Illustration Teardowns: Italian Illustrators

For me, modern Italian Illustration is like gelato for my eyes—unapologetic yet unpretentious…risqué yet innocent.

Zooming In— illustrated by Rob Levin

In the spirit of UX Teardowns, I’ll be looking at illustrators that catch my eye, and try to analyze what makes their work so compelling. Please note that all illustrations hereinafter (besides the one above), are the express work of the artist I’m reviewing; I do not take any credit for their works! Also, I will try to be careful to post links back to the artist’s site — so if you click their image it will link through.

I’m just a plain ‘ole “Cali boy”, but I seem to have an unending affinity for the works of contemporary French and Italian illustration. Today I’ll look at the later…

First, Let’s Pay Homage

It goes without mentioning, that you’d have to live under a rock to not know that Italy has brought us many of our most important historical art giants, but, there’s also a tradition of modern Italian illustration to be aware of—for brevity, I’ll defer to a very nice article I found on this: Italy, Land of Seafarers and Illustrators which is quite well done. To the contemporaries…

Emiliano Ponzi

Emiliano Ponzi is a personal favorite. I love the fact that some of his works are a bit, well, spicy. Definitely click through to check out the variety of work (the ones I’ve listed here are a bit tamer).

Emiliano Ponzi—conceptual illustrations that provoke thought with their somewhat moodier ambiance.


  • Monochromatic with tinges of accent.
  • Great use of figure ground and atmosphere with smart use of light, shadow, and reflections.
  • I feel some of the very fine lines used, nicely offset the more blocked in shapes, and provide a sense of detail and sophistication without detracting from the overall composition
  • Still pondering how he can sneak in all the little details without straying from the Japanese zen appeal of his work :) Is it the strategic color arrangements? What do YOU guys think??

Elisa Talentino

Elisa Talentino brings gesture and whimsy to her works. Delightful and seductive at the same time! From her bio:

works with graphic, screen printing, illustration and animation…specializes in printmaking
Elisa Talantino — spontaneous and gestural illustrations that are sometimes sexy, sometimes innocent, but, always engaging!


  • There’s more spacing and generally negative space, perhaps allowing for more daring pops of color.
  • Not timid, which I love.
  • Lively and real, her stuff definitely has a “gesture-first” approach to it.

Davide Bonazzi

I feel like this illustrator might have the most consistently strong conceptual aspect to his works of the ones we have listed here. He sort of reminds me a bit of a cross between conceptual cleverness of the UK based John Holcroft, but in an aesthetic slightly more in the family of what we saw from Emiliano Ponzi earlier. I found this bit from his bio interesting:

His style combines digital and mixed media with textures of scanned found objects, in order to give his bold conceptual illustrations a warm and evocative atmosphere.

I could only imagine the found objects are materials or papers, as the rest seems conceived and painted, but I might be missing something there.

Davide Bonazzi’s “concept first” approach makes each illustration intriguing in some way
Davide Bonazzi—even simple spot illustrations have some sort of clever twist


  • He absolutely always has some sort of clever concept or twist in the idea behind the illustration.
  • Apropos to above point, he must do a lot of lo-fi sketching before fully committing to an idea.
  • Perhaps his aesthetic isn’t as consistently strong as, say, Emiliano’s, but, then again, his conceptual is probably stronger overall. It’s an interesting comparison to me, this conceptual vs. aesthetic thing. (Above is admittedly just my opinion 🙂)
  • He uses nice subtle vignette and texture to make the focal subject pop.

Marta Pantaleo

This illustrators style is a breathe of fresh air with her organic and hand drawn aesthetic. I hadn’t discovered her until writing this article, but I find the analog and painterly vibe quite agreeable indeed. She studied:

Graphic Design at Accademy of Fine Arts in Rome…studied illustration at Mimaster in Milan.
Marta Pantaleo—fresh and lively illustrations—Marta has her own signature style


  • Gorgeous painterly approach
  • I quite like the little bips of white paper coming through. It gives a very authentic and hand-crafted appeal. How about you?
  • In general, I find her use of color bold and unapologetic.
  • Conceptually, a bit more literal and perhaps, less abstract (but that’s like, totally fine when it looks so refreshing right!?!)

Riccardo Guasco

Hailing from Alessandria, I found this bit interesting from his About page:

He researches the lightness of form and color of the heat and he does it with a few colors and simple lines.
He loves old posters of the 30’s, Picasso, Depero, Feininger, the russian suprematism, the cubism and heroic cycling of old times.
Riccardo Guasco’s style features a bit more of a geometric and abstract vibe
I’m loving the super narrow perspective of the buildings on the right in this Guasco illustration


  • Geometric and abstract mixed with some organic more literal elements. Well, he says he’s in to Russian Suprematism and we see that influence.
  • Maybe he’s using some sort of parchment or other papers with a blend mode as the background has a rich texture that says this.
  • Very thoughtful placement of shadows, and even overlapping shadows which give a neat sense of life and atmosphere contrasting nicely against the more geometric vibe. Same for reflections.
  • A touch of Gestalt, as he strategically lets the viewer fill out some of the elements (e.g. the boats on the above illustration).

Sarah Mazzetti

Sarah is an illustrator based out of Milano, Italy. Her illustrations are bold and lively…

Sarah Mazzetti’s illustrations are fun while whimsically intense
Mazzetti’s illustrations bring a sense of action and a sense of movement


  • Mid-century influences with a contemporary feel
  • Interesting and unpredictable shapes to common forms and figures—she does mention that she’s influenced by Lora Lamm and Alex Steinweiss, which, perhaps comes through in the figures.
  • Bold color and underlying movement in the line of action of her illustration

Honorable Mentions

I’m trying not to make this too long-winded, so here are some more Italian illustrators I think are incredible and you should check out:

Next in series Figures Included. Previous in series: Jessica Brilli. Also, you may like one of my other illustration teardowns.

Rob Levin does technical things by day and illustration by night. You can view his work at and