Episode 120 – Laboratory of Imagination


Virtual Memories Show:
Lorenzo Mattotti – Laboratory of Imagination

“In my work, I always try to arrive at a new level of capacity. To do that, you must be ready spiritually. When I arrive at that level, there is a fear. You have to break your knowledge to arrive at that level.”


Lorenzo Mattotti is one of my favorite artists (and cartoonists and illustrators), so it was a thrill to sit down to record with him during Toronto Comic Arts Festival! We talked about his newest book, Hansel and Gretel, how a trip to Patagonia led to a new phase of his art, and why he decided to become a cartoonist instead of a painter (while making his rep in fashion illustration). Give it a listen!

“I’m always curious to look back at my early work, because sometimes I’m so depressed and so lost that I need to go back and say, ‘Look at this! You were able to do that! Go on!’ And sometimes I look at my work and think it was another person who did that.”

coloricataWe talk about the interaction between his comics, paintings, and commercial illustration work, the thread of transformation myths in his comics, how he’s learned to improvise after mastering a controlled style, why he prefers working with writers over writing stories by himself, what fashion taught him about technique and glamour, his “poor parents'” reaction to his comics, his need to find new artistic challenges, how he does those amazing New Yorker covers, who he’s reading, and more!

“[Pinocchio] became a laboratory of imagination. I see how I can return to it year after year and make new interpretations of it.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

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About our Guest

Lorenzo Mattotti is a highly sought-after illustrator (with frequent appearances in and on The New Yorker) and acclaimed graphic novelist. His books include Fires, Murmur, Works, Pinocchio, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Stigmata, The Raven (with Lou Reed), The Crackle of the Frost, and his newest book, Hansel and Gretel (with Neil Gaiman). In addition to his comics and illustration work, Lorenzo Mattotti is a highly respected multi-disciplinary artist, from reinterpreting reinterpreting the models of the most famous fashion designers for “Vanity” magazine, to designing the title sequences for the film “Eros” by Wong Kar-wai, to directing an animated version of his work in the animation anthology “Fears of the Dark.” He lives in Paris, France with his wife Rina and their two children. His wife owns and runs Galerie Martel.

Credits: This episode’s music is Optical Sound by Human Expression. The conversation was recorded at the Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Mr. Mattotti by me.

What It Is: 6/8/09

What I’m reading: Plutarch’s life of Coriolanus, which makes me wonder how good Shakespeare’s play is. There’s a neat passage in this bio that I’ll transcribe and post a little later, about the role of the gods in human action.

What I’m listening to: Joe Jackson’s Night and Day.

What I’m watching: You Don’t Mess With The Zohan, 8 1/2 and M*A*S*H. Yes, I’m all over the place.

What I’m drinking: Plymouth & Q Tonic.

What Rufus is up to: Getting his leg stitched up last Tuesday, having a great folllowup on Friday, making weekend appearances at our local farmers market and our greyhound hike, and inspiring a Philadelphia-based work-related pal to adopt a greyhound! It’s been a busy week!

Where I’m going: Nowhere. See above.

What I’m happy about: Seeing my first Fellini flick and reveling in the gorgeous compositions and the gorgeouser women.

What I’m sad about: That Amy was away this weekend, visiting her family. I wasn’t sad that she was visiting the family, but my anxiety level over taking care of Rufus solo — especially now that he’s going bandageless and I have to pay that much more attention to make sure he doesn’t try to chew his wounds and break his stitches — left me pretty debilitated by Saturday night. And taking him along to Newark Airport to pick up Amy on Sunday wasn’t exactly a picnic, but I couldn’t really leave him alone for 2 hours, even with a muzzle, BiteNot collar, hip-wader, etc. I’d have spent the entire time worried that I’d be coming home to a dog who’d managed to tear up all the hard work the vets have done. Oy. I know this isn’t as stressful as having responsibility for a kid, but it’s still pretty exhausting.

What I’m worried about: Getting my Top Companies profiles written for the July/August ish.

What I’m pondering: Whether any man his age has hair that rivals that of Bjorn Borg.


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