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Gina Antonelli

Hi Gina. We normally only interview photographers, but we couldn’t help noticing your work. How long have you been drawing and how did you get started?

Drawing and painting have always been a part of my life. My love began since childhood, but only recently have I considered making illustration my career. Early on, my fine art work was only for myself, but I now enjoy working on commissions for others.

Your style is very unique. How has it evolved over time?

My style has changed throughout the years as far as line quality and technique, but some things have remained the same. My earlier work was mostly done in oil or acrylic paints. Now, I enjoy using watercolors or gauche combined with india ink. I have always been eager to draw portraits. My past compositions would feature models from the shoulder up, but recently I have been illustrating the entire body. This gives me the opportunity to create clothes, shoes, and add details to my characters’ surroundings.

Are there any other artists that you think have influenced your style?

The first painter I remember learning about was Pablo Picasso. I was six years old and my art teacher, Mrs. Mahon, showed us Picasso’s many paintings. I remember saying to myself, "I have to make this." I would go home and try to recreate the paintings she had shown our class. I tried to recall the shapes and colors in those vivid paintings, and while my six-year-old work did not render the same, I feel that is where I learned to become an artist. I am inspired by so many past and present artists’ work. Similar to when I was younger, artists such as Degas, John Currin, Jasper Johns, and Kris Chau inspire me today with their usage of color and shapes as well as composition.

What are your favorite mediums to work with?

I like to work on a soft white, medium-grain, bristol board paper. I use india ink and a quill tip to create the drawing and apply color with gauche paints or watercolors.

Do you typically use photos as references for your drawings?

I like to cut out photographs from magazines and keep them as inspiration, but I do not use photographs from other photographers or myself as visual reference.

Do you make portraits of people you know?

I consider myself an avid people watcher and, during my day job, I encounter many potential subjects. I tend to be inspired by interesting faces or personalities. I use aspects of people to create my characters, but I do not illustrate one particular person unless it is a commissioned portrait.

How (if at all) does the personality of the person you’re drawing affect your finished portrait?

Some of my illustrations are of a character I feel resembles myself. Depending on how I am feeling one day, or what is going on in my life, the illustration seems to reflect my current state. I feel all of my portraits have their own personalities that become expressed in their gesture and facial expressions.

What are the life-size dimensions of the drawings displayed on your site?

The majority of my work is 11x14 in. Some of the more detailed pieces are a bit larger, but for the most part I feel comfortable working within these dimensions.

How long does it normally take you to finish a drawing?

I think about an illustration for a couple of days and then do some quick sketches to figure out the best composition. Once I start an illustration, I like to complete the entire line drawing in ink. I let that sit for a day and then go back into it and add color. I will let that dry for another whole day and then apply the final layer of details. I do not like to stop until it is completed. If I put an illustration to the side, I have a bad habit of letting it go unfinished until it is later discovered under a stack of papers. Then I think to myself, ‘Why were you being so lazy!?’

How do you like to work? Do you have a special workplace or studio?

I have a great apartment in Philadelphia that has a nice size living room. My drawing table is set up flush against a wall and a big window. I like to begin by organizing my space by clearing off any tools and scrap paper, because as I work the clutter seems to rebuild. I get most of my work done either early in the morning or very late at night. On my days off, I enjoy sketching out an illustration, making myself a nice meal in the kitchen, and then going back to work on the piece.

Did you go to art school? Do you recommend it?

I grew up in New Jersey and moved to Philadelphia to attend art school. I have studied fine arts at The University of The Arts, as well as The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. I recommend art school if you are passionate about devoting your education to the study of art. I have been fortunate enough to study in both these schools that supplied me with the knowledge and foundation of drawing and painting.

Where do you find inspiration for your art?

I find inspiration in so many different things. Lately, I have been inspired by fabric. I've been spending time educating myself on the art of quilting, tapestries, and pattern making. I have been using patterns and shapes as a way of creating dimension on my characters’ clothing. I also enjoy old fashion photos of models shot by Helmut Newton and Irving Penn.

What are your long-term career goals? Where would you ideally like to see your work published or displayed?

I plan to work on the growth of my illustration career by pursuing editorial jobs, advertising campaigns, and branding. I also want to create a series of children’s books and clothing.

Do you have any new projects underway?

Currently, I am working on a promotional mailer in pursuit of obtaining new clients. The mailer will contain a booklet of illustrations and a series of handmade cards.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Thank you for the opportunity to share my work and process.

About the photographer

Gina Antonelli

Gina Antonelli is originally from New Jersey and currently lives in the great city of Philadelphia. She spends her days drawing and dreaming of pretty pictures and colorful illustrations.

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