Shining a light on the work of Italy's determined creative.
Words by Luis (@heaviestofart):
The world of music artwork, and metal artwork in particular, has expanded tenfold in recent years with new and exciting bands releasing material in abundance. To go with said music, the right visual companion must be developed in unison and there has been no shortage of exquisite sights to brace us for what lies beyond the album cover. Among those introducing many to new material is Italian illustrator, painter, and graphic designer Charli Aldrighi — a multi-faceted talent with a boundless prowess that spans the likes of Metallica, The 1975, The Rolling Stones, Broadside, and Foo Fighters to name a few. From moving cover illustrations to vibrant tour poster designs, Charli's work is a tapestry sewn from an array of techniques and inspirations harnessed for true artistic fulfillment.
Read through an insightful Q&A with the artist herself:
As we close out a significant year for music and art and start another, it can be said you had a great 2022 yourself, nailing top clients and exquisite merch designs among other near projects. Reflecting on where you are now as an artist, to what do you attribute your continued success?
Charli: First of all, thank you! I agree, this year was great in the music industry, and also for my career.
I think the main aspect that I can attribute my success in this field to is my versatility. Ironically, early on in my career, I spent years being unsatisfied with not having a specific style. I was constantly challenging myself and learning new techniques, hoping to find a specific one that I would stick to, but couldn’t. I would draw an old school tattoo-style skull engulfed in flames for a rock band one day, then a dramatic post-apocalyptic landscape photomanipulation of a city in ruins for a metalcore one the next, and I thought it was confusing that I didn’t have my own identity like some other artists did. Then, I realized that my own touch did show through, no matter the specific technique I used for a piece, throughout all of my art regardless of which genre of music the band was. I was excited to see that people were coming to me for my style specifically and requesting different techniques from me because they trusted me enough to pull them off. Seeing clients happy because their expectations were met, and even exceeded, made me more and more confident and excited to keep trying new things and approaches.
It's a rewarding moment I'm sure! Other than of course fulfilling an idea presented by a band’s team, is there a particular effect that you’d like for your work to achieve?
Charli: I enjoy following a band’s creative direction because I think it’s very powerful from a creative standpoint to combine visual and audio into a piece like album art or merchandise. I also like when I’m given carte blanche and I have full creative freedom, which often happens when the band puts their trust into me by letting me listen to the unreleased album and just letting me being inspired by it.
In both cases, my ultimate goal is to honor the client’s music to the best of my abilities and developing art that not only suits it, but portrays the message that the music itself conveys. After all, my work is the visual counterpart of the band’s auditory content. It’s what people are going to see in music stores, on streaming platforms, or wear on shirts when they want to support their favorite band. So, I aim to do it justice while also creating a piece of art that carries a message and is meaningful to those who see it even without knowing its backstory.
You understand the role that your work plays and excel in doing so. Looking at your design origins in retrospect, where do you feel that you’ve grown over the years?
Charli: I feel like I have become more and more comfortable with taking creative risks and not being afraid of going outside of my comfort zone. Many years ago, back when I started, I was playing it safe and only following the current trends, and obviously, it worked. I’ve grown to find out that creative choices that might go against “the norm” are risky, but can get you to achieve incredible results. So now, I allow myself to do that and it’s very rewarding to see what you can reach when you try to push your limits. Even small things, like using an unexpected font or an interestingly different color palette that’s not “the usual” for a specific genre, can actually make the final product stand out and be a success, specifically because it’s not what it’s expected to be.
In some ways, you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, creatively speaking at least. Your work bridges a variety of practices, including digital painting, mixed media, and photo based design, providing you with creative flexibility. Was there a moment in your artistic career that informed this direction?
Charli: As I was mentioning before, this used to be an aspect of me that made me feel vulnerable. I thought that even my portfolio was all over the place because I couldn’t pick one single thing to showcase - I wanted people to see all the range of things I could create! After a few years working exclusively in the metal/rock/alternative scene, I got a request to work on some merch for Katy Perry, which consisted of a very colorful, pop, cartoony line of designs. I thought, “Why not?” That’s when I realized my versatility was actually my strength.
I take pride in being able to accommodate a wide number of artistic needs and preferences. I am actually very happy to not be a one-trick pony. This allows me to work with so many different bands from different scenes and countries, and it keeps my workflow fresh, challenging, and inspiring every single week.
Your portfolio is so diverse as a result, as one can see by scrolling your website. With a variety of collaborations under your belt, does it get easier to meet artistic needs or is there always that newfound excitement of struggling to find a common ground?
Charli: I think I’m very confident as an artist, but I would lie if I said that it always comes easy with every single project. Some projects are challenging and that’s part of the beauty of it. Sometimes it can take so long to get the right inspiration for the piece. Sometimes you find yourself sitting down and sketching forever before finally reaching that perfect idea that you were looking for, but I also believe that it’s very important, if not essential, to always face every project knowing that it’s your responsibility to use your skills to the fullest.
At times, this means trying dozens of options before settling on the right one, or staying up all night because you’re in a creative frenzy and stopping midway and picking it up tomorrow would just not be the same. For me, my job is so much more than just a job - I see art as my purpose in life. I think art is supposed to make you feel something when you look at it, so it’s only normal if sometimes it takes a struggle to create it. It’s always worth it in the end!
I agree! The Rolling Stones, Metallica, The 1975, Paul McCartney, Foo Fighters, Frank Iero — there’s no shortage of standout names in your portfolio. Do you have a favorite piece? If so, why?
Charli: I have many favorite pieces, some for purely artistic reasons, some for personal reasons. A Metallica t-shirt that I designed this year combines the two and it’s one of my most recent favorites. It’s fully hand drawn with a black marker on paper to achieve a vintage feeling, and while I was doing it, it brought back memories of when I was in high school and spent my days drawing just like that, as simple as you can go. Back then, I would listen to Metallica all the time because it was one of my favorite bands since middle school and if you had told me that one day I’d be hired to work for them, I would have probably exploded with joy and disbelief.
The album art for Polaris’ debut album, 'The Mortal Coil' (2017), is a full on digital painting that I’m extremely proud of. It took me weeks of work and the band was my first Australian client. They then proceeded to become such a big name in the international metal scene and I remember seeing the art all over social media, so it was very exciting and still is when I think about it.
The 1975’s poster that I did just a few weeks ago also holds a special place in my heart because it’s my best friend’s favorite band.
Neat selections, Charli! Artistically speaking, is there something you haven’t achieved yet that you’re perhaps working towards?
Charli: Yes, I always have things brewing! I have some bands that I’d love to design for and check off of my bucket list, one of them being Pink Floyd - I grew up listening to their songs because it was my dad’s favorite band. No rush, but I would love for that to happen at some point.
Whenever I’m not working on client work, I’m working on personal art projects. One of my painting series was just taken on by a contemporary art gallery in Berlin, and I’d like to expand that more and showcase my art in other galleries all around the world. Additionally, I’m wrapping up my first book at the moment. It will be a collection of illustrations, sketches, and poetry. It feels exciting and liberating to finally put it out there. It’s all quite dark and emotional, it’s like I stamped a piece of my soul on paper and I look forward to sharing it with the world.
For more on Charli Aldrighi, follow her on Instagram and visit her website.