Costanza Coletti is one of those fascinating people that definitely follows her heart, rather than the norm. Currently living in Milano, Italy but following a global nomad’s lifestyle, she came to illustration after completing her Masters in Architecture, when the death of an icon convinced here that there was no more time to waste on things that didn’t fill her with passion. Read on to discover more about this multi-lingual, talented and very unique young lady.
Hi Costanza! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born in Rome 30 years ago and grew up in that controversial, chaotic city. After gaining a Bachelor in Architecture, I decided to apply at the Art University of Linz (Austria) to continue with my Masters. The focus was traditional, low-tech architecture, but with time I started to deepen other interests such as investigating the past, present and future of the metropolis. My teachers encouraged me to work more with my drawing skills and so I did, to the point that my Master’s thesis became a sort of graphic novel. At that point, I had already been working as graphic designer for a couple of years, and after finishing my Masters, I dedicated myself completely to illustration and visual storytelling.
How would you describe your job?
My job has many facets and I have the feeling it will never crystallise into a definitive shape. I work as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer for diverse clients, but I always save space and energy for personal projects. Creating for myself and following my artistic processes is very important to me and I feel that constant care is fundamental to keep the flame of inspiration burning. I work on many client projects at the same time and these may include logo designs, editorial illustrations, layouts, branding, book cover designs and so on. It's said that it’s not good to do many different things at the same time, but for now, multitasking makes me happy.
What did you want to be when you were a little girl?
A couple of years ago, I went through my primary school compositions and found one in which I stated that I wanted to become a painter, a singer and an actress, but mainly a painter. I've always felt the need to express myself artistically, but it took almost 28 years to say “I want to be an artist and make a life out of it”. I always felt I had to do something more useful in and for the world, more serious, less personal. When David Bowie died, I realised that I didn’t want to waste anymore time doing something I was not passionate about. Today I work mostly with images, but there are special occasions on which I sing and perform: my child-self should have nothing to complain about! My experience is that we can take the longest and most difficult path, but, if we are sincere in our wishes, we will arrive where we are supposed to be anyway, somehow. There is always time to make our desires come true and realise our secret aspirations! I also wanted to become an archeologist, and I still crave for ancient mysteries and magic. I guess that reading about Egyptian temples and Greek deities was a way to connect with the spirituality I couldn’t find in my environment.
What is the most fulfilling thing about working for yourself?
First of all, the flexibility: I travel often and it is very practical to be able to work from any place. I currently have a very spontaneous work schedule and, even though I sometimes wish I had a manager giving me orders, I am learning to go with my own flow. This kind of freedom and unpredictability is exciting and very inspiring.
Do you have a ritual that you start your day with?
Every day, early in the morning, I meditate for between 1 and 2 hours. In 2011, I started practicing Kundalini yoga and Sat Nam Rasayan, an art of healing though deep meditation. Since then, meditation has become a very important tool for my life. The daily practice didn’t change me, but it completely changed the way my system works: the way I relate and react to others, to my own thoughts and emotions and to external events. After meditating in the morning I feel like nothing can really go wrong, so I can face everyday challenges with tolerance and humour and also have enough energy to keep up and sustain the ones around me.
Could you describe your workplace? What does an average day look like for you?
At the moment, I don’t really have a fixed workspace, but I can describe my backpack: it's my mobile work-station. Inside I have a laptop, a Wacom tablet, two hard drives, an iPad Pro with an Apple pen, a sketchbook and various markers. I don’t always carry these things around with me, but with my backpack I feel like I'm flexible enough and I can go anywhere.
Sometimes I spend the entire morning working in a bookstore in Milano while sipping cappuccino, other times I stay up all night in my small apartment (also in Milano). Nighttime is perfect for concentration because there are no interferences or distractions and somehow ideas flow in different patterns than during the day.
Some projects came to life at a beach bar in Tuscany, others in a cat bistro in Cologne, others in a wild garden in Mexico. Right now I am writing from a sunny terrace among the cave dwellings of Matera….At some point I will probably build a personal space in a studio or an atelier, but for now I am enjoying the nomadic life. Another significant aspect of my work is that there is no distinction between holidays and work days, but this is probably true for anybody who passionately engages with creativity.
What is the most important piece of business (or life!) advice you ever received from someone?
“Non devi fare niente” (There is nothing that you have to do), meaning that there is no obligation to accomplish anything in life. This is probably the first piece of advice I got from my meditation teacher Guru Dev Singh, about eight years ago. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to meet my own expectations and always struggled for perfection, so this sentence was kind of shocking. These past years, I’ve worked on dropping self judgement, in my work as much as in relationships and everyday life situations. Since I started to free myself from subconscious constrictions, creativity started to flow freely and I was able to see and take the opportunities that life was putting in front of me. I became more satisfied with what I already had and started to suffer less and have more fun. This kind of lesson is not one that you learn once and for all: it is continuous work on yourself and an everyday practice of attention and awareness.
Are there other creative ladies that you look to for inspiration and guidance?
When I feel doubtful about how to deal with a work situation I often write to the girls of TUTTE Collective, a group of Italian female illustrators that came to life in 2017 and of which I’m very happy to be a part. We live in different places, but we try to sustain each other in our individual and collective growth while working together on various creative projects. In difficult moments, I have a couple of old, close friends who work with design and visual art and are very patient. Artistically I feel very much inspired and in symphony with authors and creatives like Yumi Sakugawa, Chlorophillas and Olimpia Zagnoli.
What is the project or piece of work you’re most proud of?
I am very happy about my series of illustrated meditations, which started spontaneously with me sketching some visual impressions after my daily practice. These illustrations were the first personal project I shared with the public, back in 2016. The feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive and it gave me a lot of courage to keep drawing and invest more in my creativity. In fact, this series of illustrations still creates magical connections which lead to occasions to work with my favourite topics (for example the Independent Indian Film Festival in Frankfurt, where we met!) The series is an open project and will most probably continue to develop for a long time. I am currently working to transform it into a book.