Artist Interview: Nicola Sammarco

21/06/2014 • Artist Interviews, News

With a penchant for creating expressive and lively illustration, and a heart for sincere character art, Nicola Sammarco is a one of a kind artist. Currently working as a comic artist, illustrator and 2D animator, we caught up with him to talk about his art, methods and the future!


Hi Nicola, it’s great to speak with you! You’ve certainly been gaining in popularity online over the last year, and we love your art. What projects are you currently busy with, and what new developments are occurring right now in your art world?


Hi! Thank you so much for this opportunity! Yes, this year I had great satisfaction, thanks to a great artist, David Kawena, it is to him that I have a lot of my popularity. I’m trying to understand really what my small audience looks at my drawings and what I should improve on to make them better. I think that to become popular, one must listen to what makes other people happy, and remember to be yourself.

Currently, I’m illustrating my new book “Dozi the alligator 2” by American author Daniel Boris, my friend and colleague. I just finished a children’s book for a major Californian marketing company , but I can not speak absolutely, by order of the society. Soon you will have news! In the meantime, I’m working on my new portfolio, based on the novel “Around the world in 80 days”, which I will bring to the CTN animation Expo in Burbank, and I am planning my short film, I think it will be ready for next year.


Clearly there is a strong influence from Disney in your work, however what would you specifically say are your main inspirations? What other artists or media inspire you to draw and create as you do?


Absolutely! The world of Disney is a part of my childhood and as such cannot be deleted. I love the Disney characters, but I am inspired by so many artists from all over the world, and many ages . When I was little I thought of becoming a painter  like my father, seeing him and his Impressionist paintings I’ve always thought of wanting to do that in my life, but at the arts high school I changed my plans. I was literally dragged into this magical world. I realized that the world of animation is my ideal world. The animation allows you to get away from the real world, and dream! Yes, because a lot of people now do not dream anymore. So we become the creators of dreams, and this is fantastic! My favorite artist is Glen Keane , I love his characters and all his art , I hope to meet him one day! I follow Jin Kim, Minkyu Lee, Nicholas Marlet, Claire Keane, Tom and Tony Bancroft, Eric Goldberg, Mark Henn, a lot, the list would be endless ! The artists have many ways and means of expressing themselves, and personally I take inspiration from anything that gives me a feeling.


We love the expressiveness in your artwork – how would you describe your thought process when creating characters and poses that really tell a story, and have sincere emotion?


The first thing is thinking. I think how a particular emotion could be, I identify with the character and try to feel what he feels. I listen to their emotions and try to ” print ” that in the drawing. It’s really hard to do this process in a natural way, and loosely, but I try to do my best . You have to draw and study hard to get good results, and do research and be curious to be inspired. The thought process is already 50% of the work, the idea is what makes a good design. There are so many talented designers, but a few good ideas, and you can see a bad design with a good idea become popular, because the idea is everything, and the technique is useful, but not on it’s own. The ideas are free and fast, so when I have a good idea for an illustration or a short film, I take notes of this idea. Very often I happen to forget good ideas. The problem is that ideas come to me when I’m not at the drawing board – before falling asleep, in the bathroom, out to dinner with friends – ideas materialize when they are inspired by something you see or hear (I do not know what art is in the bathroom, but it’s true).


In terms of medium, do you lean more towards traditional creation or digital art, or perhaps a mix of both? What are the advantages to your own workflow that each medium gives you?


I love the traditional! Traditional is always the best form of art – listening to the sound of graphite on paper that is consumed, it is natural.

I like digital , partly because I use it mostly for work . I think we should be familiar with the traditional design before venturing into the digital, of course, there are always geniuses. The advantage of digital is the possibility of always being able to modify and adjust the proportions of the drawings, the colors, and the advantage of being able to always change. The traditional logically requires more skill and time. This does not mean that those who paint digitally are less good than those in traditional paints, but if we try to paint a cloud, the  digital artist has photoshop brushes, the traditional artist has only his hand. Anyway, I love digital because it is a means to make art. I am very angry regarding the animation, as I said, I love the traditional, and I do not understand why the 2D area has been cleared. We cannot delete a medium for making art. At one time it was painting with oil colors, with the advent of chemical colors (acrylic), oil colors were not replaced, but they live in perfect harmony with the rest of the materials. Now I wonder why 2D animation was literally replaced? The answer we all know – it’s in our bank. One day, I dream of being able to reproduce the 2D animation, producing films and re-evaluating this fantastic medium.


With so many new people showcasing their art online, how does one get noticed? What are your thoughts on the benefits of social networking and online portfolios?


Finally, everyone has the chance to show their skills to the world! Also, those who have no ability to pay for advertising, the Internet is an indispensable resource! Now it is easier to achieve success, the talented and genius have paved the way. I need to thank the internet and social networks for introducing me to (especially having learned) a lot of my artistic knowledge. If you want to learn something, learn how to use the internet. It allows you to meet many artists, and to exchange views on ways of working. Do not be afraid to publish your drawings, success is right around the corner!


Let’s talk about your workflow – in general you seem to have a very loose, sketchy style, that has a lot of energy and appeal. Do you work from a rough sketch first, or perhaps do many mental sketches? What would you say your general workflow is like when approaching a new drawing?


I’m glad that my drawings tell something. In some cases I have in mind a hypothetical design that comes to realization quickly, and very often it is already the definitive chain, so I just have to publish it. In other cases, I work on multiple “levels” of sheets, with the animation table with light underneath, drawing and drawing until I get the version that I like most. Usually the drawing does not last more than 5 minutes (the sketches), and the more detailed versions, such as drawings with crayons, vary depending on the work.

I really love to do sketches with pencil, crayons and pens, I do it for at least 2-3 hours per day. I’m too rough to be able to create clean lines, But now I’m trying to improve!


You studied animation at Nemo NT Academy for Digital Arts in Florence. How has your education helped you pursue your artistic dreams? What advice do you have for other artists when choosing a place to study, be it online, at a brick and mortar school, or self study?


Of course! The school gave me all about the animation technique, I had great teachers, who continue to support me today! Of course, it is essential to choose a good school, but it is also important to be willing to learn and be prepared to sacrifice much of your time to reach the optimum levels. Now, there are many online schools that are really interesting – just choose. Although I personally prefer the “physical contact” with professors, and attending a traditional school is always great! But then again, everything is in how much you will have to learn, attending a school does not make sense, unless you have the passion and curiosity to learn the lessons that the artistic nature offers us.


Art can often be frustrating and difficult – what methods and inspirations have you found when facing challenges in creating a particular piece?


When I cannot find an inspiration for a drawing, I wheel out the reference. I have some folders on my PC with a lot of drawings of other artists for when I am looking for something that I do not know, and knowing comes with time. I look on the internet, watch TV or read a magazine, and I look for something that just looks to me like an inspiration. I sometimes look at something in the street, and have as a vision. Looking at life, the reality is always the right way, everything starts from the real, everything is life out there. Life has a story, we must seize the story and tell it in the drawings. I hope that I’m clear!


Routine is often a pivotal part of an artists daily life. How do you maintain a good schedule of consistently creating art each day? What motivates you and drives you to constantly pursue art creation, even when the challenges of daily life occur?


I hate routine! Even though my life is linked to the animation table , I try to improve every moment so as not to be repetitive. Of course there are days when I do not want to draw, or maybe do not think of being good enough , or do not know how to draw! This happens to everyone ! But you have to take the situation in hand, before this malaise will prevail, and be convinced that what we do has value, and even if there are people better at it than us (certainly), there’s no need to be sad, but encouraged to improve! Do not look at other people that are better than us, but look to our actual progress – take a picture of the last month and compare it with one from today – are there improvements? Yes! Well, this is the way! You must continue with what you do, and the important thing is to improve, not try to be better than others.

This is my weekly schedule, alternating the various topics each day, and drawing at least 4 hours per day:

  • Gesture drawing
  • Animation exercise
  • Anatomy
  • Animal Drawing
  • Caricature or facial expressions
  • Life drawing
  • Head, hands and feet
  • Clothed figures
  • Quick sketches, urban, landscape, sequential drawing
  • Design principles
  • Composition
  • Perspective
  • Color theory
  • Pantomime
  • Style (copying of other design styles to explore other ways)


Finally, what advice do you have for intermediate artists, who are struggling to get their art to higher levels of polish and professionalism, especially in terms of expressiveness and conveying believability? What advice do you have for new and aspiring artists in the digital art age?


Use a lot of your time to gain publicity and to try to improve ! Drawing and advertising it opens the world of work, drawing enables you to work; advertising makes you traceable for a job. Try to accept all kinds of judgment that will come from the public, even those who may seem aggressive, as this always hides some lessons to keep in mind . Do not despair if you cannot work immediately, it is more important to improve, because the job will come sooner or later . The time you waste not drawing is difficult to recover. Try to be unique and non- repetitive, and do not be afraid to let the drawings fail, have the courage to throw away that which does not convince you. When you build a portfolio to show to someone, remove everything that does not convince you, or all of that which is now old, always keep an updated portfolio. Put in the first pages the better work, as those who see the portfolio must have the desire to continue looking. Better a few works that are good, than too many pages showing poorer work – you have to show only the best of the best – although, only 10 pages !

I hope that this interview is inspiring to some, for me it has been!


It has been a pleasure speaking with you Nicola, we wish you all the best!


The pleasure was mine! I thank you again for this opportunity!


Connect with Nicola Sammarco!





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