Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration
Story of an Illustrator
Creativity is literally in Max Martelli’s blood. His father and brother are both painters, so his decision to pursue a degree in the arts seemed like a natural path. It was his interest in stories and his exposure to the trading card game, Magic: the Gathering though that made Max realize he wanted to become an illustrator.
NOTE: Max Martelli earned a BFA in Fine Arts in 2011 prior to the launch of our BFA in Illustration. Since graduating from Suffolk he has used his fine arts training to launch a career as a freelance illustrator.
Can you describe how your interest in becoming a professional Illustrator evolved?
I had always looked at the fantastic art in the books and also in the games I played as a kid, and I knew that someday, I’d be doing that. There was never a divide between fine art and illustration in my mind, so it wasn’t a stretch to think that once I learned how to paint, I’d get work illustrating book covers and games. When a professional illustrator came to Suffolk to talk about freelancing in the field, it opened my eyes to the fact that this was indeed a business. In my second year at Suffolk, I read up on the business side of illustration, because I knew I needed to have a plan in place by the time I graduated if I seriously wanted to pursue Illustration as a career.
As a student, what were your most exciting personal discoveries, and what were the biggest challenges in your artistic development?
Independent research helped me understand drawing and painting in an entirely new way. Andrew Loomis’ Figure Drawing for What it’s Worth was the first big breakthrough in my understanding of the human figure. From there, I studied masters of figurative painting like Sargent, Velazquez, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Nerdrum and Goya among many others. This process of constant discovery resulted in some amazing artistic growth. My exposure to fantasy and science fiction illustration through past greats like Frank Frazetta were complemented by the works of N.C. Wyeth, Norman Rockwell and Howard Pyle, the “fathers of American illustration.” I felt that my theoretical knowledge of painting though far exceeded my technical skill, and that was challenging. It was my professors who pushed me to focus on the physical medium of paint and the process, so as my painting technique developed, I began to apply my theoretical knowledge.
What types of Illustration projects have you worked on since graduating?
I was lucky enough to get my first job just before graduation. I was hired by a local author to illustrate the cover for her first novel. Since then, I’ve been building my portfolio with several independent projects, as well as creating album art for some local bands. Recently, I was contacted by an independent studio in California to paint covers for several upcoming comic book series. I‘m currently working on two of these covers, which will be published later this year.
Where do you see your future as an Illustrator?
I want to work in the fantasy and science fiction genre, producing cover and gaming illustration. I’ve been researching the market extensively, finding out what art directors are looking for and studying the competition. Improving my portfolio and targeting the publishers I want to work with are also important to focus on if I want to reach my goal.
What do you think the ideal Illustration program would offer its students?
For me the program would teach drawing and painting first and foremost, then walk students through the process of making a picture– from original idea to a final product. Students should also learn how to build and maintain a portfolio, how to manage a business (financially and creatively), and how to successfully promote themselves. A program that’s part of a university like Suffolk (as opposed to an independent art school) really gives a broader range of academic knowledge from which students can draw upon in their future illustration work.