This month's Featured Illustrator is London-based Francesca Resta. Originally from Italy, for several years Francesca has been based in UK, where she specialises in tightly observed bookcovers for older age groups. See more of her work in the Featured Illustrator Gallery.

I was born in an industrial city in northern Italy, known for steel factories. It’s a place where it’s difficult to see art as a real career, so I studied mathematics and started to work as a web developer, while always keeping art as a hobby.

My love for drawing is very connected to my love for books. As a teen, I used to learn the names of the cover illustrators of the books I loved and try to recognize their work on the shelves of the local bookstores. John Jude Palencar, Michael Whelan and Larry Elmore are very much responsible for my love for fantasy art.

Always a strong reader of fantasy and sci-fi novels, I started going to book fairs and this brought me to meet independent authors and small publishers: these encounters led me to my first collaborations. Very very slowly, it became a steadier job and I gradually stopped working as a developer.

In the following years, I worked with some of the biggest publishers in Italy and in the States, like Mondadori, Giunti, Penguin, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster and several others. I’ve been selected in annuals like Infected by Art (in the US) and Autori di Immagini (in Italy).

While not all my jobs are about book covers (I’ve done many interior illustrations, drawings for advertising and I also work as a 2D artist for a studio in London), I feel this is the kind of job that describes me best and the only constant in my career. I hope that one day I’ll be able to live with that only.

Moving to London five years ago has been incredible for me: I’m deeply in love with this city with its museum and opportunities and people that come from every place of the world with a luggage full of dreams. In an attempt to give back, I’m a volunteer visitor host at the Tate Modern.

At the Tate

While for work I’m a digital artist, I’m the kind of person who wants to try everything, so I dabble with a lot of techniques, from watercolours to oils. Being mostly self-taught, I decided very early that the foundations to being a good digital artist - for me - was to be found in learning the traditional techniques, so I studied oils from more than one painter and took a watercolour course when I was in Italy. For acrylics and gouaches, I had to learn by trial and error! 

Still, for my process I prefer digital: it lets me change my mind faster and also react more easily to the client’s feedback, but I hope that in the future I will find the confidence to add more techniques to my client work.

My education consists of a lot of workshops, online courses and manuals. I also find life drawing extremely important, and I try to attend a session every week. Thanks to workshops, I met some of my art heroes, like Brom in Rome two years ago or Lisbeth Zwerger in Milan too many years ago. Online schools like SmArt School and Schoolism are also an incredible resource that makes up for my lack of institutional education, I’m very thankful to be living in the digital era!

Working on a book cover is something different every time: sometimes the publisher already know what they want on the cover and I receive very clear direction, but most of the times they want my ideas, based on the information they give me and in some cases the whole manuscript. If I can read the book, I definitely prefer to!

I think directly on the paper, so I often start by writing down words or concepts that I associate with the book, filling the page with very messy sketches even I can’t recognize after a few months. Once I have an idea of what I want on the cover, I start thinking about the composition with some thumbnails. This phase is only for me: it can be more detailed or extremely rough, I’m just testing out ideas and sometimes I immediately understand it’s not what I want and sometimes I need to bring it a bit further. 

Thumbnails allow me to quickly identify some favourite compositions that I then refine into sketches that I can show to the publisher: my goal is to give the publisher a good feeling of what to expect in the final, I want to be sure we are aiming for the same thing! I don’t care too much about anatomy and general correctness at this level, and I use anything that can help me communicate my idea: stock pictures, painting on selfies, copy and paste from old paintings of mine, I don’t care because I will repaint everything later… but, if you squeeze your eyes, you should see the final cover. If the starting point is solid and agreed upon, finishing the cover is just a matter of detailing and I feel more relaxed.


See more of Francesca's work in the Featured Illustrator Gallery. Her personal website is here. She's represented in the United States by Astound US.

Follow Francesca on Facebook, Instagram, Artstation and Twitter

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