Lost in my birthplace, lost on the beach

This is Emily and Davide’s couple session. I went back to my hometown for Christmas, and I found a wonderful warm weather, my loved family, and some friends that are always there for me, even if we meet once a year. I was so grateful, and I always am.

These two beautiful guys here, are an amazing couple, and I tried my best to give them the pictures they deserve ;)

You can see the whole story – and a short video I made, with pictures and a GREAT soundtrack – on my wedding page. Enjoy!

Eric and Ross – Love and Rainbows in Oviedo

He was about to giving up, when I met him.

In 2016 I left for the Camino de Santiago, a way of pilgrimage that starts at the French border and crosses all the north of Spain, to Santiago de Compostela. It’s 800 km long, and the aim is to walk it all, backpack and boots, that’s all.
After a week, waiting for the dinner and resting from an extremely hard day, Ross was sitting in front of me and said “I think tomorrow I’ll catch a bus, I’m afraid not to get to Santiago on time for my flight”. “When is your flight?”, I asked. “On the 1st of September”, he answered. “You’re NOT catching a bus, tomorrow, then”, I said. “Only a week passed, we still have to get trained to this. We can’t give up now. My flight is on the same day as yours. Let’s walk together and see if we can do this!”

We walked the rest of the way together. We shared thoughts, emotions, fears, tiredness, we shared a room when it was impossible to sleep in the hostels, poems while walking at dawn, tortillas while having breakfast, feelings about our partners, stories of our families. I took care of his passport when he left it behind, and he took care of me when I got sick and had high fever. Walking together for something like 700 km built a strong, deep link between us, like a brother and a sister. And we made it, till the end. Till Santiago, then till Finisterrae, till the ocean.
And we kept building and protecting this link during these years, even if we live so far away from one another. 

Ross lives in Seattle. He studied in Oviedo just before starting the Camino. After that, he went back to US. He met Eric while working as a shop assistant, and he fell in love with him. I followed from Europe the beginning of a wonderful love story, through Ross’ words.
I was crying out of joy when I knew that they were coming to Europe: I could see my “little boy” again, and I was going to meet his boyfriend.
Eric is kind and sensitive, and both of us had the feeling that we knew each other already. We spoke a lot about ourselves, our feelings and emotions, like old friends.

We three had a great time in Oviedo. We had cidra (a lot :D), tasted all Asturian cheeses, walked on the ocean’s beach, enjoyed walking around the city’s markets. And we woke up soon in the morning, to catch the light.
It was a beautiful light. We had Love and Rainbows.

If you’re interested in meeting me and have a shooting in your favorite place, just drop a line: other than HD pictures, I’ll give you a unique illustration portrait of you, as a present. And if you’re just thinking about it, but you’re not sure yet, have a look to my wedding photography page, and see if you like what I do! :)

The Manual of the Warrior of Light, Paulo Coelho

This is one of my hardest, most loved, most sweated works: I decided, some years ago, to illustrate Paulo Coelho’s book “The Manual of the Warrior of Light”. Just for fun, at the beginning. Then it became a challenge. To have an illustration of each page and to show them all to its writer.

I have a strange relationship with this book: when I bought it, it was not the right moment of my life for it to be red. Then, after years, I realized how many messages of strength, positivity, perseverance and faith are hidden inside of it, and for a while it became my “lucky book”, a book to open when my faith in the Universe begins lacking, and even if, of course, it doesn’t contain any answer, it’s a good friend, with all of its flaws, imperfections, and diamonds. Thanks, Paulo Coelho.

With these illustrations, I had periods of pure productivity and long moments of total stuck. After years, nights up, struggling and a lot of good time, I finished the work, and with two years more, I was contacted by Paulo Coelho in person – yes! can you believe it? – to create three videos for his social medias.

Here are all the illustration :) you can read all the book if you want :)

You can find the three videos I made, that were published by Paulo Coelho in his Twitter and Facebook pages: here, here, and here.

If you feel like, check out my Instagram page, too. Enjoy!

Prologue

The Warrior of the Light

Epilogue

Two

I worked on this project when I didn’t meet Wilson, the love of my life, yet.

But, maybe, in some way, I felt he was coming in my life, soon.

Love, painted in some illustrations ;)

In Radiohead Project

Some years ago, I started drawing and painting, self-taught. One of my first subjects was a Brandon Boyd pic: the posture, the way he kept his hand on his face, his clothes, everything inspired me. Then, thinking of a title for the artwork, a Radiohead’s title came to my mind. “Let Down”, I thought it fitted.

Two years later (and a lot of drawings, paintings and stuff later – like my moving to Rome), that so-called “Let Down” piece made me think about other titles and about visualizations, free associations of images, ideas and concepts flowing in my mind.

Here’s the project track list:

#01. Let Down

#02. Lotus Flower

#03. Optimistic

#04. How To Disappear Completely

#05. Myxomatosis

#06. Stop Whispering

#07. We Suck Young Blood

#08. Fitter Happier

#09. Bullet Proof (I Wish I Was)

#10. Street Spirit (Fade Out)

#11. Anyone Can Play Guitar

#12. Where I End And You Begin

Every artwork is pencil on paper, background in watercolor.

#01. Let Down

#02. Lotus Flower

For “Lotus Flower”, I couldn’t help thinking of the video, of the bowler hat and of Thom’s hands moving all around.

#03. Optimistic

Optimistic is the way I’m always trying to live my life, despite everything. It’s something about looking for the good inside the bad, but also about courage and control, risk, detachment from results, hope, faith, freedom, will, dreams and desire.

“Man of the air…limits exist only in the mind of people who are not able to dream”_ Philippe Petit

#04. How To Disappear Completely

How to disappear completely” reminded me of a dinner I had with a friend of mine. They invited us and we went even if we didn’t feel like. Everyone was enjoying, laughing and having a good time for things we simply didn’t fit in. And we passed from something like “what the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here” to “I’m not here, this is not happening”, hoping to get superpowers and disappear.

#05. Myxomatosis

Mixomatosis” is a disease that affects rabbits. Frank the bunny, in Donnie Darko, was a very diseased one.

#06. Stop Whispering

The words “Stop Whispering” made me think of someone who was yelling, angry, at a passive and shy person. In that moment I was listening to Bjork. I imagine she could say this to someone.

#07. We Suck Young Blood

We Suck Young Blood”: vampires, of course. And those in Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” are my favorite and loved ones.

#08. Fitter Happier

With “Fitter Happier”, I had in mind the synthetic, mechanical, frozen voice of the song, and the image of a meditating man behind bars came to my mind. Rules and rules, and bars, to be happier. In a cage of rules.

#09. Bullet Proof (I Wish I Was)

For “Bullet Proof (I Wish I Was)” I imagined Neo stopping bullets in Matrix. But in the end I thought it was not Neo who wanted to be bullet proof, but the agent. Matrix is one of my favorite movies ever.

#10. Street Spirit (Fade Out)

If I try not to think of the lyrics and the amazing video of “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”, what I see is an old wise man living in the street, homeless, roaming. The spirit of the street, that lives in it, that has seen it all, that nobody cares for, and that slowly disappear, unseen.

#11. Anyone Can Play Guitar

I chose to draw Dave Grohl at the drums for “Anyone Can Play Guitar”: I remembered a talk with a friend of mine, I was asking him if he listened to the new Foo Fighters album, and the answer was: “Actually, I don’t like Foo Fighters so much. Because one of the best drummer in the world is in a band where he sings and plays guitar.” That friend of mine is a drummer, by the way.

#12. Where I End And You Begin

Where I End And You Begin” is a quite sad song. But the words in the title make me think of a place, the place where Love starts, a little dot in the space between two souls that can be filled only with Love, to create a connection of unity, understanding, exchange and growth. And this is where I end my project, and you begin seeing it.

Migrations

I lived in Rome, and I was penniless, that moment. I heard there was an Eritrean refugee camp, close to my neighborhood. So I went there, every day, for a month, and spent all my days with these strong, brave people. After that I followed them during a very long trip till the northern border.

I wanted to show their courage, their dignity, their way of smiling and face the misery of leaving their country and loosing everything, their hope. My work was rejected by many magazines, because I didn’t show enough pain and this kind of pictures don’t SELL, that’s what I’ve been said. I was disgusted.

For much time, I felt guilty to follow these people, hoping to SELL the pictures I took them. I was poor, and I needed to eat and pay my rent, but I promised myself that I will never exploit people’s suffering or pain, to earn money, again.

After this project, I discovered wedding photography, and realized it was the thing I wanted to do. But as soon as I’ll be able to, I want to start a new project, and to go on showing these people’s strength, without the need to sell anything.

A long way to go. In Rome, only a break.

Arguing, polemics, complaints. And yet, hundreds of Eritrean migrants arrive at Baobab center, in Cupa street, Rome. They get a shelter, food and clothes, offered by neighborhood citizens. Volunteers work hard to offer acceptable conditions for people who don’t remember what acceptable conditions are. This people is running away from violence and hunger. And unfortunately, in Italy, many don’t know that they aren’t here to stop, they don’t want to settle here, aware that the situation in our country is not so good at the moment. Many don’t know or pretend not to know, pouring out their rage against their arrivals and against who’s helping them.

The real issue is that there is no demonstration, barricade or border closure working. Nor sea or desert. These people decided to leave, to abandon their home, to dismember their families, to go on living – living, not existing in inhuman conditions.

I’ve spent much time at Baobab center. Hundreds of stories and faces, many of them so young. The mildness and dignity of this people is disarming, while they try to tell their stories, if they mutter some English. They need to rest, to smile, to restore a tired and torn body. After travelling for months and risking their lives more than once, they have exhaustion, smile and gratitude. They have the hope to find a simple life, to fulfill a dream, wherever, no matter where.

One Saturday night I caught an Intercity train from Roma-Termini to Bolzano, with two young men and a 8 months pregnant woman, who has been captured and segregated in Libya for three months and was able to escape in the end. Her gaze claims silent respect.

Not even difficulties like this can stop them, even if many of them can’t escape dangers during their trip. Some boys have been texting me, updating me on their moves. Daniel, 21 years old, called from France. And he was laughing, joyfully.

Kidnappings, shipwrecks , C.I.E. (Identification and Expulsion Centers), barricades, insults, demonstrations, hatred and racism, borders closure, indifference and inability to manage the situation. But hope and will for a better life can’t be stopped by anything. Whether we accept it or not, migrants will keep on moving and try to reach better places to live in. Wasting energies against moving life is worthless. Once I’ve been told that Italians must help them because Italy, as a former colonizing country, caused a lot of troubles in Eritrea. But, no. We don’t have to help them to compensate guilt that probably don’t belong to us. It’s not about politics. It’s just because they are human beings. and, just like all human beings, they will keep on trying to find a better life, they will keep on moving.

An umbrella in a cave

 CLICK HERE TO READ THE ITALIAN VERSION ⸎

“I thought about it for days and days, to find a way. The tube of the pen was not good, the shape was not good and the stones did not come as I wanted. Then, one day, I turned around and saw this broken umbrella, and the idea came to me like a flash in the head!”

The sun beats, the heatwave of eleven o’clock in the morning does not forgive, and the light dazzles overbearingly with white slamming on the stones of Matera. In the middle of the sidewalk there’s a small pedestal with a strange sculpture, its silhouette almost blinds in contrast with the narrow and dark entrance of the cave. It is the sculpture, despite the darkness, that seems to push you into it.

Vincenzo stands there at the back of the room, giving his back to the visitors, bending over his dusty work table. As soon as the eyes get used to the drastic change in light, white prevails in his workshop as well: in addition to the immaculate shirt, the tuff sculptures, which is actually calcarenite “but we call it that way because it is simpler”, fill each wall, placed on shelves and shelves, hung, leaning against each other, all on display. Ashtrays, vases, heart-shaped pendants, animals, frames. And cribs. Vincenzo gets whole blocks of tuff and sculpts them in the smallest details until they become glimpses of Matera, of its oldest and most enchanted part, and stages the nativity, populating it with tiny clay statuettes that bakes in an oven and paints by hand with tempera colors. “The comet star is very important, it must never be missing”, he underlines.

It’s fun for a world, Vincenzo, to make those who enter guess which are the tools he uses to sculpt this or that particular. Because no one guesses. He created the “chianche”, the slabs that pave the streets and neighborhoods of Matera’s stones, breaking the handle of an umbrella bag, using the two tubes obtained as a stamp on the stone. “And the window? You can open it, you see?”. A hidden switch, and all the cribs light up. In the cave, a miniature viewpoint of Matera’s stones landscape in the evening. He also makes the cribs inside the bread, or with papier-mâché. In his blue eyes, a leap of satisfaction, the joy to show his creations, like a child who has just finished his most beautiful drawing. His strong hands gesticulate, indicate, rub into a cloud of white powder left by the limestone. On display on a notice board, the photos of all the actors, directors, journalists and celebrities who have passed through Matera and honored him with a visit.

He remembers when he lived in one of those caves when he was a child: the chicken coop was under his bed and the donkey was part of his family; the last of four brothers used the worn-out clothes of the elders; the witch was carrying a toy gun that the next day disappeared mysteriously to reappear the following year, passed off as a new gift. “We didn’t even have money for soap,” he says. He began working as a coach builder at the age of 9 for 300 lire a month, then around Italy, blacksmith, carpenter, upholsterer, policeman, then official of the prefecture for 30 years. “I couldn’t stand still in the same place, after a while I always got tired! He met his wife in Rome and took her with him to Matera; now, at 61 and with grey hair, he has two daughters and four grandchildren of whom he is proud. He has always cultivated a passion for sculpture: since he was 11, he spent his free time working with white rock, the passion that after years has closed the circle and brought him back home, in the rocks of the underground city, where he continues to sculpt and create, “WITH HEART AND LOVE”, he wants to tell it, because that’s what counts.

Vincenzo gave me a heart as a present. A white heart from Matera ♡

Manual of the Warrior of Light – Epilogue

After more than two years, my project is finished, and I illustrated the whole book! I’m excited, and now I’ll try to contact Paulo Coelho and see if he likes it

Thanks for following, liking and supporting! :) It’s been quite a journey!

Logan’s Parents :)

Hey everybody! This is my last watercolor on assignment, it’s a portrait of my dear American friend’s parents, she’s preparing a big present for them ;) and it’s a pleasure to be part of this and to help her make them happy!

If you want to give a portrait as a gift, all I need is a photo in good quality. Don’t hesitate to contact me at elena.mantovan84@gmail.com for any question!

Logan's parents
Logan’s Parents – Watercolor on Paper – 33 x 48 cm

And here you can have a look at the work in progress. Oh, I love pencils!!! :)

© Elena Mantovan

The Manual of The Warrior of Light – Third part

Ps. I want once again to remind that every caption is an extract written by Paulo Coelho in his book! ;)