Ugo Crisponi is the mind and the heart behind Aviationgraphic. He is 38 years old originally experienced with mechanical engineering and technical drawing. Born and raised in Italy now lives and works between Italy and Japan. We had the opportunity to interview him. Please enjoy!
Q: Hello Mr. Crisponi and first of all thank you very much for accepting this mini-interview.
A: You’re welcome Sotirios.
Q: Since many aviation fans already know that you are the mind behind Aviationgraphic (AVG) can you remind us when and how did that beautiful journey start?
A: AVG was a necessary step, as at that time (2005) I was creating and collecting quite a huge amount of artworks and profiles made for several purpouses such as books, magazines and some Squadrons and law enforcement units. I decided at first to collect all these efforts in an online showroom. But I realized soon that lots of other illustrators where doing similar artworks mainly as a hobby and never thought to open an online store. So I contacted some of them and had an immediate positive answer. They joined me in this project and cooperate in several ways to make AVG a unique reality. So far more than 30 illustrators with different styles and backgrounds coming from all over the World joined me. Still have many requests in this way in the waiting room.
Q: Your job is full time. Do you design only aviation themes? What about in the past?
A: Not only aviation themes, even if it’s what I like more. As it has become a full time job I must obviously accept also different requests, from train profiles for museums to cars, trucks, tanks and ships. But those works are a real challenge all the time as I have to use a different approach to the drawing. A ship is far different from an helicopter.
In the past as hobbist I did some trials using mainly the airbrush on paper, depicting always airplanes thought it was a real challenge anytime as there was no “undo” button as we have today on every software. Each mistake mostly stood in the paper without mercy.
Q: Can you name any other artist that you admire his/her work and believe as inspiring for you?
A: Well, there are many valuable illustrators I like. Some of them use completely different drawing techniques and this is always an inspiration for me to do something in a different way. So far the most interesting pencil is Koike Shigeo, a great man and well known artist especially for his Hasegawa box arts. I had the opportunity to meet him some times while I was living in Tokyo and could admire his original drawings growing from his hands directly in his working table. A unique experience, believe me.
Q: A few months ago aviation photographer Katsuhiko Tokunaga in a similar question chose knowledge and preparation. So for a fine result what is more useful in your job? Knowledge or talent?
A: Well, Katsu has a good mix of all these components. I think in profiling art talent is more important than knowledge. Long time use of the tools and experience, allow you to achieve highest quality in a very short time. I use a very old graphic software, an old version of CorelDraw for both the technical drawing and the final painting. Basically need no filters or other stuff. Just my virtual airbrush and the masks: same as I learned to do in mid ‘80s. Some friends struggles with the latest versions of their Photoshop tools, but if you have no skill or talent they won’t be of any help to achieve a nice result. Computer itself doesn’t mean necessary the drawing is authomatic.
Q: Is it safe to conclude that your engagement with aircraft profiles design was born by a special love to flight and aviation in general?
A: Abosultely yes. Always loved aircraft and helicopters. Still remember how hard was to find images and even more movies in late ’70 or ‘80s for a teenager. Cutting the pictures from magazines to make my own database. So maybe this passion grow even stronger due to this difficulty, and anytime I could spot something related, was a joy. Nowday a teenager can simply downlad tons of images and movies from the web. I wonder having this oppotunity in past if I would be here today doing what I do...
Q: What is your actual inspiration when you start to design an aircraft? Do you use real aircraft photos in order to give a realistic touch?
A: When I have no orders or specific requirements I prepare artworks that I would like to see hanged on a wall. In all my artworks I try not to use and merge real photo with the drawing. Of course I try to reproduce a real image at best. Secret is to work in a large scale with most visible details, proper shadows and highlights and than reducing it’s size to adapt it at the profile. In this way sometimes the final effect is almost photorealistic. Most magazines, book and prints are limited to an A4 / A3 size while the orignal artwork can be printed three times larger. So the profiles looks even more realistic when printed in smaller size.
Q: Can you share with us some information about your techniques? Which are the tools that you use? Does the iteration of aircraft types under several Air Forces save you some time or do you start every project of yours on “white page”?
A: Basically I start with an accurate vectorial linedrawing, depitching every possible detail, screw and rivets by using Corel Draw. This step is extremely important for a good profile and the overall result. Once everything is ready, I export the technical drawing into a photoshop like software, Corel Photo Paint, as a bitmap file usually sized 6.000 pixels of lenght, useful for being printed as a large poster. From this step on, everything is done using separate layers: for the shadows, lights, details, etcc....The final drawing is a basic grey profile, complete of every details ready for being personalized with different liveries and stencils. This allows not to start every project from scratch and save time. So far I have hundred of ready profiles of the most different models waiting for being personalized.
Q: Could you present us the procedure you follow with a step by step presentation of the intermediate results?
Q: Searching AVG’s official web-site (www.aviationgraphic.com) the visitor sees that more than 25 operators coming out of about 10 countries have been your customers. Can you tell us a few words about them? Who is more demanding for instance?
A: Those operators represent the core business of AVG. They are mainly military squadrons as well as Law Enforcement units. But behind this there is another business based on artistic renderings for the major aircraft companies, both artworks and contributes for logotypes and patches designs for their products and brochure presentations, that are not published on AVG.
The most demanding are USA and german units, both for quantity and accurancy required.
Q: Except lithographs what other products does AVG manufactures?
A: Polo shirts, in partnership with Avioshirt.com managed by Giorgio Galvani and ceramic MUGs. New other products may be added in a short period but can’t talk about this at the moment.
Q: Do you have any plans for a new Hellenic Air Force related project right now?
A: Well, indeed I am working for the 338 Mira for their official prints depicting the glorious Phantom. Other projects will see the special tail C-130H, the RF-4E special colors, F-16C block 52+ and the A-7s.
Thank you very much Mr. Crisponi and hope to see more of your work soon!!!