The creative process, 4 by Michele Del Campo

ENGLISH: Another complicated and long elaboration of an idea through various stages, sketches, research for places and models and finally the painting. The idea in "One of Them", which is the title of this painting, was to portray a common girl from the middle class, who would represent a generation of young people who have been deprived of their future in the wake of the crisis in the past few years, and I see this situation of anger and impotence in my frequent travels to Spain, for example. The models are friends of mine that kindly offered to pose for me, some of them in a separate session. I found the building after a long search wandering around old industrial London and through internet, and I discovered this jewel of factory architecture in East Tilbury, it's the old Bata Factory, which I went to visit. Curiously, the same day that I was taking pictures of my friends pretending to through stones, in a North London District, Tottenham, many young people started to actually through stones and bottles to the police, and the situation soon degenerated in what is now famously remembered as the 2011 "London Riots", that spread across the UK main cities...  

ESPAÑOL: Otra complicada y larga elaboración de una idea a través de bocetos primero, luego búsqueda de modelos y ambiente, fotos y finalmente la pintura. La idea en el cuadro "Una de ellos" fue de retratar a una chica muy normal y corriente que representara a toda una generación de jóvenes que se ha visto de un día a otro privada de su futuro por el estallar de la crisis, y esta situación de rabia e impotencia la veo mucho en España por ejemplo, donde viajo frecuentemente. Los modelos son amigos que se han prestado a posar con mucha amabilidad, algunos de ellos en sesiones separadas. Encontré el edificio tras una larga búsqueda por el viejo Londres industrial y a través de internet, donde descubrí la existencia de esta joya de la arquitectura moderna, la vieja fábrica de zapatos "Bata", que fui a visitar en tren en East Tilbury. Curiosamente, el mismo día en que tomé las fotos a mis amigos fingiendo de tirar piedras, en el barrio pobre de Tottenham, en el norte de Londres, estallaron los famosos "Motines de Londres", el 6 de agosto de 2011, donde los jóvenes emarginados se rebelaron contra la policía y el órden social, y el levantamiento se extendió por las ciudades principales del Reino Unido...






"Una de ellos" (One of Them), oil on linen, 140x200cm


The creative process, 1 by Michele Del Campo

ENGLISH: The other week, while I was painting in Art in Action (see the previous post), many people were fascinated by the fact that the image that I was painting was made-up, a collage from various pictures, although it looked convincing. Noticing that many are not aware of the complexities of the creative process, I would like to  publish a series of posts in the next few days where I show the original references that I used to ensemble the image that I painted on the canvas. In my painting you will see that I am looking for something more than a simple representation of something, I want to create a story, to give a message, to suggest a mood or an emotion, but I have to do it with intention. The simple reality doesn't always give me all that I need, so I have to create a reality of my own, but that looks convincing. I will start from "The Other Side", a 190x300cm oil painting which I did in 2011.


ESPAÑOL: La otra semana, mientras pintaba en Art in Action, (mira el post anterior) mucha gente se quedó fascinada viendo que la imágen que estaba pintando era en realidad una escena ficticia construida a partir de varias fotos. Notando que muchos no son conscientes de la complejidad del proceso creativo, me gustaría publicar, en una serie de posts en estos días, mi material original desde el cual he ensamblado la imágen que he plasmado al final en el lienzo. En mi pintura busco que haya algo más que la simple representación de algo, quiero crear una historia, dar un mensaje, sugerir una emoción o un estado de ánimo, cargar una imagen con intención. La simple realidad no siempre me da todo lo que necesito, así que tengo que crear una realidad propia, pero que sea creible.

Empiezo por un cuadro especial, "El Otro Lado", un óleo de 190x300cm de 2011.




    These are some of the sketches that I used to develop the idea of "The Other Side". Research for locations, props and models came soon afterwards.




Life drawing from dance by Michele Del Campo

Yesterday in my studio we had a wonderful life drawing session. I invited contemporary dancer Mara to dance while we drew her, sitting around. She put on her own music and danced, slowly and gracefully, stopping frequently for a few seconds to give us the possibility to quickly sketch her. Her poses lasted from 20 to 60 seconds, it was a challenging task for her and for us.

The session is part of a cycle of weekly gatherings with friends to share the experience of drawing. Every time I organize the session with a different model and a different purpose, to train our eyes and to explore the possibilities and the limits of different mediums. My sessions normally stop around June, when I usually get too involved in painting for the approaching of my solo exhibitions (which I tend to have towards the end of every year).


Ayer en mi estudio tuvimos una sesión de dibujo del natural estupenda. Invité a Mara, una bailarina de danza contemporánea, a bailar mientras nosotros, en círculo, la dibujábamos. Ella nos puso su música y danzó lentamente y con mucha gracia, quedándose parada con frecuencia por unos segundos para que la dibujáramos. Las poses variaban desde los 20 hasta los 60 segundos.

La sesión forma parte de mi ciclo semanal de encuentros para dibujo del natural que comparto con amigos. Cada vez organizo el evento con un modelo y un objetivo distintos, para entrenar la mirada y para explorar las posibilidades y los límites de medios diferentes para dibujo. Mis sesiones normalmente duran hasta junio, cuando empiezo a concentrarme exclusivamente en la pintura en vista de la exposición individual del año (que esta vez será en Lugano, Suiza, en la Imago Art Gallery).

Video animation after "Viaje de no retorno" by Michele Del Campo

[youtube=] I did not know what had been of that idea that lit up Antonio's eyes when he saw my sketchbooks for the "Viaje de no retorno" exhibition.  He asked me to scan some of my sketchbook pages and to give him all the material related to my exhibition in order to make a video animation. Antonio Dinapoli is a video editor and motion graphics artist and also a very good friend of mine. I met him in London but we share the same origin in Puglia, a southern Italian region.

He told me with enthusiasm about contemporary techniques of creative videos called "Motion Graphics", but I did not understand how it would look like with my work until several weeks later, when he showed me this video. The sketches, texts and photos overlap, fluctuate and merge to tell the creative process and generate the final paintings, while the sounds, sampled from the real world, accompany the images and help the narration. I think it is a wonderful work.


Ya no sabía qué había sido de esa idea que tuvo Antonio y que le hizo brillar los ojos cuando, al ver mis cuadernos de dibujo para la exposición "Viaje de no retorno", me los pidió escaneados para animarlos en un video. Antonio Dinapoli es un editor de videos muy buen amigo mio, nos conocimos hace unos años en Londres pero compartimos un origen común en las mismas tierras de Apulia, en el sur de Italia.

Me habló de técnicas de video creativo llamadas "motion graphics", yo no sabía qué eran y tampoco me ayudaba a hacerme la idea lo que él con entusiasmo me decía que haría con esas imágenes extraidas de mis cuadernos, hasta que, tras alguna semana, me mostró este vídeo. Los bocetos, los textos y las fotos se sobreponen, flotan y se funden para generar los cuadros, mientras los sonidos extraidos directamente de la realidad acompañan las imágenes y favorecen la narración. Me parece un trabajo maravilloso.

Perú journal by Michele Del Campo

Certainly I couldn't waste the opportunity to travel around Peru in occasion of my solo exhibition in Lima. The travel gave me the chance to discover places and people full of charm. Moreover I could come closer to an extremely interesting and valuable cultural heritage through the art and architecture of the Pre-Inca and the Inca civilizations. The food also was a treat, very rich and varied.

The most beautiful experience, although also very demanding, was the Inca Trail, four days trekking among high mountains with views that would leave anyone open-mouthed, heading towards the Incas sacred city of Machu Picchu.

Mainly the travel after Lima included Arequipa, Puno, some islands in the Titicaca Lake, Cusco, the Inca Trail, Aguas Calientes and Ollantaytambo.

With so many interesting things to see in only 20 days, I had to make an effort to keep my journal up-to-date and to draw, but it's those lines traced on paper that best evoke the emotion of my memories.


Ciertamente no podía no aprovechar la ocasión de la inauguración de mi exposición en Lima para viajar por Perú. El viaje me ayudó a descubrir lugares y gentes llenos de encanto. Además pude ver de cerca un patrimonio cultural de grandísimo interés y valor, a través del arte y la arquitectura inca y pre-inca, y saborear comidas muy ricas y variadas.

La experiencia más bonita, aunque también fatigosa, fue el Camino del Inca, cuatro días entre altas montañas con panoramas que dejan boquiabierto, con llegada a Machu Picchu, la ciudad sagrada de los Incas.

A grandes líneas el viaje después de Lima comprendía las ciudades de Arequipa, Puno, algunas islas del lago Titicaca, Cusco, el Camino del Inca, Aguas Calientes y Ollantaytambo.

Con tantos sitios interesantes y solamente 20 días en total a disposición, tuve que hacer un esfuerzo extra para detenerme a dibujar y a escribir de vez en cuando, pero son esas líneas trazadas en el papel las que mejor me evocan la emoción de mis recuerdos.

"Una de ellos" by Michele Del Campo

"Una de ellos" (One of Them) is the portrait of a component of a group of young people that is throwing stones towards the windows of an old, abandoned factory. I wanted this portrait to bring us closer to a girl who represents many young people who are angry at a system which, they feel, is abandoning and sacrificing them in benefit of the big players in the global economic game. The idle youths are directing their anger to a building, which is symbolic because it is an emblem of an old economic system that in Western countries has declined, and which can also represent their lost jobs and lack of perspectives.

I searched for a long time a location that could provide me with a good background, similar to what I imagined in my first sketch. I ended up traveling outside of London and visited, in East Tilbury, the amazing giant buildings that were part of the old Bata shoe factory. This is a big modern complex of buildings, residence housing, schools, cinema, swimming pool and other entertainment facilities created in 1932 to accomodate in a pleasant environment its 5.000 workers. East Tilbury, a town created around the factory, is now in decline after the production of Bata shoes closed down its English branch in 2005 and the factories and the surrounding land now are only a ghost of what used to be when it was in function.

As an anecdote, I should tell that just at the same hour that I was taking pictures to a group of friends posing for me while pretending to throw stones in front of a wall, in a poor district North of us in London, thousands of young people started to throw stones and bottles to the police, to smash shop windows and burn buildings and cars. The London riots, which started with a pacific protest of black people after a young black guy from their community was shot dead by the police, soon took a different turn and thousands of young people of all ethnicities and generally from deprived areas of the city, and later also of other cities in England, started to loot and vandalize shops.

I cannot help thinking that if we had taken the pictures just a few hours later it would have looked dangerous and suspicious to passers-by, in the general clime of fear. The reality showed itself more violent and crude than the feeling of helplessness that I wanted to represent in youth of not only lower but also middle class. In fact, with my election of models I intended to confront the viewer with young people who are apparently not rebellious or dangerous, so all of us can somehow identify with them and their problems.


“Una de ellos” es el retrato de una componente de un grupo de jóvenes que tira piedras a las ventanas de una vieja fábrica abandonada. Mi intención con este retrato era acercar al espectador una figura que representa a muchos jóvenes, furiosos con un sistema que sienten que les ha abandonado y sacrificado en beneficio de los grandes especuladores globales. Los jóvenes se aburren sin nada que hacer y dirigen su rabia contra un edificio que resulta simbólico porque es el emblema de un viejo sistema económico en declive en los países occidentales y que, a su vez, puede también representar el trabajo que los jóvenes han perdido y su falta de perspectivas.

Durante muchos días busqué un lugar que pudiera funcionar como fondo para la escena, con un edificio industrial parecido al que había imaginado en mi primer boceto. Al final encontré justo lo que buscaba en East Tilbury, un pueblo a 50km al este de Londres creado alrededor de la fábrica de zapatos Bata. Allí tuve la oportunidad de visitar el grandioso complejo de edificios que forma parte de la vieja fábrica. Éste, muy moderno y casi utópico para los parámetros de la época de su creación, en 1932, incluía casas con jardín para los empleados, piscina, escuelas, cine y otras instalaciones para la comunidad de trabajadores. Desde que en 2005 cerró la fábrica, el complejo, tan grandioso en sus días de actividad, se ha convertido en un fantasma de lo que fue.

Como anécdota debería contar también que, justo a la misma hora a la cual estaba tomando fotos a unos amigos que simulaban tirar piedras contra un muro, en un barrio pobre más hacia el norte de Londres, miles de jóvenes empezaron a tirar botellas y piedras a la policía, a romper escaparates de tiendas y a quemar coches y edificios. Los disturbios de Londres empezaron con una protesta pacífica de gente de color tras la muerte de un joven de su comunidad a manos de la policía, pero pronto tomaron otro rumbo y miles de jóvenes de todas las razas y principalmente provenientes de barrios pobres empezaron a saquear y a destrozar tiendas.

No puedo dejar de pensar que si hubiera tomado fotos a mis amigos solamente unas horas más tarde hubiera resultado sospechoso para los que pasaban cerca y quizás peligroso debido al clima general de miedo. La realidad se demostró mucho más cruda y violenta del sentimiento de impotencia de la juventud en general, de clases baja y media, que yo quería representar. De hecho, al elegir los modelos, mi intención era poner de frente al espectador unos jóvenes que en apariencia no son revoltosos ni peligrosos, para que un poco todos nos pudieramos identificar con ellos y sus problemas.

"Los restos" by Michele Del Campo

"Los Restos" (The Remains), oil on linen, 140x180cm

I had this idea in my mind of a stray dog walking through rubbles, with a tall building standing behind and I sketched it a few months ago. I wanted to show desolation after distruction.

We are not used to see distruction and displacement in our cities of plenty, as well as we are not used to see death. Death is always there but we don't see it, if it's not by accident or in fiction, we only see life flowing. Destruction, displacement and greedy appropriation of land also is censored and made behind curtains. The drama is confined to the inner experience of whom is directly affected. In "The Remains" I have depicted a desolated environment where destruction has taken place. I have painted the skinny dog, lost among a big pile of rubble, as a symbol of life and horror at the events.

I didn't know where to find the right environment to take reference from but in art chance always plays a big part. In my last journey to Madrid, in fact, I went to see an interesting peripheral complex of buildings where people live in poor conditions. i took some pictures and, just when I was entering the tube to go back to the city center, I saw a cloud of dust raising from a nearby area. They were demolishing a building and I rushed to take some pictures (see below the real scene).


No estamos acostumbrados a ver destrucción y desalojo en nuestras ciudades de la “abundancia”, al igual que no estamos acostumbrados a contemplar la muerte. Ésta siempre está ahí pero no la vemos. Si no es por accidente o en la ficción sólo vemos la vida que trascurre. La destrucción, el desalojo y la apropiación avariciosa de suelo son censurados y suceden tras bambalinas. El drama queda confinado a la experiencia interior de aquellos directamente afectados.

En “Los restos” he representado un entorno desolado donde ha habido destrucción. El perro famélico, perdido entre los montones de escombros, simboliza la vida y el horror ante lo ocurrido.

No sabía dónde hubiera podido encontrar el escenario adecuado para tomar referencia, pero en el arte el azar y la suerte siempre juegan un papel importante. En mi reciente visita a Madrid fui a ver un interesante complejo residencial en la periferia de la ciudad donde vive gente pobre. Tomé algunas fotos y, justo cuando iba a entrar en el metro para volver al centro, ví una nube de polvo que se levantaba en un lugar cercano. Estaban demoliendo un edificio y me aprisuré para tomar las fotos que luego me sirvieron para construir la imágen del cuadro.

Variations in life drawing by Michele Del Campo

My weekly life drawings in my studio are becoming quite varied, and variation is an element that inspires change and development, important things that nurture creativity.

Professional ballet or salsa dancers, performing twins, comparisons between the clothed and the nude bodies, costumed recitals of great literature pieces and belly dancing performances are among the treats that I am introducing in every new session.

At the end of every session sometimes we have normally one or two longer poses of 20 minutes each and I take the chance to sketch with oils on scrap canvases or watercolour sketchbooks. Here you can see some of them:

Work in progress... by Michele Del Campo

I'm enjoying painting this diptych, this is the stage when everything comes together and, with the image mostly defined, it's so pleasurable to build it all up with brushes on the canvas. Some of the figures are not recognizable anymore if compared with the reference pictures, I am adapting them to a more "rough" type of young people (I will show the original pictures after I finish it...)

The painting is flowing now very easily on the canvas and every day I see it growing fast. It's a real pleasure when painting comes so easy and spontaneous on a big surface.

Journey of no Return: work in progress by Michele Del Campo

It is a delicate moment of my project: after so many sketched ideas, some photo shootings and further studies with more complex compositions, I start to paint what will be the final images. Now is when six months of gestation for my new project will see the final shape and now is when the result has to match my expectations and convey the message that I want to give.

I am now involved with one of my biggest paintings ever: a diptych of 160x400cm. Even so, because of the small scale of the characters, this new painting doesn't look that big to me, certainly it will be enjoyable to work more physically from one side to another of the canvases with big brushes.

Trip to Valencia by Michele Del Campo

For my new project "Journey of no Return" I had a particular scene in my mind, inspired by a dunes beach near Valencia and I flew all the way to there to gather reference material. In the beginning of January the sun was quite bright and the temperature higher than 20º! What a treat for someone coming from freezing  London! However pleasurable, what I needed was actually a grey, wintery setting, but luckily, towards the end of the day, colourful dark clouds would float about in the sky, giving it a little of that dramatic appearance that I was after.

In the following days I took several walks in the city to find interesting locations for some shoots. I saw a bridge and I halted to fantasise about a group of young people under it, half visible in the shadow and some of them disappearing under the beams. I soon phoned Carles, a very nice friend of mine who has loads of friends in Valencia. He was very pleased to help me and assumed all the weight of the organisation for me, phoning friends to check immediate availability and telling them what was needed for the shooting. I wanted at least four people to pose but at the end seven people turned up and were very happy to pose. It was not that easy and nice for some of them, who had to climb up to the beams by a ladder which was not long enough to make the task easy. Big thanks to all of them, particularly to Carles, for giving me their time.

I start my project "Journey of no Return" by Michele Del Campo

Finally I have begun to convert my sketches and ideas into photos that will be my main reference for my next painting project which, with many probabilities, is going to be named "Journey of no Return". After several months of thinking, doubting, processing raw ideas on paper, reading, looking at new references, experiencing real-life situations, I have come up with this new solo exhibition project which will show a darker side of the reality, in comparison with my previous paintings.

For a couple of paintings I had to look for a disused rail tunnel to use as background and, after a long research, I found just what I was looking for. It was a challenge to overcome the bourocratic obstacles that I found on my way everywhere I asked for information, help or permissions. I understood that I had to do it all by myself and try my luck. I researched, traveled, spotted the railway tunnels and found the prohibited way in: it was impressive, a tunnel filtered by the light through a series of magnificent arches.

It requiered a dose of courage and daring to organise the shooting there. I arranged everything the same day (and night...) that I found the tunnels, also thanks to the help and availability of four good friends who would be my models the next day. It was a greatly enjoyable experience for all of us and I was amazed at how they all took the shooting so seriously, also challenging the weather in one of the coldest days of the year. Three of them had no previous experience before a camera but I could not have found better "actors" to stage what my sketches only vaguely suggested.

Drawing the nude by Michele Del Campo

Life drawing is an indispensable practice for the artist, it enhances our ability to see, understand and create. Since the first official Accademia was created in the XVI Century by the Carracci brothers in Bologna (Italy) drawing the nude, activity commonly named "life drawing", has always been a central discipline for any aspiring artist.

Since I started studying arts I have never stopped practicing life drawing because I know that the quality of my work depends on the quality of my drawing. Even when using photographs as a reference, knowledge of the human form is essential to "fill the gaps" and go beyond the poor bi-dimensional reference. Lifeless portraits are the result of mere dependence on photography and poor knowledge of the features in real life.

Nevertheless it is as easy to build up drawing skills as to lose them in periods of inactivity. I can spend months without painting after a solo exhibition, when I am in search for new inspiration, and soon my ability to put visual ideas on paper suffers from lack of practice. I always compare it with sport: if you stop doing it, you will have difficulties starting again and will be out of shape. This is why I always try to do life drawing especially when I am not painting.

Life drawing in my new studio by Michele Del Campo

Since I came to London, in the beginning of 2008, I have been trying to go to places where I could draw the nude. Sometimes they were far from my house, sometimes the models were always the same and I would get bored, sometimes the classes were too full of people, sometimes too empty and they disappeared after a few weeks. But as soon as I decided to look for a bigger studio I started to cultivate the idea of using my space to host weekly life drawing sessions that I would organise myself.

That way I could not only be comfortable in my studio and have models coming over every week, but I also could create a social environment inviting friends artists and make the practice of drawing an enjoyable experience to share with them.

The idea worked out very well, also thanks to the help of my friends who continue bringing new artists. We gather every Wednesday night in my studio to draw all together, normally we are from 6 to 10 people. When we finish we go out to have a drink and talk, after all we are in Soho, there can be no better place to create a social meeting point.

"The Intruding Light" by Michele Del Campo

There are many studies behind a single piece of work. I have selected only a few here to show the process, the constant adaptation of an idea that originally is only just a scribble. I made that first scribble on a train, when I had too much time to kill, and this is how it developed some month later, when I decided to use it.

I do not do many linocuts but it is a big passion of mine, I enjoy engaging with this technique when I want to rest from painting. It gives me another way of thinking, I have to adapt my subjects to another type of imagery, with a different  scenario, composition, scale, lighting, contrast, in comparison with my paintings. Creating forms, giving the illusion of depth by just cutting white lines against a black surface is also a very different challenge from painting with colours.

At the end all comes together, although they are quite different techniques, I notice how my printmaking feeds and enriches my painting as well as my painting feeds my printmaking.

This is the final drawing