Gaia Petra Sana, because even a pictured cloud can turn into a crocodile

Lto meet while strolling between the stands of the Alzano Lombardo factory market, while trying to make room in my canvas bag already filled with purchases. Gaia has big blue eyes, maybe a little scared when I first look at her. It gives me the idea of ​​feeling more comfortable drawing than showing his creations to the public. On his stand are illustrated booklets, Porta San Giacomo painted on postcards, a poster folded in four and closed with a string dedicated to ten small Italian birds. I ask Gaia to sell me the poster and leave me a phone number.

This is how this story came about with a call and an invitation to the upper town. Gaia Petra Sana, 27, has set up her studio as an illustrator in the apartment where she lives, a beautiful building overlooking the Fara. The smell of wood mingles with that of ink as I climb the spiral staircase, perusing the myriad books on the shelves, the tin cans overflowing with brushes, pencils, crayons.

“Pendolando” between one illustration and another

A cup of sweetened coffee on the table, the sketchbook open. Gaia speaks slowly as I ask her to start over. “I’ve always had that the passion for drawing, even in middle school I used to draw the posters for the events – my classmates said “Gaia is there, she is taking care of it!”. Even the choice of the artistic high school, the Manzù in Bergamo, came naturally “. If the way into the world of art has already been mapped out, there is still a way to go for illustration. “I have decided to be there the Brera Academy, with a pictorial address, the same one I had followed to the artistic one. I’ve experimented a lot with painting, although I felt like it wasn’t quite what I wanted to do. I still like to paint, but that’s not all… also because Brera is very free: I tended to get a little lost..


Gaia Petra Sana

(Photo Marialuisa Miraglia)

In 2018 Gaia discovers that a macerata there is a school art in the game, which organizes an illustration course for beginners. Six months, one weekend a month. “I was still studying in Brera, but I said to myself: ‘I’m going’. I remember riding the train Took me about 8 hours… I left on Thursday, we studied on Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning. With the teachers’ instructions, we were able to create a real illustrated book, each month a different illustrator from the contemporary scene came. Then in Macerata there are many bookshops with a wide range of books … and without counting how many students have come from all over Italy! “.


(Photo Gaia Petra San)

After completing the course and making the calling to the “World of Sketches,” Gaia enrolls in the MiMaster of Milana six-month master’s degree in editorial illustration. “It was wonderful. Every week the problem to solve changed, as did the drawing to create: we focused on the world of the playbook, next time on the illustration for a newspaper article. I also tried the digital drawing, but the manual one Keep part for the outlines: I penciled the character, the scene, then digitally scanned and colored the whole thing..

Tales of Ten Little Birds

It’s time to take stock. In the world of drawing, to understand which direction to take exactly. The topics are already there: Landscapes, nature and above all animals. Born in Treviglio but raised in Pontida, “in a house near Monte Canto, in the countryside”, Gaia enriches her portfolio with dogs, foxes, cats and snails.

opens one Page Instagramnot only make them known, but also give them a first form for ongoing projects and a point for those not yet completed. «The most beautiful project I’ve done and the one that gives me the most satisfaction was a brochure dedicated to the “Ten Little Birds of Italy”, from which the poster was also born. It kind of came naturally: earlier this year I wanted to do something on Instagram, so every weekend I would post drawings of a sparrow, a great tit, some other bird, with accompanying explanations of how big it is, what it eats, what it does. After ten weeks I said to myself, “I have a lot of stories and information, why not make a little book out of it?”. And I did. First the English version – don’t ask me why – then the Italian version. I put it in the portfolio, I sent it to Edizioni El and they replied: “Do you want to make a book with us?” “

Wrong…ships are created

“Top Taste Club” is the first illustrated children’s book published by Gaia. A story of Gianni Rodariamong the best known of the collection”stories on the phone“. I remember the words, Gaia shows me the pictures – on the book still hot off the press (we are talking about October 2021) and on the storyboardwho collects the first attempts.

“They almost gave me carte blanche, ‘You’re doing it without necessarily representing what’s written in the story,’ so I took the ball and took I drew animals, even if they are not in the story. I made those clouds into a little amberjack, then I said, “But that looks like a silhouette of a crocodile!”. IS unpredictability to regulate Gaia’s design, a drawing that is created while the illustrator is making itwith no real scheme in mind.


Illustration by Gaia Petra Sana

Between the pages and the tables that Gaia shows me, I don’t see any penciled outlines. Colors, many, especially dark. «My painterly past influences a lot, because before that I hardly ever drew with a pencil. My approach usually can be painted immediately, with watercolors. I find it better to immediately use the image tool to envision a scene.. If you make a mistake while painting, there is no way to erase it. “Actually, I’m not interested in making a mistake because I can repeat the design… or I try to interpret this error and make it become something else. Maybe a stain can become the door of a house… Even when I draw with a pencil, I try not to use the gum to understand where I went wrong and what can become of that mistake”.

The example my interlocutor gives me is from a page of “Briff Bruf Braf”: “I had drawn something I didn’t like, so I cut the cloud out of another piece of cardboard, glued it on and then put a ship on top. So I put the “patch” on the part I was wrong about and I created this new section where they also added the text “.

Words, pictures, picture books

I wonder what it is, in an illustrated book, the relationship between images and words. The words I, as a journalist and reader, immediately look for when picking up a volume. “Usually there is always a story underneath. The author creates the story and the illustrator then takes care of the pictures. In «Brif Bruf Braf» Gianni Rodari is the author and I illustrated the story… sometimes the opposite happens, even if it’s not that common. It often happens that an illustrator creates a book with his illustrations and his words..

Of course, Gaia knows how to judge a book by its cover. The problem is that in most bookstores, the books on the shelves are arranged in the same way as the other books. You can see the spine of the book, not the cover. And maybe they’re tied down, lost between volumes for children, when there are many books telling stories for adults. «Here in Bergamo they exist Third World Space by Seriatewhich is beautiful in terms of the books: every time I go there I stay for hours! “.

L’Illustration for children It is the dream that Gaia wants to turn into a real profession. He has a part-time job in a shop, so he can only partially devote himself to drawing for the time being. “I’m not that consistent, disciplined, drawing every day. I would like to have a pattern, but I understand that I am made in a certain way … Of course, drawing is not something that reassures, because When I draw, my mind works very wellit’s like she’s always being put to the test…at MiMaster my friends used to call me “Ferment””.

There are many projects in the pipeline. market, illustration fairs, e.g WOW celebration the first in which Gaia was involved as an illustrator in the summer of 2020. And then a self-produced project, a series of images where The subject is the lines. And of course the animals. “I had this idea to look for all the striped animals. I use colored cards on which I apply the collage technique because I found that I really like it ».

There is one on the last page striped chameleon. Of course you don’t see much. What is camouflaged in reality must also be camouflaged on paper.


Illustration by Gaia Petra Sana

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