East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Francesco A. Pizzo – the Take Away Interview

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As announced, here is the first Take Away Interview. I will use this new series to meet authors and other creatives and interesting people in general, and let them provide contents for my blog. Because I am lazy, but I am also curious. I hope you are, too.
Curious, not lazy.

I have a nice list of prospect interviewees, and for starters, I have asked a few questions to Francesco Antonio Pizzo, the artist whose Patreon I pointed out to you a few days back. Because he’s a fellow Italian, and because I like the idea of Italians making a name for themselves outside of our local market.

So, without further ado, here’s the interview.

Welcome to Karavansara, Francesco, and thank you for accepting this kind of interview.

Thanks for the opportunity, I’m flattered.

Let’s start from the basics. Who are you, what do you do? A quick presentation for the readers of this blog.

My name is Francesco Antonio Pizzo and I work as a microscultor or sculptor of miniatures for table games and collector’s pieces.

A question off the bat: have you read any good books recently? Seen a good movie? Something you would like to suggest us?

I see little TV and watch a few movies. The last interesting thing I saw was Luther, the TV show made with little money by the BBC if I’m not mistaken, with an excellent Idris Elba. The series is very dark, without the need to bother demons and supernatural, never banal, keeps on the razor’s edge but without forced things. We will never see a next season I’m afraid due to the success of the actor.

Recently I read don’t read much, I think it’s an typical Italian problem, I’ve read up to 48 books in a year in the past, but my chronic lack of time severely reduced this figure. I mention only “Avventurieri sul Crocevia del Mondo” in which I appreciated the laid-back tone but at the same time the historical accuracy, it reminds me very much the talks of Alessandro Barbero, a historian I really appreciate (I do not want to blandish you, but I really liked it).

I will also mention the latest book in the “The First Law” trilogy, “The Last Argument of Kings” by Joe Abercrombie. If in previous books one appreciated more the well-defined characters, the fluent writing and a certain decidedly raw realism for as regards the story, I was however decided to brand it as the classic fantasy with some new features here and there, but the last book turns everything upside down and it does by adding a whole other level to the characters, in short, it does not reinvent the wheel, but makes it turn well. For the rest now I read only books of philosophy and history.

Let’s come to business. You are a creator and designer of miniatures, I imagine aimed at board games and role-playing games. How was your activity born? Are you a player, or a fan of fantastic literature and art? How much has the passion mattered in carrying out your business?

I’m not sure this is the right issue…

At the age of 15 I found the 2.4 issue of Kaos, a magazine dedicated to role-playing games, and picked it up because I was already into fantasy books (“The Dragonbone Chair” was a revelation for me, a rereading today left a bitter taste), I saw the first miniatures, so I went to a store in my city that was advertised in that magazine, and bought the basic box of Warhammer third edition. Obviously I was opposed by my parents (I remember my mother in particular “How much do these puppets cost?” And I “Er, about 100 liras a model”, “Wow, you have at least 100 models, but how much have you squandered!?!”) , mocked by friends and relatives, then only with the support from my brother I carried on with this hobby.

At the age of 20, I opened my shop, can you believe it, of miniatures, comics and modeling, a 10-year ordeal, because I clashed with reality but above all with Italian bureaucracy and taxation … In the meantime I had decided to try and to sculpt something and to my surprise (and many others’) I pulled out a barely decent barbarian, but it was still something considering I did not have any art study background and no talent ever recognized by my parents or by my teachers; from there I started doing it during shop work and even at night. I closed the shop before my son was born and because of his birth (the shop engaged me all day every day, I did not want to do that life anymore and never see him); by then I could claim some experience with the sculpture of models and I started hustling my works on the advice of a friend who saw an announcement. I was hired almost immediately in 2011 for the re-release of WarZone and by that happy man, Paolo Parente, for Dust.

I do not play, I do not paint and I have not built anything for a while, 10 years I think. Apart from the cosmic vacuum surrounding this kind of hobby (the people I met during the decade in my shop either stopped or left the country). The main problem for me is the lack of time, I feel I do not have enough time for anything. I started precisely because it was my passion at the time, just diluted by the hormonal agitation of adolescence, but now I have some difficulty calling myself passionate really, it’s a really strange time for me, I don’t know if it depends on having turned my hobby into my job or if it’s just simple fatigue.

An old tradition of my interviews: while we chat, we eat a bite (these are, after all, the Take Away Interviews). What do I order for you? Pizza, Chinese or kebab? And to drink?

I am not a sophisticate, however for me the top is the busiate allo scoglio. To drink a sparkling white wine, perhaps with a peachy fruity taste. Should you ever get out of the den (I myself have this problem) and take a ride around here, let me know and I’ll be happy to have you as my guest for dinner.

Busiate allo scoglio – not your everyday’s take away lunch.

As a person absolutely hapless on a figurative level, I am always fascinated by those who can create complex and marvelous works like those seen on your Patreon page. Do you want to explain to readers how one gets so good? Is there a definite path, or is growth left to the initiative of the individual? What are the essential skills? What tools do you use?

I also am hapless. As a kid, they immediately branded me as talentless where music and art were concerned. Neither my parents nor the school have ever recognized anything or awakened an interest in anything. Had I not picked up that magazine, perhaps my life would be different in an exaggerated way. I found affinity only for literary subjects, in particular history always fascinated me. I started by chance, maybe by mistake (for my relatives, except my brother, it was definitely the wrong path). I started without too many claims and without worrying too much about the opinion of others and about the result in general, with a lot (perhaps too much) of critical spirit I corrected my attempts, looked where I could improve or what I did not understand; add a bit of stubbornness and here I am. I still tell myself that I can not draw, even if my wife says the opposite, and I am moderately satisfied with my illustrations, yet I am intimidated by a pencil and a blank paper. Even I remain enthralled by the magic of those who can draw and pull out whole worlds with but a pencil, several times I started a planned learning path with all the trappings of the case to learn how to draw, but then I stop, always stop after the first steps, I think because I get tired, or maybe because when I draw I do not feel the magic that I feel when I others draw; I do not stop wanting to learn but I do not want to do it anymore.

Knowing the anatomy is very good and here the rub, and in this area I feel the lack of classical studies. For the rest, stubbornness, ability to observe and strong critical sense, these are to me the essential requirements. On the subject of anatomy, one of the best books ever made is Italian and this makes us reflect on how backwards we are in a field that has seen us excel for centuries. Now everything seems to have moved elsewhere.

I started with green matter and a tool created by a friend that I still have here. In 2006 I switched to digital to create illustrations because I did not have the money to pay the illustrators I liked, and I wanted to create something on my own. Persecuted by the anathema that I had no talent for drawing, I thought I could cheat by going digital (at the time I had a distorted view of the thing), and since I had already modeled thought to make illustrations in 3D; at the time zbrush had just hit the market and the illustrations made with that software had a pictoric feel and not the stiffness and excessive clean looks of 3D illustrations; it took me 6 years to study, give up and resume – learning the software I had chosen was then a further obstacle (zbrush, blender, affinity, but in the middle I studied and abandoned others, Silo, Mudbox, Modo, Softimage, photoshop, etc. .). As for my hardaware, it is quite modest, just consider I still use an Intuos 3 tablet from 2006.

As a commercial artist, you have to balance your creativity and audience preferences. How many degrees of freedom do you have, in your work? Do you have prevailing inspirations for your work?

This is one of the main reasons why I started Patreon. From customers sometimes I receive absurd requests (like war transsexual robots, no kidding), also immediately when I started I was reluctant, when asked, to make changes that made the model, in my opinion, less pleasant. With Patreon I still have to pay attention to the market, but the design is mine and I follow my choices, I think I will also want to paint my models. From all this I except only Boyd’s Toys, a company for which I designed more than 200 models and for which I had a great creative freedom, the owner, John, immediately proved to be a friend and has also passed over my initial distrust: I was burned by years of work in which I found, for the most part, quite unpleasant people (fortunately not all, many are good people).

I find my inspiration in Warhammer: the old, rotten world filtered by dirty black ink and yellowed pages of the Role Playing game dedicated to it has left its mark. The other source of inspiration is Adrian Smith, his works for Chronopia really struck me and from there I started to follow him. Another artist is Clint Langhley, his darkest works are a source of great inspiration for me.

Adrian Smith’s Chronopia.

You can be supported on Patreon. Explain how it works, and why it’s nice to be your Patrons.

Those who support me on Patreon receives all that I can produce in the month plus a welcome pack, a total of about ten models for a dozen euros, a bargain 🙂 These are digital files, so either you are already equipped with a 3d printer or you need to contact a 3d printing service. The pieces, excluding the welcome package (which is available only by following my on Patreon), remain available only for the month in which I introduce them, then they are sold at regular prices (from 5 to 10 euros, more or less, each) on the site of Ghamak and on the site of Boyd’s Toys. My patrons can also ask for the next pieces to be sculpted, I design them according to my taste, which they seem to appreciate quite a lot.

Little by little, I feel that dealing with Patreon I’m getting back the desire to do that I had when I started about 20 days, and it is already giving excellent results (I mean for the sector to which I address) both in purelòy financial terms but especially for the support and the warmth of the people who follow me; even now, according to all those who spoke up, mine are the best miniatures that you can find through Patreon and not only, which makes me very happy, so much to boast of the result even with my mother (my father pretends to be impressed, but I know that for him all this remains silly 🙂

Is there anything you wanted to talk about and I did not think to ask you?

Soon I will launch an Indiegogo campaign to begin production and sale of physical copies of the models I create for Patreon. For the rest, I think I’ve already bored your readers enough 🙂

And at this point thanks for the availability, good luck for your projects, and do not forget to leave here below the links to your sites and your social networks.

This is my Patreon
My site:
My facebook page:
The Boyd’s Toys site
Here you can see my models in a 3d view:
Here my resume and portfolio, both not updated:

May the good wolf keep me safe in his jaws and leave me in a warm and dry place 🙂

Thanks and bye!

Thanks to you Davide

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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