Creative Spaces: illustrator Luca Bowles’ London studio

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Luca Bowles is an illustrator and animator from Italy, now based in London. Luca shares an insight into his creative workspace and some of the interesting objects that fill his space.

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I can’t afford my own studio at the moment but I am looking to share a space with some friends soon. Until that happens I’ll be working from my room in my flat. My room is quite small but somehow I miraculously managed to fit my huge desk into it. I have an A4 scanner, three drawing boards of different sizes under the desk and other random materials in my drawers or scattered around. It’s quite untidy at the moment, but it’s usually clean. The good thing about having a small space is that it’s fairly easy to look after and keep clean, but I do want to find an actual studio soon. I think I might get cabin fever from being in there too long.

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However, when it’s a nice day I usually go and work on the roof of my building. Nobody really goes up there (except for my unpleasant neighbour and his rude and malignant children) and it has a beautiful view of Camberwell.

Equipment and materials

Lately I haven’t been using many materials to make things. My go-to materials are mechanical pencils, brush pens and charcoal. I like to use tools that don’t take up too much space and that I can carry around with me easily. I like to draw outside a lot, but I don’t want to carry loads of extra weight. When I’m outside on location, I’ll also bring a drawing board and some paper, or maybe just a sketchbook. It all depends on where I’m going, the weather and how much time I have.

I do a lot of animation as well as illustration work. For this I use a Wacom tablet connected to my laptop, Photoshop and other software. If I have more time on my hands I use a lightbox as well.

I also like to paint from time to time. For this I have an easel and I use acrylics, occasionally oils.

Nicknacks and objects

I have quite a few interesting objects around my room, it was quite tricky narrowing it down to a few. One of these is an old photograph of my grandfather Mario and my great aunt Vittorina when they were children. The photo was taken sometime in the 1920s. Mario was wearing a traditional Italian elementary school uniform and he was holding a toy shotgun. I love this photo, but I don’t exactly know why. This photo keeps his memory alive and it also brings up memories of my own past (I also had to wear one of those as a child). Generally speaking I love old photographs like these because I can relate them to a forgotten history which you can still catch glimpses of in Italy today.

Another interesting object I have is this old soviet-era communist propaganda poster I bought in Ukraine three years ago. I bought it in a market in Kiev for a few pounds. I can’t remember what the message says on the poster. I love the striking but simple design of communist propaganda posters and the fact that I bought it in a very prominent ex-soviet bloc country gives it that extra level of authenticity. However, I do remember finding that a little strange, how a country which had been oppressed by soviet communism for so long is still surrounded by its imagery and making money off it.

Another object I have is this flag of my football team AS Roma. I’ve had it for years and it never, ever leaves my side. I don’t really watch football as much as I used to, it’s just a familiar object from home that I’ve always had and brought with me.

Books

The book ‘Ragazzi di vita’ was written by Pier Paolo Pasolini. I’m half way through it but I can already tell that this is one of my favourite reads so far. Pasolini is my favourite author, filmmaker and intellectual. I would recommend everyone to read his literature or watch his films, they are all amazing. However, he was a very controversial figure. He was an openly gay communist, which at the time was seen as abominable and immoral, but it turns out that he was also a paedophile. The title of the book means ‘Rent boys’ and it’s about a group of teenagers who grew up in extreme poverty, roaming the streets of the rough outskirts of Rome in post-war Italy (1950s). In order to survive they would engage in petty crime and they would often prostitute themselves. This was very common in the rough areas of Rome throughout the second half of the twentieth century. It’s an intense novel but Pasolini’s writing style is concise, simple and profound due to his background in journalism. Coincidentally Pasolini was murdered by a group of these boys who he befriended, as he was attracted to one of them.

The second book is a comic written and illustrated by the artist Hugo Pratt. ‘Corto Maltese’ is one of the earliest anti-heroes in comic history and one of the most successful Italian comics ever created. All of the Corto books are historical fiction. Corto is a rogue pirate and goes on adventures around the world. He meets real, historical characters and the stories are based in the twentieth century.  I really love these stories and I would love to create a similar character myself one day. In this particular book, Corto is sailing around the south Pacific just as the First World War is about to start and ends up in a hostage situation along with Rasputin (an old rival of his) and two hostages who Rasputin wants to sell to the Germans. I love this book because it’s set in the ocean, the same ocean described by R.L. Stevenson, Melville, Nordhoff and Hall – and it’s all beautifully illustrated. The character of Corto in all of his books also reminds me of Ulysses, who is constantly fighting the force of nature and an inescapable destiny.

Learn more about Luca on his website.

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