Close-up: An Interview With Illustrator Marco Melgrati

Illustrator Marco Melgrati has amassed a big social media following with his profound and distinctive takes on issues such as #MeToo, Donald Trump and social media.

Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge caught up with Marco while he was working out in Bali to learn more about his work.

Q: Your work means you are constantly thinking about the world in uniquely visual terms. How does that effect the way you connect with and think about the world?

A: My work allows me to think about world issues in great depth and from unique perspectives. It is something that goes on in my mind all the time and is a constant process.

I try to be curious about everything and constantly attempt to see things from different points of view. The fact that I travel helps a lot. The more you move, the more you can gain different perspectives. Although I have noticed the impact globalisation from travelling – you can be in a bar in Malaysia and be listening to the same music you would in America. It makes me worry that the world becoming more flat and homogeneous.

Even still, I believe travelling is valuable to my work. I have always had this curiosity, ever since I was a child.

soc sailor

Q: Social media, Trump and war are some of the main focuses of your current work. Is the rapidly changing and growingly divisive world we live in a blessing in your line of work?

A: I do believe social media is one of the biggest issues nowadays. It has rapidly changed our view of the world and the way we communicate. It has brought huge change, not necessarily for bad or good – but for new. I think it depends on how we react to this new tool. Just like a car, it can be used for dangerous or useful means. Ultimately, it comes down to how it is used.

I don’t have particularly strong feelings either way about Trump. He is just the one in charge at the moment. I’ll make fun of him like I would any other world leader. If it was Hilary who won the 2016 election, I would be doing exactly the same.

There are no lack of topics out there for me. The divisiveness is getting worse and that certainly is not a good thing. I can feel and see it a lot in my kind of work.

Q: Of course, social media plays a role in disseminating your work to wider audiences. What is your relationship with apps like Instagram?

A: Instagram is pretty much the perfect tool for me. It allows me to spread my work to an international audience and receive instant feedback. I honestly didn’t expect the kind of response I have received. Seeing my work go viral is a real honour and that has helped provide me with more work.

Instagram is also a great way for me to discover other illustrators and exchange tricks of the trade with them. I am very grateful for that.

That being said, not all of social media is great. I have noticed some people who overshare their lives. To me, that is the symptom of something wrong in a person’s life. Perhaps an addiction to social media. Though, I must admit, even I feel a little bit lost without my phone now. I guess I have that excuse that it is so tied to my work.

Social Media Confessions

Q: Can you walk us through your typical process and what it takes to initially trigger an idea for a piece?

A: It depends on whether I am working on commission or whether I am working through my own interests.

If it is commission-based, I start by reading the brief of an article attentively. I then inform myself as much as I can on a topic and try to visualise key points of the article to figure out how I will use it in a way that will attract attention and give effective meaning.

When I am working on something independently, it is usually just driven by whatever has taken my interest that day or has come to me while I am doing other stuff.

Q: How did you get started as an artist?

A: I started drawing as a child and went onto study digital illustration at an arts college.

Once I graduated, I then had the difficult experience of starting out as a freelance without any clients or published work. The real game-changer for me came in 2015 when I followed my brother out to Mexico. The exchange rate eased my financial concerns and allowed me to focus fully on work. Ever since that moment, it has been a dream profession for me.

Q: I am fan of all your work, although I think the Cinderella and sexual harassment might be my favourite. I know it’s an awkward question, but do you have a favourite piece of your work so far?

A: You are right, it is difficult to say! I like the ones that have the most impact, but my opinion changes so much over time.

One of my favourites is the one with the alien and the astronaut. I like how it came out in terms of composition and the use of colours.

The Hunter

Q: Which of your works has drawn the most traction? And can you tell us about any notable reactions/responses you’ve had to your work?

A: I did one about the burka which drew a lot of angry responses. It was only in my direct messages that received a lot of messages from women, particularly from Iran, that thanked me and told me about their experiences.

Another notable one was about Trump and the wall. It went viral, especially in Mexico, and I was surprised to see that I did not receive as much hate from Trump supporters for it as I did from Muslims for my burka and ISIS work.

The ISIS work I did was for a Swedish outlet and it talked about how they use religion as a tool of propaganda. I received a lot of insults for this illustration, as I expected. A lot of it I didn’t understand though because it was a piece against ISIS and certainly not against Islam.

Q: I mentioned earlier some of the main focuses of your work at the moment, but what topics do you think you’ll be drawing about in the future? A.I? Space travel?

A: I don’t know why, but at the moment I am really interested in the Apollo missions. While I work on stuff, I listen to shows about them and even about the conspiracies theories surrounding them. I have a lot of fun with it and I guess it is a topic everyone has some interest in.

My new personal work will probably be about space, the moon and aliens. I really hope Elon Musk will make inroads in terms of space travel!

Q: What does the future hold for you? Are there any upcoming projects/works we should keep an eye out for?

A: I am happy and very busy at the moment. I have actually been working on etching recently, which is a nice change from digital work. It is a difficult skill, but a fulfilling one for sure.

Follow Marco on Instagram

The Zoo

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