Magpies and Pretty Things: An Unusual Interview with Italian artist Sara Lando

by . November 20th, 2012

Inspiration is one of the many things that a graphic designer looks for in his work. It can be found in many different things; from the partners that we have to our own family, or from mundane activities that we do to the small things that we see every day. While inspiration may be a small part of an artist’s work, it’s a vital cog to the clockwork we know as creativity.

We’ll be serving a different kind of inspiration for this entry. This post will be far from our usual posts of collected graphic design news and inspiration; this post will be more about how an artist found her love, lost it, and then found it again (and how she did it). Here’s our interview with Italian artist, photographer extraordinaire, and superb creative Sara Lando.


YTD: Tell us something about yourself.


SARA: My name is Sara Lando, I’m 34 years old and I’m an Italian photographer.

It started as a passion of mine and over time I turned it into a full time job, which is awesome. I married a graphic and web designer, which means we spend a lot of time together, arguing over projects.

 We live in a small town in the north of Italy and we don’t lead a crazy life: we spend a lot of time in the studio, we play videogames, meet with friends, watch way too many TV series… the great thing about our jobs is that we can work wherever there’s a decent Internet connection and a plug for our laptops, so we can live basically whenever we want.

YTD: You’ve got an extensive portfolio – you’re into photography, web and graphic design, and a graphic novel under your name. How do you handle all that in your schedule?


SARA: What I manage to do is unfortunately very little compared to what I would love to do.

 When I am working I am extremely focused. I don’t let stuff distract me from my work and I don’t let work distract me when I’m working on my projects.

 I have found out that if I don’t make time for my personal projects they just don’t happen, so I treat myself the same way I treat my clients and schedule time for what I need to do.

 I also learnt the importance of saying no to things that might make me stray too much from the direction I want to go.

YTD: Which was your first love (photography, web design, or graphic design)?


SARA: I actually started with words. I used to write a lot when I was a teenager. Then I studied graphic and web design at university. I bought a digital camera and I found out I loved using it. After spending a semester at RISD I realized that photography was a great way to mic my love for storytelling and my passion for visuals.

YTD: Going back to your portfolio and projects, your graphic novel, Magpies, got most of our attention – it’s exhilaratingly beautiful. What was your inspiration in creating such an emotionally charged graphic novel? (Btw, we read your introduction)


SARA: Thank you! <3

 It started with words, like it often happens with my work. I have a small moleskine notebook with me at all times and I had written this short thing in 7 chapters to come to terms with my fear of losing people I love.

 There are way too many autobiographical references: It’s probably the most accurate self-portrait I have ever taken.

 I had some visuals in mind, but I couldn’t find the right way to illustrate it. It was most of all a matter of not having enough experience with the technical sides of photography, back then. It was something I knew could be good, I wanted it to be the best thing it could be, so I decided to put it aside and wait.

 Every now and then I would try something new with it, but it just didn’t work.

 Then last year I embarked on a funny project: each week, for a year, I randomly picked a work and took a self-portrait using mixed media and no photoshop (you can see a selection here)

 Around week 34 I started working with cutouts and that seemed to have the kind of aesthetic quality I wanted for Magpies.

 Then my shoulder started having problems: I found myself unable to work for months. I needed to find something to keep myself from going insane and I decided to retrieve Magpies and finally do something with it. We moved to Los Angeles for three months and there, without distractions or excuses, I worked an average of 12 hours per day. Often going to bed around 3 or 4 in the morning.

YTD: We see some hints of Dave Mckean’s Sandman work in there, is he a major inspiration for the graphic novel’s look and feel?


SARA: Dave Mckean has always been a huge source of inspiration for me. Mr. Punch is still my favorite graphic novel of all times and even if I try to be true to my own voice I am extremely aware he had a huge impact in the way I see things. I think another artist I have a huge debt of gratitude towards is Gilbert Garcin

YTD: We noticed that your web and graphic design portfolio and photography works are worlds apart in terms of mood, what affects this stark difference between your works?


SARA: That’s because Papermoustache is two people: me and my husband Alessandro (who palys mr. Tippletoe in Magpies, BTW)

 He’s in charge of the web and graphic design, while I’m responsible for photography. Even when I’m working on a web design project, it’s his vision, mostly.

 We found that having precise roles makes relationship so much easier.

 Also, most of the graphic and web design stuff is commissioned, so there’s more of a commercial vibe to it. I don’t keep most of my commercial work in my portfolio, because it doesn’t represent me as well as the rest of the stuff I do.

YTD: How does a creative like you begin her day?


SARA: Possibly running.

 It clears my head, makes me feel like I have accomplished something and it keeps me healthy.

 And then Alessandro and I eat a good breakfast while watching cartoons. We watched all of Family Guy seasons, Spongebob Squarepants, and we’re now in the process of watching every episode of Adventure Time.

 We walk to the studio discussing projects and exchanging ideas and then we are sucked into all the crazy work we need to do. Most days we don’t talk to each other until we close down.

YTD: What’s the toughest project you handled? How did it go?


SARA: I was one of the authors for a dvd photography course published by DeAgostini, a pretty big Italian publisher.

We worked on it for nearly two years, when we were shooting the videos the schedule was often crazy and I would wake up at 4am to be on set at 8:30 and then I’d be back home after midnight.

This forced me to learn to really manage deadlines and work with a team and be on top of technical stuff. It was hard but I really grew a lot during those two years and I am extremely grateful to Canon and DeAgostini for including me in this project.

YTD: What’s the best thing that happened to you in your whole career?


SARA: It’s a tough one, because I think where I am now isn’t a matter of one big breakout, but rather a sequence of small decision and consistently working hard.

 But I’m not sure anything will ever beat the feeling of standing in my studio on the first day I opened it. It felt like anything was possible and it is.

 I think every artist has to be somehow delusional, a little bit.

 We create because we think someone out there will care about what we do :)

YTD: What else do you do, aside from being creative all the time?


SARA: I run (I’m hoping to run my first marathon next fall, in Loch Ness), I read a lot of books, watch movies, spend as much time as I can with my family.

 I also spend way too much time on the Internet. Waaaay too much time.

YTD: Who inspired you to pursue your career?


SARA: Corny as it is, I owe it all to Alessandro. I was working in an advertising agency in Milan as a graphic designer and I was really unhappy. I loved photography and I used to say stuff like “if only I could be a photographer…”. Alessandro just looked at me and asked me why I was saying it like I couldn’t. He made a couple of very practical questions and then he told me something that changed my life: “well, what’s the worst thing that could happen to you if you try? You could fail. Big deal. You’ll look for a new job, which is what you should do anyway. You can do anything you want and you’re not alone in this, you know that, right?”.

 I work really hard trying to become the person he believes I am :)


YTD: Any artist or designer who inspired you creatively?


SARA: Oh my, too many to mention!

 In no particular order: Charles and Ray Eames, Thomas Devaux, Gabriella Barouch, Cornelia Konrads, Rafael Grampá, Theo Jansen, Kumi Yamashita, Kate Clark, Tonkin Liu, Roberto Ferri, Egon Schiele, Wes Anderson… but these are just the first who come to mind right away.

 I also spend a lot of time on the Internet and there’s a huge number of non-famous people doing amazing work out there.

YTD:  Final message?


SARA: Don’t eat the yellow snow!

 (Kidding. But no, really. Do NOT eat it)

 Thanks for having me and if you’re interested in contributing to the printed version of Magpies, here’s the link to the Indiegogo Page. 


Check out Sara’s stunning work on her official website and don’t forget to check out Magpies because it is a gem that will definitely take your breath away.



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