I remember seeing the work of the Italian artist Stefano Ricci for the first time quite well. It was at an exhibition in Brussels, organized by the Fréon-collective (probably 1996 or ‘97). They had a whole bunch of pages from his comic “Tufo” hanging on the wall. Originals, that is. And in this case, that makes a big difference.. I was very much impressed.
Ricci really attacks his pages! He destroys them. Working with pencil, charcoal or oil-pastels he applies tone or color (the pages I saw in Brussels were black and white, but later he started working in color to), then he further manipulates the image by erasing it, often until the point where the paper gets severely damaged. He goes back and forth applying tone or color and erasing it again until he is satisfied with the result. Sometimes he also introduces collage-elements: masking tape, tracing paper, sewing thread, bits of other drawings,… Or he copies the drawing, works on the copy. Scans it and works on the scan. Every step he takes he considers part of the process. He never does preliminary sketches. The sketch is part of the process to, and will often still be visible beneath the finished drawing.
I found a video of Ricci making a drawing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really show what I described above, presumably because he’s doing a sketch for someone in a book, on a book-signing. So he’s holding back a little, only using those big fat oil pastels and an ordinary pencil.
The following pages are from some of his comics he did. The first are from the albums “Tufo” (written by Philippe de Pierpont) and “Anita” (written by Gabriella Giandelli). The others are from short stories.
In addition to his comics, Stefano Ricci also produces a lot of stand-alone work or illustrations for magazines or posters. A whole bunch of these drawings were published in a series of books called “dépôt noir”/”black depot”.