Inside the Sketchbook of Franco D'Elia


Written by Atorina Saliba



From a hostel in picturesque Noosa, north of Brisbane, Franco D’Elia sits in the common area, trying to charge his phone.


In mid-2020, Franco ended up in Australia with an urge to travel, to explore. So far, he's journeyed up and down the East coast, winding up on the Gold Coast, where I caught sight of him.


There’s noise around him of backpackers moving about. We ignore all the movement and delve deep into conversation about art, travel, and what it means to follow your passion in a world that refuses to go at your pace.


I’ve seen your drawings. I love them. They’re so technical. They’re all about structure and then there's some abstract elements in it too. There's a mix. How did you get started in art?

When I was studying back in uni in Argentina, I always wanted to express my ideas, and the quickest way to express my thoughts and what I wanted to create was through drawing. Nowadays, a lot of people use the computer, you know? They just use the computer, listen to the teacher, go home, they try to use the programs. But for me, I don’t like it. It’s hard to be in contact with a computer. I love so much the feeling of the paper. That’s how I started being super curious about how to become really good at drawing what I’m imagining so people can understand what’s in my mind, how to communicate an idea.

I always dreamed about sitting in a place, drinking a coffee and being able to sketch what I see. Instead of taking a picture, I always wanted to be able to draw what I’m looking at, the proportions, and sharing this. I love how people react. I love how they start smiling, connect with the piece of paper. I do it for both of those reasons.


The thing of being with a piece of paper that’s white, there’s nothing on it. In the beginning it’s a challenge to do something. The white sheet is an opportunity. Something that motivates me and inspires me to do something where it was nothing at all. In that way, something that is super basic, you can make it special. That kind of meaning, I apply it to different aspects of life. It’s a cool lifestyle.


Tell me about your project 'Cada Tanto'.

'Cada tanto' is a phrase that I used to say in the past years whenever I found myself doing something that fulfilled me in the present. Whenever you're doing something and you just realise you’re not thinking about yesterday or the future or problems or family or work or friends. When you are really connected to what’s going on, to yourself, you’re feeling balanced. Sometimes that happens to us, when you're loving something, you're enjoying really the moment. 'Cada tanto', that means 'sometimes', or 'every sense in a while', I feel full with myself, I feel super connected with the moment. So I started deciding, my lifestyle, to identify those moments, identifying those persons that make me feel okay with me. Instead of happening just sometimes or every once in a while, it becomes something often, more usual. Like everyday trying to make stuff that makes me feel full. How do you say full? Like fulfilled with my soul. Feel complete.

You also sketch out the homes of strangers. Afterwards, you knock on their doors and ask if they want to buy the sketch. You’re not worried about the rejection?

No, go for it. When I first came to Australia, I dedicated myself full-time on this project. I was working so much in building my confidence, in building what I could show someone, that I didn’t work much. So the necessity of paying the rent, of buying food, pushed me to go out and show my work. Because if I keep the drawings for myself, I will never be able to progress in the way I like. What I do is just start outside, drink a coffee. Just a house that I like, that I feel like I identify with. Remember what I told you about the white page? When I started drawing, little by little the house starts to appear, and I want to finish so I can show the owner. I knock on the door and I’m just honest, I want to share what I do. And if someone appreciates it and wants to keep it, it’s just a matter of talking and telling them what I’m doing with this.

In the beginning, I accepted what they could give me. I didn’t know how to value my artwork. But then, little by little I knew how to deal, how to negotiate, the value of business. Knowing how to choose the houses, knowing how to choose the suburb, how to introduce myself, the English. It’s been really hard work that I could never be able to do by myself. I always find some help from people that I meet. They have different kinds of experience. Maybe in spelling, in confidence, in artworks, in English. They teach me how to speak. I could see, little by little, my progress. Nowadays I feel really confident with my drawings, I have a business card where people can reach me and see what I’m doing.


All these people that you met, was that through your travels?

Yeah, by travelling here through Australia. This drawing business, I started here in Australia. I never did anything like this back in Argentina. I always would've loved to but I never pushed myself to do it properly. I always had something else to do. Working, studying. Now that I was completely free, I stop procrastination, stop postponing, stop living for other's dreams, live for my dreams, my passions. I want to be an artist.


A lot of people need art to feel that. Like if you’re an artist, you need to make art to feel that. If they’re not making the artwork, they feel empty.

Yeah, yeah, art, sports, laughing, doing things that you want. Some opportunities appear to make you feel that you have been doing something in order for that to happen. You know, like being proactive and being passive. If you go for it... If you’re sitting at home, maybe sometimes it can happen, those little moments of happiness or opportunities. But if you have a proactive way of living, you look forward to what you want to do, you look forward to learn and to challenge yourself, get out of your comfort zone. Go forward toward your dreams. You know how sometimes we say, “Oh, I will do it later when I have more time, when I have more money, when I’m not studying, when I’m not working, on the weekend.” So we put that in the bucket, bucket, bucket. So I said no more bucket. Let’s do it right now, all of them. I’m living that kind of life right now. It’s super hard, but at the same time I’m being super grateful. Because I’m learning a lot. Always something new happens to me. It’s wonderful.


You made an animation for Dust Temple. How did you come up with that project for them?

Whenever I find something that I like, I just sketch it. I want to draw. So I was standing outside Dust Temple, I was drawing and someone approached me and said, “Hey, when you finish, come to us and show us what you did, because the owner is interested.” Perfect. So then it was like, Oh my god, this opportunity. Before they came to me, I was already going to do that. It’s the way that I find opportunity, jobs. I draw. I want to have the finished product, I go and ask for the owner, the manager, and show what I do. So I was there sketching, trying to catch the essence of the place. The details. This wonderful program that I’m using on the iPad, Procreate, allows me to record every trace that I do. At the end, when I finish my drawing, I have a time lapse drawing, from the white sheet of paper until everything is done. It’s kind of like a movie, like a story, a progression. People feel connected to the piece of art, they see the process. It’s not like a finished product, they see if I’m wrong, if I made a mistake. So it’s more like feedback with the spectator. When I finished the drawing, I went and spoke with the owner and they were fascinated, they never seen something like this before.



Franco D'Elia is from Buenos Aires, Argentina. His illustrations can be found at Cada.Tanto.

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