A limited
run series of hand made sculptures
from the book cover

A limited run series of hand made painted sculptures has been realised from the illustrated book cover of “The Prodigious Life of Isidoro Sifflotin”, winner of the Gold Medal during the 57th edition of the Society of Illustrators in New York.

The project has begun over one year ago and knows its debut at Illustri 2015, the Biennial Illustration Festival in Vicenza.

Gianluca Folì. I have a new cover. Let’s get in touch. C. “The Prodigious Life of Isidoro Sifflotin. I think to myself that it’s an interesting title while I call Cristiano Guerri, Feltrinelli’s art director.

“The story belongs to Enrico Ianniello and it’s his first book. Brake a leg.” “Or a blackbird!” I think to myself. Five attempts were made but they were obviously not working. Then, I decided to start again from scratch to get back to the core idea. I spent the whole morning reading the synopsis and in the afternoon one new sketch came to life. The latter was about Isidoro and his blackbird friend and the two were caught in a hug, which embodies the reassuring contact of loved things. This was our cover.

La vita prodigiosa di Isidoro Sifflotin
↑ La vita prodigiosa di Isidoro Sifflotin

Mauro Pietro Gandini. “Yes!” Gianluca was still working on his idea but I found myself saying yes. I knew very little about the book, but I loved the cover since I first saw it a few months before, because it was standing there telling me thousands of stories in its synthetic detail, in its shades and in its interruptions of paint brush. The illustration, the A side, was my guide and I was supposed to code it, and we decided that I had to find out the rest, feel its dynamic, find out its forms. The work resulted into the discovery that the subjects in the sculpture demand their own space and suggest the next shade.

The finished piece couldn’t and shouldn’t complete Folì’s masterpiece, but it should stand by its side and live its own story. This story was about a friendship born from a mutual approval.

Did it really go this way?

MPG: I first met Gianluca during Inchiostro Festival, in Alessandria and few months later I got to know Isidoro’s Illustration. I was moved by the poetry of small gestures, by the strength and the proportions and by Gianluca’s decision of removing some elements in order to blend them with the colour of the background. I literally jumped over my chair when I received the proposal.

GF: After I had handed in the cover to the editor I started thinking that I could have done more with that image. I was wandering inside my studio and my look stopped on the same corner, on the same naked Ikea furniture, which was reminding me my failed attempt at decor and I thought to myself with a certain vexation that a tropical plant or a nice modern statue would be appropriate. Yes a statue, a modern one.

MPG: If only I had pictured it like this, I wouldn’t have waited to warmly suggest to put a plant in that corner! Anyway, my first answer was “No thanks, it’s not possible and bla bla bla. Thank you for consideration, maybe next time”.

GF: He would answer me like a person seeking for a job with a cv in his hands.

MPG: But that’s true! This is usually my first reaction, but after having vigorously slapped my pragmatism I texted “Ok. When are we starting?” and then I sent it, turned off the modem and unplugged the counter.

GF: I was ready to get a refusal followed by a long and boring motivation. This enthusiasm surprised me. The sculptor of Rat Man, Dylan Dog and Sky Doll would have brought my Isidoro to life.

MPG: In fact, the first request was to produce a toyz, but this recalled in me problems in terms of production, cost and feasibility since I’ve been engaged for more than 20 years in the collection statues, gadgets and merchandising. I wanted another solution.

GF: The comparison widened the vision, moving my attention to the sculpture. We enlarged the dimensions of the subject and brought them to the ones of a real Indian blackbird. We decided to use a box to support and widen Isidoro’s world, and we designed a leporello to add under the support base.

MPG: We decided to realise an exclusive project in terms of workmanship, materials research and craftsmanship. The whole work was realised in one year and it embodies the highest expression of our abilities. I am proud of it.

GF: A sculpture, like an illustration, contains a new start in each new masterpiece. The experience is mutually and wisely exchanged to find useful solutions for that project in that specific moment.

MPG: Carving for me is like open ocean sailing, between inspiration and the pleasure of research. I was the guide of Gianluca’s drawing but there was also the B side.  And that was our Indies.

La prima resina finita
↑ La prima resina finita
Le copie prodotte creano dinamiche di ombre e luci
↑ Le copie prodotte creano dinamiche di ombre e luci

GF: Indeed, the B SIDE! I remember him asking how I pictured it and I answered “as the A side, right?”. Yet, if Isidoro had ridden the blackbird he would have become out of proportion because the animal’s back is far larger than the little boy’s arms.

I let him decide how to position Isidoro while I was looking for an additional element which was not on the cover. Something that only Isidoro could know. A key.

MPG: He added magic to the magic of the composition. At that point the game consisted in respecting the features of the illustration and then determining its weight and depth, until disclosing the unknown side of the story. A sculpture should communicate something from any of its perspectives. For instance, Medardo Rosso was fascinated by what the sculpture was able to create in the space with its presence such as the play of light and shadow, which created abstract forms, and the projections which lead to the fourth dimension.

GF: And then I had some hesitation in deciding which colours to use for Isidoro because the white resin model wiped out of my mind any idea of colour. It was just perfect, wasn’t it? It was a classic sculpture.

MPG: I knew it but the colour was essential to get back to the original illustration.

GF: We did several colour tests and then we painted the sculpture with the colours of the illustration, but in this way Isidoro lost his identity and seemed to be the result of a serial production, very close to the starting idea of toyz but also devalued. We ruined few more sculptures and then we found a perfect balance which was inspired to the rarefied chromatic of Japanese pottery from the beginning of the XX century of which we’re both passionate about.

MPG: We know that this choice can be surprising. We admired the illustration and we wanted to exactly reproduce it.

GF: It was a four-hand production and we went beyond my own work. A lot of people asked me why Isidoro’s sculpture was not identical to his illustration. The answer was that Isidoro is a separate work which took inspiration from the drawing but it expands the story and suggests new ones.

MPG: I am proud of it and I loved the successful partnership. This rarely happens but if it works it can determine unexpected developments and amplify the pleasure of the discovery.

GF: The surprise is everything. Stimulus, fight and knowledge.

L'opera finita - Lato B
↑ L'opera finita - Lato B
L'opera finita - Lato A
↑ L'opera finita - Lato A

The staue of Isidoro Sifflotin was realised by hand in ten samples.

For further information and purchase requests: gianlucafoli
Other works of Gianluca Folì: gianlucafoli
Mauro Pietro Gandini’s work: porpisio