Drawing life – Thomas Cian

© Thomas Cian

ABOUT Thomas Cian

Born in Milan in 1989, he graduated from Brera Academy of Fine Arts; drawing has always been a key element in his life. Besides carrying on with his studio based personal production, mainly focused on portraiture, he works for various communication agencies in Milan and abroad, as well as on private commission.

Drawing every day since he can remember and never leaving home without a notebook, he was able to put together a large collection of sketchbooks, where he transposes, noting time and place, the people and places that surround him. In 2012 he created, together with other illustrators, the collective magazine Lucha Libre.

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Hi Thomas,  how did you first get into drawing and illustration?

I’ve been drawing ever since I was born so there wasn’t a particular moment when I said I wanted to become a designer, it was just part of my life which has continued to evolve.

Within you portraiture there are lot of references to nature as well as the city, are you interested in the relationship between people and their environment?

Yes! Whether it’s an animal or a person, I always concentrate on the subject and I like to put it in context and stimulate the person’s imagination. More than the relationship between man and nature, what I’m really interested in is the relationship between man, or any other subject that I decide to represent, and what surrounds it. Adding something helps me to enrich it’s ‘soul’, modifying the perception we have of it. Therefore the image of a boy with a cup of tea in his hands will give us a different perception than if he has a pickaxe in his hands. The same thing if we add a natural or urban context.

With pencil you can really add and erase, which you seem to have done with your Scratches series, what do these actions do to the process of a work?

In “scratches”, as with other works, I deliberately didn’t draw parts of the subject. I didn’t cancel them afterwards as I have done in other drawings. To answer your question, I think to hide part of the subject in one way or the other gives a more enigmatic and mysterious aura. What I like is to not be able to know completely the subject so that I don’t take anything for granted whilst I’m looking at it and this stimulates more attention. The interesting thing about ‘void’ is that you can perceive it like material absence or like something tangible.

“The interesting thing about ‘void’ is that you can perceive it like material absence or like something tangible.”

Thomas Cian


Jupiter © Thomas Cian

Are all the people in Mole Friendsbook actually people you know, and if so, what is it about drawing friends?

Yes they are all people I know. The nice thing about designing people you know, is to see them appear slowly before you. It can be compared to an evocation somehow. It will be nice in thirty years time to have your friends exactly the way you remember them.

At the bottom of sketches in your sketchbooks you often add yourself drawing, would you say your sketches are in a way self-portraits?

Not really, the fact that I include myself in the drawing is something I enjoy rather than something conceptual. In my sketchbooks I’m mostly interested in freezing a moment in time, in a particular situation; that’s why I write the date, where I am or where I’m going, with who and sometimes even the music I’m listening to. You could do the same thing with a camera but if you are an illustrator you can understand that it’s not the same thing. Somehow I’m drawing my life.

In your sketchbooks you work a lot more with ink instead of pencil, any particular reason why?

Yes! With ink you get a more incisive and immediate result and drawing seems more like an illustration rather than a rough sketch. Usually there is not much time and with ink you can’t rethink, it helps you to be more sure of what you’re doing.

I love your accordion book, how did that idea develop?

When I started that book I felt it was necessary to draw something that came straight from my imagination without thinking too much. Probably because I often find myself looking for images or taking photographs to use as a reference in a drawing. It was fun and also a test for me.

Would you say that drawing and illustration is your way of life?

Drawing and being with my friends.

The Journey, Accordion Book © Thomas Cian
The Journey, Accordion Book © Thomas Cian
The Journey, Accordion Book © Thomas Cian
The Journey, Accordion Book © Thomas Cian