PK 059: Donato Giancola on Museums, Inspiration and Painting From Your Heart

PK 059: Donato Giancola on Museums, Inspiration and Painting From Your Heart 2 059 PK059 Donato Giancola podcast feat image

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Artist Donato Giancola is inspired by history and the human condition

“Whatever tool works to get your message forth, that’s what
you should focus on”

~ Donato Giancola

Artist Donato Giancola has spent his 20-year career so far building up a huge body of work, ranging from book covers to postage stamps, calendars, magic cards, and oil paintings.

But the inspiration for his emotionally-charged science fiction and fantasy scenes usually doesn’t come from futuristic movies and literature.

Instead, Donato gets his ideas from visiting museums across the world, and making emotional connections with relics and artefacts often dating back thousands of years.

In this week’s podcast, you’ll find out how history can inspire you, and why painting from your heart is the only real way to find your true voice as an artist.

Donato Giancola: His Creative Career

Digital art and Photoshop were very much in their infancy when Donato first decided he was going to become an artist. So, he learned to draw and paint using traditional media – something he still prefers to work in today.

“I’m a dinosaur in that sense,” he jokes. “Traditional media is all about getting your hands dirty and, although Photoshop gives you an incredible amount of tools to experiment with, I feel that tactile element is missing in digital media.”

In the course of his career, Donato Giancola has produced more than 300 book covers, postage stamps for the US postal service, and a wide range of fantasy and science fiction artwork, covering themes such as Lord Of The Rings and Game Of Thrones.

How Donato Gets Inspired by Museums

Museums  have always been a huge source on inspiration for Donato, and he’s travelled the world looking at relics, artefacts, and historic works of art.

He says: “I’m always fascinated by tactile objects and artefacts. They’re a physical record of another era, and they represent life on Earth. For most people, a gravestone is the only artefact they’ll leave behind. But my gravestone, I hope, will be my art!”

If all this talk of gravestones seems a little gloomy, it’s not meant to be. Donato had cancer in his early 20s and, in many ways, the themes running throughout his work are about him getting to grips with his own mortality.

He explains: “I had surgery and that gave me like a second chance. I made sure I wasn’t going to blow it! It made me think about what we all leave behind and what our legacy might be.”

“I go to museums an historic sites to get re-energized, to enjoy the beauty of what other artists have left behind. For example, the ancient cave paintings at Lascaux, France, give you a real awareness of their world, their experiences, their feelings and desires.”

Interestingly, it’s not always the most popular pieces on show that prove most inspiring for Donato. He never takes a tour guide or goes on a guided walk of any museum or historic site. Instead, he prefers to find his own way and make his own emotional connection.

He explains: “If people tell you what to look at, then you don’t get to find out what YOU enjoy.”


An example of the cave paintings at Lascaux

Why Donato Giancola Makes Art

Many of the themes running through Donato Giancola’s art aren’t those you’d normally associate with science fiction or fantasy art.

He says he’s fascinated by personal experiences and the human condition, which is why many of his paintings deal with death and our own fragility and vulnerability.

For him, being the hero isn’t always about winning – it’s about showing the very human side to a fantasy character, too.

He explains: ” The idea of loss is not talked about in science fiction so much. No-one else was talking about it, so I felt I needed to.”

Donato doesn’t worry too much about whether people will always completely understand the message he’s trying to convey in his art. In fact, he sees each painting as a way of getting an idea off his chest, before moving onto the next one.

Donato on Painting From The Heart

Donato feels many artists worry too much about finding their style, and tend to over-analyse the reasons behind making a painting too much.

In his opinion, it’s far better to just get those ideas out there, and let themes and styles in your work develop naturally.

He says: “Do not seek a voice – just make paintings. Speak from your heart, paint your passions, don’t try and think about what’s seen as deep or intellectual etc.

“If it doesn’t ring true to what you want to communicate at that moment, then don’t try and force yourself into it.”

“Be malleable, do not be rigid. Bring your visions forth in as many ways as possible. That’s where your voice will come from and evolve.

“Start first with emotion, rather than analytical intent. I love seeing digital work, and Photoshop is such a powerful tool for artists. But I’ve chosen my path with oil paintings – this is what I’m good at!

“Artists often wonder what materials they should or shouldn’t use, but it’s whatever tool works to get your message forth – that’s what you should focus on.”

Listen to this week’s show and learn:

  • Why a visit to the museum can be an endless source of inspiration
  • Why your style and voice is constantly evolving
  • Why art is about staying true to yourself

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