Piece of the Week: ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ by Filippo Vanzo

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It was Earnest Hemingway who said, “I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” And we do know. Clearly, when Hemingway was awake, and wrote “The Old Man and the Sea,” things fell apart and things got messy, desperate, and strange. This illustrative homage with the same title by freelance illustrator (and Redbubble artist) Filippo Vanzo effortlessly expresses this “falling apart”. This falling apart depicts the hellish, swirling heights the Hemingway’s story reaches, and frankly, it’s fantastic.

Which is why Filippo Vanzo’s “The Old Man and the Sea” is our Piece of the Week.

"The Old Man and the Sea" by Filippo Vanzo

When I first came across Filippo’s artwork, I was lured in by his detailed and charming line work, the pencil shading on the sharks and rollicking ocean kept me completely transfixed. Then I did a squint-step-back-marvel-and-stare — a kind of art-viewing dance those struck by quietly beautiful illustration can be found doing.

And I stared.

And I stared.

This illustration’s power to draw you in works on so many levels, from the detailed pencil work, to the evocative color palette (those beautiful blues), which never overshadows the simple drawing of the manic figure, stabbing at the sharks at sea. This movement and swirling of colors Vanzo has created lurches onwards throughout the artwork, which makes viewing the illustration like listening to a song in a crowded and noisy bar, difficult, confusing, and leaving us with the feeling that something in his artwork is slightly out of time.

Sometimes coming across illustrations with such sincerity and earnest emotion makes them easy to skip over; to quickly read and put behind us. The flipside of this is that illustration with intense emotion has the potential to put us off, to be too honest, or heartbreaking. Here, I think it’s important to take note that Vanzo has combined the corroding desperation of Hemingway’s message (and let’s be honest, that message is pretty much the saddest thing in the world) with his own artistic skill, precision and impeccable attention to detail. Vanzo’s dedication to earnestly depicting a story, and his choice of color and line, make me think that when we’re dealing in terms of sincerity and tragedy, struggle and survival, perhaps art is the ultimate place of solace for that.

Support Vanzo by purchasing “The Old Man and the Sea” as a print, iPhone case, and more.

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