Maurizio Manzieri
'The Great Heavens' by Bacchus Barua


~

Ever since I was a child, I've been an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy because I consider these to be genres rich in ideas and inventiveness. I devoured all the classics, from 'The Time Machine' by H. G. Wells to all of the Jules Verne novels, literally rummaging through bookstalls and my friends' book-collections searching for new stories. The first artistic sparkle was born when I saw represented on the covers of those stories images of distant worlds and universes.

I'm a romantic soul, you see. Yet this first stage looks like a dream now and I'm not able to say with certainty what makes you an artist in the first place. It's an impromptu call and impossible to resist. I remember clearly: I was nine years old and spent hundreds of afternoons copying pages and pages of comics by mature artists. Each time we went to pay a visit to a friend's house, I took with me all that was necessary for drawing.

Something of all this comes of course from my mothers genes. During a journey to the US I discovered an uncle with identical artistic and literary passions. But I'm now supposed to be the unique artist left in my family.

My education was mainly humanistic and I attended a classical high school because my father hoped to lead me into a career as a lawyer. He was really disappointed when I chose to change paths, but effectively I never pursued artistic itineraries, nor actually finished my studies. I followed a course of astrophysics, learned the Japanese language, worked with several design companies and before leaving-thinking it to be forever-to Hong Kong, in 1988 I accepted a position as Directing Manager with a sporting company of Turin. And once here, the city where I currently live, I entered in touch with the local artistic community and in 1994 decided to become a freelance artist.

I could say the right cocktail was the love for fantastic literature, exploration and adventure. Naples, the city where I was born can also be considered a paradise of art and classical culture. Practically every week I went around with friends or girlfriends visiting ruins of ancient civilizations spread along this wonderful gulf in the shadow of a volcano. Visiting the ruins of Pompeii, for an example, was an incredible leap back in time. Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, Cuma gave life to generations of artists now showcased in the city museums.

I caught many signals now and then about my future. Before attending university, in July '79 I received a call from the headmaster of my high school requesting for a meeting. I had realized an ink illustration for a UNICEF exhibit and my work had been selected as the winner of our country. The Award should normally have been delivered in a ceremony, but the academic year was over and so I proudly accepted the Award in private. Almost nobody knew about that acknowledgement, but it further spurred my actions. Professionally speaking, my interests kept me near to other artists and it wasn't possible to long ignore my enthusiasm. At last, on my 25th birthday I was hired as a graphic consultant in an import/export company.

This was the first step to my actual career in the field.

My first professional sale arrived in 1994 when I was 34 years old. I had sent some cover-proposals to Interzone, a leading magazine in the British science fiction field, and they accepted three artworks out of four, sending back an acceptance fax in two days time. Terrific and exciting.

Among the artists influencing my style, I think there are a lot of excellent people out there. Among the names I cannot omit there are Michael Whelan, a master of Fantastic Art, and my best friend Marco Patrito, author of hundreds of gorgeous Italian SF covers.

Today, my Studio is based in Turin near the Alps. It's a big, nice city, not chaotic as Milan, close to all my major clients and collaborators. My literary agent lives in Milan, the Piergiorgio Nicolazzini agency, and sometimes we work in strict contact. It's not necessary to have an agent, but some competent and additional assistance helps to extend the web of contacts.

Over the years, the Digital Arts Studio has become a small team of qualified and versatile artists. We are able to offer a huge assortment of services, from models to sculptures, from cover art to multimedia projects, with different trademarks for each different discipline. In case of commissions from big clients we join our forces while working individually in case of assignments related to our specific and personal styles. Expanding the business transactions I came in touch with more and more artists, conventions and newspapers till my other talent came to light: public relations! I was appointed Art Director for the major comics festival in my city ~ Torino Comics. Among other beautiful experiences and contemporary curiosities I conquered the position of International Licensing Manager for Pavesio Productions, a comics publishing house.

During the last two years we have been attending all of the main European festivals together, particularly Frankfurt and Angouleme, sponsoring myself and some of the best Italian artists. And, thanks to some exchange of collaborations, in 2003 the Association of Science Fiction Artists of America appointed me Deputy European Director.

Our Studio receives a lot of curriculum vitae asking for instructions and guidance: How can I become a freelance artist? How is it possible to publish and be in touch with a publisher?

No rules here, only a mixture of hard work, coincidences, luck, circumstances, inspiration... Follow what best fit your style. Study carefully a magazine. When you feel ready to contact the publisher, ask for their Art Submission Guidelines and Policies. Prepare a Portfolio including two/three images that you think could appear there as a cover and send a striking presentation. Showcase your artworks in an Art Show. Open a personal website...and so on.

In Italy it's difficult to work directly with publishers. Usually the contact happens through a Studio representing a publishing house. But I'm enjoying many collaborations abroad talking straight via email with Art Directors and publishers representing leading magazines.

The advent of Internet has meaningfully improved the contacts and chances of collaborations between professionals living at the ends of the world. If a smart publisher roams the web, it becomes possible to develop business opportunities unthinkable in the past.

My manual instruments have been reduced to a pencil and a load of paper. The airbrushes and traditional brushes rest in a drawer, a choice shared with many renowned colleagues.

After a phase of preliminary experimentations in the early Nineties, I focused my attention on photo-retouching software: Photoshop and Painter. With a Wacom drawing tablet and these programs you can do wonderful things. Fundamentally, Photoshop is a bible of paraphernalia. You can do practically everything with it. But all beginners should think about the final target, never about the myriads of buttons and filters. The blank screen simulates the canvas, a three-dimensional canvas in this case, and with a drawing tablet you can paint every element of the composition on different layers, the so-called 'onionskin' technique, like in an animation context. If changes are needed, you can flip the image, move all the different parts of the illustration to different locations, change the background... Simply fantastic!

I'm a surrealist, a digital artist, and the science fiction milieu is only a point of beginning. Working with the professional-mode turned on, I try to get the brightest Cheshire-cat-smile from my clients, but my fan personality is just behind. The enthusiasm is part of the trick; the publisher sends in the novel he'd like to be illustrated, sometimes puts me in touch with the writer. Which better incentive than talking about the subjects of your cover with a writer you have been reading and admiring for years...? I read the story and make two/three sketches. Yes, it's a delicate interaction, but the joy of the final result fills me with an irreplaceable sense of completeness.

Photorealism is a characteristic element of the fantastic illustration, always so lush in colors and details. As my style is easily associated with the genre, it results naturally that I receive commissions tuned to this field. Mainstream novels are usually graced with photos or strong lettering.

There's already a general idea when I begin to paint. The best thing to do is sketching, in a detailed way, a proposal of the finished painting. After this little homage to manual tradition, I go ahead scanning the pencils to my G4 Macintosh computer and then continue to work inside the Photoshop space.

At this point, the sketch exists as a virtual Photoshop layer that I promptly switch to Multiply mode, a useful function allowing one to see and work on the white background using the sketch as a masked outline.

Secondly, I create behind the sketch layer a new layer exclusively reserved to color. Starting from basic hues I work finely on details, screening and darkening all the zones of the painting till reaching an acceptable result. As a final act, I delete the Multiple layer that I had used as a visual reference for the shapes. Et voila!

Today, each piece of artwork I do can take two weeks or more to create, depending upon a lot of variables, including the amount of time available between official assignments...! Naturally, the more detailed artworks are the ones deriving from personal projects. In the editorial field, delivery times often shrink to a week, with much of that time often wasted upon discussions and modifications. The fastest delivery has been roughly four hours, and even though the final result was quite good, I cannot say I've been truly satisfied with it.

Without impending deadlines I'm able to lose myself in the painting. This is the reason why my best works are so detailed.

International Awards have been a moment of reflection and turning point of my life. Now I know that I cannot give up this road and that there are a lot of illustrations asking loudly to be put on paper...

I've received some proposals for working towards a personal artbook of illustrations and there are incoming projects of calendars, fantasy cards and similar items. I'll soon also be launching an Art Shop selling high-quality prints of brand-new series of illustrations. If my clients keep growing, as it seems, I'll leave the PR department to other colleagues and dedicate more time to paint all my dreams.

Last year I collaborated with one among my idols: the best-selling author Tad Williams, realizing for him a series of studies for his upcoming fantasy saga SHADOWMARCH. It's possible we'll be conjuring up some covers for a series of young adult novels scheduled at DAW Books, but we'll be analyzing the issue late-2004.

The key word for living by the smartest scenarios of our Electronic Age is: sense-of-wonder. Come to visit my website for updates about my evergoing adventure through life! <www.manzieri.com>

~

"The Last Aquarium"
FUTURE ORBITS #4 (2002, USA)
e-magazine, www.futureorbits.com


"Princess Briony"
© Shadowmarch, by Tad Williams (2002)
2003 Chesley Awards Nominee as Best Color Unpublished Artwork
.This artwork, and the following "The Skimmers Lagoon", are part of an online portfolio available at www.shadowmarch.com, the new fantasy saga created by the bestselling author Tad Williams. The first printed volume in the series will be published by DAW Books (USA) in late 2004.

"Princess Briony" (Detail)
© Shadowmarch, by Tad Williams (2002)


"The Skimmers' Lagoon"
© Shadowmarch, by Tad Williams (2002)
2003 Chesley Awards Winner as Best Monochrome Unpublished Artwork


"Lighthouse in the Night"
B&W Art Concept for the Association of Science
Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (2001)


B&W Art Concept for The Association of Science
Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (2001).


Anthology by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Casa Editrice Nord (2004, Italy)


"Legion of Videssos" by Harry Turtledove
Casa Editrice Nord (2004, Italy)


"Pictures from an Expedition"
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (USA, September 2003)
Selected for SPECTRUM 11, the Best in Contemprary Fantastic Art, by Underwood Books (USA, October 2004)


Alternative concept for "One of Her Paths" , F&SF (USA)


"Bird Herding"
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (USA, May 2000)


Alternative concept and technical notes for "One of Her Paths" , F&SF


Illustration realized for the town of Settimo Torinese as
a cover for the winning short stories anthology of the 1999 'Cristalli Sognanti' Award.


"Lest Darkness Fall" by L. Sprague de Camp
URANIA Series, Mondadori (1999, Italy)


"Bloom" by Wil McCarthy
SOLARIA series, Fanucci (2000, Italy)


"Ai Margini del Caos" by Franco Ricciardiello
1998 URANIA Award as Best SF Italian novel
URANIA series, Mondadori (1999, Italy)


"Legion of Videssos" by Harry Turtledove
Alternative concept and Preliminary Sketch
Casa Editrice Nord (2004, Italy)


"Night Probe!" by Clive Cussler
Longanesi (2004, Italy)


"Quest for the Well of Souls" by Jack L. Chalker
URANIA series, Mondadori (1998, Italy)


Illustration the Legion Cycle by Harry Turtledove
scheduled in late 2004
Casa Editrice Nord (2004, Italy)

below: the making of "The Floating Maiden"
- Cover for the SFWA Bulletin, the Magazine of The SF & Fantasy writers of America (USA, Winter 1999)
The final image also appears in The IDEA#3



"The Floating Maiden"
~

BIOGRAPHY& INFO:

Maurizio Manzieri was born in Naples, Italy, in April 1961. He pursued classical studies, and began working as a graphic artist in advertising. In 1988 he moved to Turin, in the region of Piedmont, near the Alps, where he actually lives with his wife and their young daughter.

Manzieri has always enjoyed science fiction and fantasy art in general, contributing as a teenager to several leading fanzines. Recently, he has returned to his old passion of freelance illustrator. For some time now, Manzieri has done analysis of the artwork of Italian and foreign colleagues, and in a short period of time learnt the revolutionary medium of Electronic Painting. Today, the artist paints exclusively on electronic canvas, experimenting with all the possibilities and techniques offered by the latest 2D and 3D software packages.

Since 1995, he has published covers for the leading science fiction magazine in England, Interzone, recipient of the 1995 Hugo Award, the most prestigious award in the science fiction literature field. In May 1996, a selection of his works appeared for the first time in the exhibition for Professional Artists, promoted by the 22nd edition of Italcon, the National Science Fiction Convention.

In 1997 Manzieri was included 'ad honorem' in the DigiPainters' Club, an international organization of renowned digital artists. He was also appointed member of the World SF Italia, the Italian unit of the international science fiction association of professionals.

In early 1998 Manzieri began to collaborate as a science fiction cover artist with Mondadori and Fanucci, the leading Italian publishing houses, realizing covers for the most prestigious authors in the fantastic literary field. Manzieri collaborated also with articles and illustrations to Delos and Delos International, the most important Italian SF webzine on the Internet. As well, he collaborated with Virtual Views, a company specializing in multimedia science fiction. In 1996, Virtual Views published an avant-garde CD-Rom, unique in its own genre: Sinkha, a science fiction novel, packed with state-of-the-art pictures and animation sequences, and winner of a bronze award by Newmedia Invision Awards.

His computer-generated illustrations have recently been shown in various conventions and digital exhibits abroad. In 2001 he was Artist Guest of Honor at Italcon XXVII - AltroCon 2001, the National SF Convention, and at Expocartoon, 'Palazzo della Civiltà del Lavoro' in Rome with solo Exhibits and an interview broadcasted on RAI, the Italian national channel. Among his achievements, he won the 1999 First Annual Tangent Online Favorite Magazine Cover Poll for 1999 and the 2000 and 2002 Italia Award as Best Professional Artist. His artwork has been included in Spectrum, the Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, by Underwood Books (USA).

In recent years he has been continuing his collaborations with publishers in the fantastic field becoming an official cover artist for the historical The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and in 2003 Manzieri has conquered the most prestigious Awards in the fantastic field: the EUROPE AWARD, as Best European Illustrator, and the CHESLEY AWARD in the category Best Monochrome Artwork.

For updates you can visit the official website of the artist: www.manzieri.com

AWARDS:

2003 EUROPE AWARD
2003 CHESLEY AWARD
2002 ITALIA AWARD
2000 ITALIA AWARD
1999 TANGENT ONLINE AWARD

Main Exhibits:

1997 Digipaint 1997 - Rome
1999 Republic of San Marino
2001 Torino Comics, Turin
2001 Expocartoon, Rome

Recent Interviews:

- Macworld Italia
<http://www.macworld.it/idg/macworld/news.nsf/0/d4091b66388844f3c1256ad900482fcc?OpenDocument>

- Graphics & Publishing
<http://www.iht.it/in2002.htm>

~
Maurizio Manzieri
The Digital Arts Studio
C.so Orbassano 191/28
10137 Torino
Italy

studio@manzieri.com
http://www.manzieri.com