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Enrico Casarosa

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Enrico Casarosa, the PIXAR artist who loves McSWEENEY’S

Real quick, before I get to today’s amazing artist, I want to thank all of you who sent me notes or called me regarding Ben Roethlisberger’s motorcycle accident. I’m pretty upset, obviously, and not up for talking about it just yet. But thanks for caring. Okay. On with the show . . . .

Continuing my weeklong focus on illustrators, I want to introduce you to Enrico Casarosa, an Italian artist with a passion for Japanese animation.

Tell me about the range of art you do (medium, style, etc).

Ah let’s see: my day job is storyboard artist. In my spare time I do comics and often go out and sketch on location. I work often in pencil and watercolors (I love to journal travels and make autobiographical comics that way). I also use charcoal on newsprint for figure drawing and acrylics on canvas for paintings.

Where were you trained? And what’s the most helpful thing you were taught?

I attended several art schools, (European Design Institute – Milan, School of Visual Art -NY, Fashion Institute of Technology, NY) mostly in Illustration and Animation majors, but I never finished the course of studies anywhere, I don’t have degree. I think the most important thing I learned is a wish and need to keep on challenging my self with different media, approaches and attitudes. I had a couple of inspiring teachers push me in the right way . . . their approach was: “This is good, but what else can you do with that? Where can you take that next?” My short attention span also goes pretty well with that kind of thinking too . . . 😉

Describe the difference (in satisfaction, pay, etc) between the art you do that is commissioned versus the art you feel compelled to do regardless of knowing if it will sell.

Well, I am well paid and well taken care of on my day job as a Storyboard artist at Pixar Animation Studios. My work there is highly based on team work. As a team of story artists on a given movie we are focused on helping our director’s vision to come to fruition. Telling compelling stories in animated feature films is challenging and it certainly makes for an engaging job. That said though given the nature of these big projects I usually feel compelled to take time on the side to tell my own personal stories and be my own director. I found comics to be a perfect medium to stretch my storytelling legs, making my own decisions, following my instincts and taking my own risks. I have been lucky enough to find channels to express these more personal creative energies ranging from internet comics to gallery art shows, and it’s been a lot of fun. These side projects don’t bring much money and frankly I almost don’t expect them to. So for years now I have found a place for them in my spare time. So the only thing I wish sometimes is for 48 hours days to fit all these different things in my life.

What artists have most influenced your work?

Ah tough question, as many artists do, I have a ton of artists I like to follow and collect. Let’s see: Hayao Miyazaki, the japanese movie director, stands tall in my list of influences. Loved his work since I was a kid. His movies and comics have been a huge inspiration for me. Fine arts wise I’ve always loved Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt, Toulouse Lautrec . . . and many others. Lately I’ve also been inspired by some of the artists from the Kaikai Kiki stable, like Aya Takano and Takeshi Murakami.

What do you consider your breakthrough job? How did you land that job, and what kinds of doors did it open for you?

My breakthrough Job was probably the story artist position I was given at Blue Sky Studios on the movie “Ice Age”. I worked pretty hard to get that: interviewing a couple of times in a span of a few months and also doing a storyboarding test on spec. It worked out in the end and without that career step I am quite sure I wouldn’t be here at Pixar today.

You keep a blog. How would you describe it to my readers?

I fill it with what I love to do and links and recommendations to what I love to see. A lot of imagery with a wide range that goes from gesture drawings, photography, links to artists websites and exhibitions to comics and sketches I do, mobile phone photos I take, recs on movies I saw or want to see, anything I find interesting really.

On your blog links, you list McSweeney’s as “an inspiration.” Tell me about that.

I love Dave Eggers’ books, his interesting sense of humor is very much up my alley and I admire pretty much all he has done from McSweeneys to the inspired tutoring programs he started here at 826 Valencia in San Francisco.

Tell me about SketchCrawl.

SketchCrawl is a drawing marathon day I started at the end of 2004. At first I did it on my own, deciding to simply draw from morning to night on day out in San Francisco. You can see the results here . The experience was tiring but exhilarating, I filled 19 pages of sketches from 10am to 10pm.

Then the idea slowly snowballed into a World Wide drawing event that I try and publicize and organize from the internet. The basic idea is to gather anyone who might be interested and have a day out in your town or city, wherever you are, and record and journal that whole day with sketches and writings. My recommendation is to slow down our pace, stop to look a little closer at those details around us, to appreciate and really see those little things that we’re too busy to notice on any given day . . .

We set a SketchCrawl day every 2 or 3 months and we put out calls for artists to organize local meeting points and “crawl” together. I usually meet artists in San Francisco and at the end of the long day we reconvene and pass all the sketchbooks around, sharing what we saw and drew the whole day. The same thing happens on the web where people from different corners of the world can come together and post drawings and share thoughts on the forums. One day maybe this will turn into a nice nonprofit and we’ll get more people to dust off those old sketchbooks . . . 🙂

Who are some of your favorite writers and illustrators?

Dave Eggers, Haruki Murakami, Banana Yoshimoto, Italo Calvino to name a few . . . I like biographies and autobiographies too, loved Akira Kurosawa’s and Atoine de Saint Exupery’s. And I need those 48 hours days for book reading too! Not enough time . . .

Share 3 pieces of advice for anyone interested in this field.

Let’s see:
– Draw a lot but don’t forget to look first. Look hard at what you’re drawing.
– Tell personal stories, close to your heart. Reach deep into you and your past.
– Push your self to do things you don’t know how to do. That’s how you do them. Don’t sit back on what you know.

One last thing I wanted to mention is a small autobiographical comic I do, it’s called SketchCrawling and it contains small stories and watercolor sketches from the crawls. I self published Volume last year and I am about to do a second volume.

You can also read some of the stories online here and here.

Ok, that’s it ! Thanks so much Susan!


I heart Enrico. If you’d like more, he’s also interviewed here about his 3 TREES project.

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Susan Henderson