Kero is a highly talented illustrator and visual artist from Italy. She’s responsible for designing some of the most intricate and detailed record sleeves and posters we’ve seen this year, including Clockwork and Avatism’s ‘Conducting The Method‘ EP on Vakant, Madteo’s ‘Insider‘ EP on Morphine plus almost all of Life and Death’s imagery. In the interview below Kero opens up about her background in illustration, her love for Xerox printed underground party flyers, her role as the in-house illustrator for Life and Death, plus her insatiable appetite for electronic music.
Kero has provided a selection of designs and illustrations for this feature. To view them in full, click on the expandable arrow icon, located top right of the image above. We will also be sharing them through our Instagram channel.
Please can you give us an introduction about who you are, what you do and where you’re based?
I was born in early 1987 and was basically raised by wolves in a little village in the south of Italy; I can consider myself a bit of a gypsy.
I’ve been studying and working in Rome for 7 years and now I’m living in Genoa working as a visual journalist for one of the main Northern Italian newspapers by day and as a freelancer by night.
What’s your background in the arts, graphic design and illustration?
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember; my mom always encouraged me to draw (even on the house walls). After the high school I started to study illustration and visual arts then decided that I wanted my passion to be a determining part of my life and it brought me here where I am now.
Which designers and artists did you study whilst growing up? What was it about their visual aesthetic that caught your eye?
To be honest I can’t stipulate a list of designers and artists that I followed or helped me build my own artistic personality, but if I had to pick some names out of the blue I’d say Hugo Pratt for his dreamy watercolour sceneries, Jean Giraud (Moebius), David Hockney, Daniel Egneus, Rick Gooding, Christo, Le Corbusier and Niemeyer.
I love architectural sketches but at the same time I relish that Xerox print feeling of underground party flyers, I also grew up under the manga and street art wing. At the end of the day I just like people who can tell proper good and honest stories, that’s what really drives my passion for what I do.
What mediums and materials do you use when producing artwork?
A friend of mine once said that I switch style as quickly as a change my socks, if I see something that I really like my brain goes “COOL! I want to try that out too!”
I’ve been using almost all the materials and resources out there: ink, pencils, watercolours, acrylics, etching, collage… you name it, but I never liked oils, too slow and smelly.
When you’re commissioned to design something, what’s the first thing you do in your creative process?
First off it depends who has commissioned the artwork.
Some people (luckily just a small percentage) are just like “since you are so good with pencils can you draw me this?” then my reactions could be:
- I like the idea and I crack on.
- I don’t like the proposal, but because of my feral and “Mediterranean” temper I start brainstorming until we find the right compromise.
The second option is often more satisfying, you push yourself to the limits, cross your own borders and grow up.
Which projects have you most enjoyed working on and why?
I don’t feel like I can actually choose a favourite project.
There’s a special bond that ties me to everything I’ve done, from the first flyers for parties I did in Rome (Rashomon Club and Rebel-Rebel), to the Life And Death and Parachute branding and some other outsider commissions (i.e.: Morphine and Vakant),
I learnt something from it all. If you’re lucky you get to meet tremendously acculturated people, and working with them turns out being fantastic; everything they say is a special gift your brain feeds off of. Working with Rabih was exactly like that, he was like a huge wisdom oracle filled with outputs sending signals to my brain, I was literally overwhelmed with inspiration at that time.
Where do you source images from? Are they all yours or do you spend hours trawling the Internet, books or even ‘Flickr Commons’ for inspiration?
I browse A LOT!
I’m a sort of Tumblr devoted, but the Internet is full of stuff, how can you stay away from it? There are innumerous platforms to feed off.
On the other side books are my loyal companions, people who know me well will know what to expect if I invite them over to my place: infinite stacks of books, prints, sketches. Luckily I live alone; sometimes I think I should get married to a cleaning lady.
How would you describe your aesthetic to those who haven’t seen your work before?
I would call it a clustering ‘imaginarium’ as I am an “empath” I tend to absorb and process everything around me. I mostly feed off my feelings, I code them into symbols to communicate how I feel.
What are the limitations for designing artwork for a record or poster?
Working on a brief is always challenging, you have to start from a brief, sometimes there isn’t even a brief, so you have to be particularly propositive and await a response.
Do you want to break away from the music industry?
I don’t think I will ever “exonerate” myself from the music industry, even if I’d love to do a variety of different things, music has always played an important role in my life, this is because I believe that on a metaphysical level it is one of the most “democratic” forms of art on planet Earth. Everyone can listen to music and everyone can get it or be hit by it in a different way or form.
You’re the in-house illustrator for Life & Death and their techno sister label Parachute Records. How did you get involved with the collective?
I met one of the two founders of Life and Death, (Manfredi) long before he declared himself to the world as DJ Tennis and we immediately clicked.
He had this big contagious laugh and this beautiful and positive attitude that made me feel comfortable since day one. He also has tons of stories to tell, because besides being a DJ and a producer I see him mainly as a “vision-sharer” (and a good listener amongst everything else).
This friend of ours introduced me as: “This is Kero, she is pretty good at drawing” and shortly after that I received an email from him asking if I’d be up to work on the Pillow Talk cover. We’ve been working together ever since.
The Parachute project was thought of before but only officially launched last year. I was immediately caught with enthusiasm to start another project. Mainly because routines bore me to death, and Francesco (Clockwork) who’s running the label is one of my best friends actually, we find ourselves on the same page on a lot of things, I love his energy and we’re actually having a lot of fun doing this together.
Do you hang out with other designers and artists?
Most of my friends have jobs that are somehow related to different forms of art, but right now I miss the good old days in Rome when I was still young and reckless, going out on Tuesdays and coming back home on Mondays… cold blooded old times.
What music are you into?
I grew up to Pink Floyd (thanks to dad) and The Beatles (thanks to my uncle). I still see myself as a musical virtuosa switching from Blind Guardian to Pixies, from MF Doom to Shackleton and so on…
I would never get tired of Doolittle (Pixies), Transformer (Lou Reed) and many others milestones in music history, A Break In The Clouds (Holden) will always have a special place in my heart next to Rest (Isolée), the whole TTT (The Trilogy Tapes) catalogue and Wrong Meeting (Two Lone Swordsmen).
Finally do you have any words of wisdom to leave us with?
Never take yourself too seriously.
Discover more about Kero on Inverted Audio.