"I am very nocturnal and music helps me push a lot on the stars and focus on the night in my drawings. It’s the moment of the day when everything is quiet - that I like a lot."
Welcome, all you moto enthusiasts! Our guest today grew up in Monza, Italy, the home of the Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix. He spent years just a stone's throw away from the track on which history's been made countless times and that’s where he found his love in motorcycles. His art is bold and beautiful and features space and stars as a recurring theme. Out of this world is just one way to describe it.
Wait... Instead of indulging you with all the details here, let’s move on and introduce our artist and you can read all about him yourself. Introducing Francesco Colombo A.K.A @ivoworks!
Left: Francesco Colombo, obsessed with stars. Skateboard deck inspired by Moby's "We are all made of stars".
Mallika: It’s great to get to know you and have your work in the MAS shop. Your illustration style is so unique and has such a different perspective. Can you tell us about yourself and the things that have influenced your work?
Francesco: I was born in Monza, close to Milan, and live there. My home town is historically the seat of Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix and that’s what it’s known for and nothing else. I live very close to Autodromo and I used to go there anytime it was possible to watch not much Formula 1 because it’s boring but superbike races or other types of car races. It’s only 15 minutes away by cycle. Also, my father used to have a Suzuki TT Titan from the 70s and he used to tell stories about his youth, riding his motorbike, going on trips, and racing with friends.
Blast from the past, Francesco's father with his Suzuki TT Titan. We are drooling over this one!
I also lived for a couple of years in Australia, so I got some influences from surf culture and living in the desert. These were various elements that molded my passion for speed.
Mallika: Tell us more about your drawing style. We noticed that stars and lightning strikes are always present in your illustrations. Where do these come from?
Francesco: What I like to do most in my illustration is to tell stories about traveling, caught in different moments and places, like deserts, mountains especially during the night. I draw motorcycles because, for different reasons, I can't have a motorbike. My mother keeps reminding me that motorcycles are dangerous. I don’t think they are dangerous if you use them properly. What is dangerous here in Italy are the car drivers because they don’t pay much attention on the road. If people could be more civilised, it could be less difficult to ride. I also don’t have the physical space to store my motorbike, no garage. And I could park it outside and cover it with a tarp but that wouldn’t be good. So, I draw them which for me is like a way to have more motorcycles instead of just one. And I live my trips in the drawings. I'm a Moto Guzzi lover, a famous Italian brand. I think because my grandad was a fan too
When I lived in Australia, I was working on a farm for many months and living in a desert. It was very dry with some desert plants. Like Arizona and Joshua Tree where there are lots of desert plants and bushes, no sand dunes. I remember the first time I saw the Milky Way and it was absolutely stunning. That’s something you will never see in Italy because there is too much light. Moby has a song “We are all made of stars” which has had a heavy influence on me.
I love space as well so it all connects together. Lightning is to give more power and a high-speed effect on the vehicles that I draw. Music is another element that has a lot of effect on my work. Sometimes when I draw in the night, I put on chillwave music even though I am a metalhead. I am very nocturnal and music helps me push a lot on the stars and focus on the night in my drawings. It’s the moment of the day when everything is quiet that I like a lot.
Top row: Work and pleasure in the deserts of Australia Bottom row: Moonrider illustration inspired by the trip to Kennedy Space Center
Mallika: I’ve spent a lot of time in Joshua Tree and Death Valley. Vast deserts definitely have an ever lasting effect on most people. Makes you see and feel a lot more than you would otherwise. It’s so great that you are able to channel everything so beautifully into your art. The peacefulness of your night sky is in striking contrast to the powerful speeding vehicles. How has your drawing style evolved over the years?
Francesco: At the very beginning my art was for t-shirts. That's why the black and white technique. I was drawing everything by hand, scanning, and post-producing in illustrator to keep the trace as original as possible. A couple of years ago I took part in a doodling workshop with an Italian illustrator, called Fra Design. He explained how to create a doodle illustration and all the secrets behind artworks. What impressed me was the process that he brings to every illustration. I decided to take a step forward following that creative method, adding elements to make my artworks recognizable and more personal.
Clockwise from top left: Workshop at Fra Design, Works in progress, experimenting with spray paints and black and white illustrations that feature stars and lightning strikes prominently.
My favorite artists are Fra Design as mentioned above (for the versatility of his drawing style: he can basically illustrate very different concepts just using some strategic graphic elements), I also love Ryan Roadkill a lot (for the colors), Stoke and Bear (for the accuracy in her portraits), David Vicente and the Bomonster (both for vehicles they are used to represent).
My art is changing a little bit now. There will be more color. I am experimenting with new techniques such as collage. But doing collage with my own drawings instead of taking images from magazines and newspapers. It’s something that will make my art more personal. Now I am getting more focused on what I feel instead of what people feel and what the trends are. So there will still be lightning, stars, motorcycles, and cars but maybe on the moon, on mars, in space, with astronauts and more color.
Mallika: We have been noticing some of these changes in your latest posts. What are some challenges you have faced in trying to bring your motorcycle art to new audiences and how have you addressed these?
Francesco: I really love my country but the mentality is that if you are an artist then you are not doing anything useful in your life. And that it’s such a waste of time. People will appreciate your art but if they have to pay then that’s a problem. Why do I have to pay for art? You have to understand that it takes time, even if it’s digital. What changes is the technique and the medium, but it needs the same strength and creativity. It’s hard to explain.
I try to participate in the local market but you have to push a lot. Trying to bring my art to motorcycle magazines hasn't been easy either. I have to say thank you to those who believed in my skills at the beginning and gave me the chance to express myself. I am currently doing illustrations for Kustom World Magazine every two months.
That's why I love to get in contact and share my art with people from other countries.
Collaboration with GDesign, Italy that built "Lost in Space", a Buell XB9.
Mallika: We have similar issues here in India. If you are not a big-time known artist then it’s really hard to get a serious audience. New and emerging artists are hardly given any consideration as compared to in western countries such as America where there is a thriving market for such artists. Here we find people bargaining over even a Rs 50 sticker which is less than a US dollar. Everyone expects us to work for free or rather for “exposure”. If only exposure paid bills.
Francesco: I think that because in the US they don’t have much history as we have in Italy they tend to appreciate new art more. In Italy, we take it for granted. You’ve got the cathedrals and it’s normal. You just go there, you work and you see. Like you said, if you are an emerging artist, in America or even Australia, they see new possibilities and perspectives and are more open-minded. In Italy it’s bad.
Mallika: That’s a really interesting perspective. Our home countries have such long cultural histories and heritages that the art market is flooded. And in India, a lot of it is still dominated by traditional artwork, gods and goddesses, horses and cows and village scenes. Contemporary art that explores the changing Indian culture is still hard to find. So good luck to us.
What’s the story behind Ivo Works?
Francesco: Ivo (pronounced Eevo) was my grandad and Ivo Works means the workshop that belongs to Ivo. My grandad used to repair bicycles in his basement. He passed away 10 years ago.
I started doing screen printing 5 years ago on T-shirts and set up the operation in his space. For paying respect to him and his space, I decided to use his name. And hoping that he will help me and guide me on where I want to go. I really loved him. We used to talk about everything. His passion was bicycles and he was a big fan of Moto Guzzi.
Last year I went to the Moto Guzzi factory in Mondelo for the Guzzi open house. It’s a small recreational event where you can go and meet other fans, drink beer. From that visit, I understood the passion behind this brand. The people are very connected to the brand. I almost felt like crying when I was there because I’ve never seen so many motorcycles together linked to this passion. That’s when I understood why my grandad was such a big fan of Moto Guzzi.
Photos from Francesco's visit to the Moto Guzzi factory. Right: The fast and furious Moto Guzzi V8 from the 1950s that inspired Francesco's illustrations available in our store.
Mallika: That must have been one hell of an experience! And it’s wonderful that you are able to channel your grandfather and his life into yours. It really shows your compassionate side. What are you working on these days?
Francesco: I'm currently working on a design for a skateboard deck. I am also working on some artwork for a motocross apparel brand. I will release a new artwork for Kustom World Magazine, this time with a metaphor for a particular situation due to coronavirus.
Mallika: It’s been amazing talking to you. Thank you for sharing your life with us. Is there anything else you would like to share?
Francesco: I think Moto Art Show is a great project and a different opportunity to help artists get in contact, create, collaborate, and spread moto art to a wider audience. Motorcycles are not only for riding and traveling. I think it's about being part of the modern world that is made of many shades. One of these is art. It helps to convey what riding feels like and gives an insight into the motorcycle communities. I would like to thank Moto Machao for introducing me to Moto Art Show.
Francesco Colombo, a 100% Monza product.
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This is your host Mallika Prakash a.k.a. @mallikamoto signing off! See you soon!
Mallika Prakash is a motoartist and a curator who started life in Delhi, her art career in San Francisco and recently moved to Bangalore. She started Moto Art Show in 2018 in response to a lack of opportunity to exhibit motoart in India and began curating and hosting motorcycle-centric art exhibitions, bringing together a like minded community. She is extremely passionate about carving a space for motoart and everything it has to offer in the physical art world.