talk about on koikoikoi.” I gathered some works I was keeping in a (virtual) drawer and put my portfolio online. I never feature my work on koikoikoi, I’d just feel uncomfortable. I want to deserve people’s attention on blogs and magazines, using koikoikoi would be sort of cheating, so my stuff and koikoikoi are two separate universes.
Daniel: Technology has been reshaping the industry constantly. What are some of the essentials that you cannot live without as far as illustrations go?
Rubens: I used to use a cheap Wacom Bamboo until some months ago, but I always wanted a Cintiq, since I thought that, considering my workflow and technique, it could have sped up the whole thing and also let me add much more detail in a easier way. I was right. I can work much faster and work on details so much better.
Daniel: What do you think the illustration world will look like in 10 or 15 years from now?
Rubens: I really don’t know, just I hope to see less and less of these “minimal/hipsterrific” illustrations we’re used to seeing lately. Minimalism is good if there’s a concept behind it, otherwise it’s just being lazy/untalented. There are a lot of very good examples of good minimalism (works from Olly Moss for instance), but really too much “it’s minimal” stuff with nothing behind, no ideas, no concepts, no thinking, just laziness and “designer-at-all-costs-wannabeism.”
Daniel: Thanks to Adobe, creative types around the world are leveraging the Adobe Creative Cloud. Have you signed up for that, or are you holding onto original copies?
Rubens: I’m not a big fan of cloud things, apart from emails and for back-ups. I use this service called Memopal for my backups and for being able to access my jobs anywhere. But I want my software on my computer.
Daniel: What are your thoughts about Behance collaborating with Adobe?
Rubens: I’m a little worried, honestly. I think the guys at Behance did a SUPER great job so far, and now getting involved in this giant company stuff… I don’t know… I just hope things will remain as they are for profiles and networking, without Gold membership or Pro profiles or things like that. It would be ok to add paid services (like Prosite, which I use), but the basic concept of Behance should stay as it is. I’m worried because Adobe is not so generous about giving their stuff away. For example the recent misunderstanding about the CS2. Many blogs reported the news saying Adobe was giving away free downloads of the CS2, since they’re dismissing the activations server for that suite. While the reality is they just give it away “for free” to anyone that has an activation code for it. I mean it’s CS2! CS6 is out, come on! It’s 4 releases back the newest one, you’re not activating any new code for it and you still can’t give it away for free?
Daniel: What do you think they’ve got planned?
Rubens: I wondered a little about it, but I really can’t imagine what. Maybe some kind of integration between Behance profiles and Adobe Creative Suite? Some tool to upload and edit projects included in the next suite? Or they just want a major presence in the online creative community? Just a branding operation then? We’ll see…
Daniel: So, are you a self-taught designer?
Rubens: As I told earlier I have a useless (to me) degree in industrial design. Regarding drawing, illustrating, graphic designing, typography or whatever, yes I’m self-taught.
Daniel: What inspires you? From where do you draw your passion to illustrate?
Rubens: I’m moved by a lot of different interests. Pop art, street art, tattoos, asian imagery, traveling, cinema… I think each of my passions is an inspiration source for my work.
Daniel: I know that some people have tattooed your illustrations onto their bodies. How does that make you feel?
Rubens: It’s a very exciting thing. People will have those works of mine on their skin forever! Especially for a tattoo fan like myself, it is a really big thing! A great honor. Maybe you have to be passionate about tattoo art to fully understand what feelings are involved in this, but I think anyone can understand how much love these people are showing for what I do. And this is just great and a big push to keep going.
Daniel: You’ve been running KoiKoiKoi.com for quite some time now. I believe, both Bloginity and KoiKoiKoi launched around the same time.Tell us about your website. What are some of the things you’re working on?
Rubens: We’re working on a new version of the site. Not just a design change. We’ll still stick to our “style” in selecting who/what to feature, but [there will be] more focus on images.
Daniel: Are you working on any new projects?
Rubens: I’m working on a new t-shirt design for Nike. For the first time I’m working on illustrations for an educational book and I’m the leading interface and character designer for a start-up. I’ve been working on this for a few months now and the next step should be an app.
Daniel: What is your favorite quote?
Rubens: GRROOWWWWAANNNGRAAAAWW (Chewbacca)
Daniel: Anything else you’d like to share?
Rubens: Sure, I read books. E-books suck. Buy and read real books. Internet is one of the greatest invention of human kind. Show some respect: stop liking cats videos. never, NEVER work for free or for “exposure”, black and white doesn’t make your photos more artistic . Futurama is better than the Simpsons, face it. Pizza is not ALL covered by cheese. It’s supposed to be mainly red and cheese should be that yellowish thing. In Italy we don’t eat spaghetti with those ugly meatballs. We don’t even eat meatballs alone. And they look disgusting. I still can’t understand Twitter.