Interview with @fededeko - Should art schools prepare for the job market?

Y: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work, your artistic style and chosen medium, anything regarding your art that you feel is important. 

F: Good morning! Nice to meet you, my name is Fede. I am 25 years old and from Tuscany, I am quite an introverted person - I often find it difficult to start conversations with others. In fact, this attitude probably led me to choose my current path; as a child I was that little girl who stayed in a corner drawing, not even thinking about the possibility of hanging out with other children.

After Secondary School, I enrolled in Art High School, and once I finished, I jumped right into the thick of this somewhat peculiar line of work. I am a cartoonist, I consider it my main profession, although of course I often work on illustrations and commissions for individuals. Recently, I have also become a merch-artist!

In terms of art style, I would say that mine could be described as purely manga; more than a decade ago I started with that and stayed with the classic - let's just say that having grown up with Dragonball, I've always had some interest in cultivating it. As the years went by, I then continued to develop and personalize it; I think it's natural to find your own way as time goes by. It has been called "euromanga" by some - I am simply happy with the path I have taken and where my style is at. 

My main medium is definitely digital, although I admit it was a choice dictated by necessity rather than personal preference. When it comes to traditional art, on the other hand, I see it very much as a kind of escapism, a safety blanket - when I am stressed I tend to turn to traditional techniques, such as India ink and watercolor, and I relax almost immediately. In any case, through digital I've always tried to take back what I could render in traditional - I really like the "watercolor" style so I've tried to transport it to an electronic medium. Also, I would add that my aesthetic is definitely characterized by very muted and desaturated colors, as they relax me. 


Y: What is the art scene like in the area where you live, or where you come from?

F: I admit I haven't had many opportunities to get feedback from outsiders, as I live in a fairly remote town and don't particularly participate in village life. That said, I know for sure art is not looked upon favorably around here, it's considered a kind of clowning around - I've come across people several times who had no idea that my work was a "real" job. Unfortunately, art is not conceived as a potential career path here at all: most people do not see it as a plausible option, and they are always extremely surprised when that option is mentioned. For those kinds of people, the idea of working from home is neither in heaven nor on earth.  How many times have I heard the question, "but how do you give them the drawings?"

That said, the situation seems to be in a period of evolution. As a result of Covid, the idea of working from home has begun to spread, but only and exclusively under the notion of "telework" - not as actual smartworking. Moreover, those who work from home are always seen as available, as if they are not actually busy working; this means that even weekends are seen as time to be filled, and not days off. 

Surprisingly, I have been able to notice some development in this regard in the world of Twitch. Being that you can view streamers' schedules on the platform, many people accept the fact that creators are working because they have visual proof of that.

I often get commissions or projects from clients who are doing "normal" work and may be in the office from 8 in the morning to 6 at night - unfortunately, this results in many of their requests for changes being sent to me when my work day is over as well - I find messages at 11 PM, often with requests to be resolved by the next day.


Y: What prompted you to enter the world of digital art? How did you begin your artistic journey? Tell us about your course of study. Did you study anything specifically related to art or did your interest come from something else?

F: It all started when I was very young, I was the typical child who spent every single hour drawing rather than socializing. More specifically, during elementary school I used to copy images taken from Garfield, then moving on to different comics that were famous at the time: from Oliver & Company to Donald Duck. From secondary school I started drawing people: I felt a real need to draw humanoids, seeing them often on television thanks to Dragonball and One Piece. I won't deny that Mediaset helped me a lot, through the programs it aired I was able to take cues and experiment with this blessed manga style that I built around. Later, I enrolled in Art High School with a specialization in Figurative Arts; in my mind I hoped that there would be courses dedicated to comics, or at least some subject that could teach me more about the field, but unfortunately that was not the case. 

The high school I attended had a specific characteristic: students chose a major to attend for two years, then having the opportunity to delve deeper, or change address, in the following years. I was particularly interested in the fine arts, but unfortunately they pushed us to draw only still life for the first few years, which bored me so much. Later, I decided to enroll in the Audiovisual and Multimedia course and I found it deeply stimulating and much more dynamic: we drew storyboards, studied the history of cinema and the practices related to it. We spent a lot of time dwelling on framing and compositions - lessons that to this day help me tremendously when I read the scripts I work with in my current profession. The icing on the cake? I had the opportunity to write my paper completely on the One Piece manga!

After high school I wanted to become a cartoonist, although at the time I was convinced that it was a job that existed only in Japan-which is why I made so many plans to go there to study through the GoGoNihon service. In the meantime, I enrolled in the Lucca Manga School, where I studied for the two years of the two-year course. The course I took was dedicated to board and story structures: two aspects that are quite complex to learn when you are self-taught, as you rarely find tutorials about them. Moreover, thanks to the Lucca Manga School I had the opportunity to meet many Italian cartoonists, whose experiences helped me in no small way.

In all this I also managed to write a Webtoon! It consists of about 200 pages, the equivalent of a small volume - I can say that thanks to this project I had my first experience with deadlines. At the time I was working in the library and I promised myself that I would draw three pages a week, I won't deny that I really struggled, but I finally succeeded. The project was published in Tapas, where I published 3 more stories and a single school project, self-contained and revised by a Japanese editor.

I then decided to pitch myself to different publishers, and this is how we got to today.


Y: Art is a challenging, if extremely satisfying, field. What impact has it had on your life so far?

F: From a social point of view, the art world has been extremely helpful to me. Most of my current friendships come from those wonderful Facebook groups of yesteryear. At the time, there were Facebook groups dedicated to single, extremely specific topics, which made it very easy to find people to bond with-growing up, I realized that friendships don't have to be based on a single interest, but at the time they were extremely helpful to me. I think that having friends within such a broad environment as the arts is critically important for anyone, even more so if they are professionals who practice from home and, therefore, don't exactly have the daily opportunity to interact with their colleagues.

In addition, this year I started attending trade shows as a booth attendant! This new activity has allowed me to meet a lot of people and, most importantly, has made me much more "social." It is a situation that puts you in a position to become the face of what you do, in addition to the cashier, accountant and salesperson of your own business. I think it counts as a very important life experience. As a result of this development, I've noticed how a balance has gradually arisen between the two parts of the life of an artist of my kind: during the week you spend hours and hours at home alone, working in solitude, while on trade show weekends you become a social animal and devote yourself completely to interpersonal interactions.


Y: Does your art allow you to support yourself financially? 

F: I currently practice several professions at the same time: illustrator for private clients, cartoonist, and booth attendant at conventions. Despite these activities, I would say that I still cannot fully support myself.

The situation is very shaky being that fees change from month to month, you never have a way to make "big" plans, not knowing if the next month you will have enough cash to afford them. I speak, however, as someone who works in the Italian environment, where a fixed salary for cartoonists does not exist. 

On the contrary, working with foreign countries there is the possibility of getting a fixed monthly fee-especially when it comes to French or American clients.

Many problems in the field arise from the fact that most new cartoonists are not aware of how the professional environment works, and thus are exploited by publishing houses. Of course, this is a problem exclusive to Italy; the situation abroad is completely different.


Y: Have you ever had any issues regarding copyright and its management? 

F: Of serious situations I have not experienced any, fortunately.

However, it has often happened to me to find my art used as a profile photo without credits, or posted on "fan-accounts" dedicated to specific characters, again on Instagram.

Unfortunately, it has happened to a great many of my friends that their designs have been stolen and then uploaded to Aliexpress and sold by third parties - I have come to understand that, it tends to happen because they post their designs on Etsy and on platforms where they remain visible all the time; as a result, malicious people have all the time in the world to steal the designs. To protect myself, I decided to post my designs only on Instagram and Ko-fi, and only for the pre-order period. 


Y: Are you in favor of Artificial Intelligence using your art to enrich their database?

F: Artificial intelligence is a very nuanced tool, in my opinion it all depends on how it is used. Basically, the fact that it uses other people's art to generate its own results doesn't sit too well with me - I would have a better opinion if I had proof that it uses, instead, only works by artists who have given personal permission. There should be a service created through which one can give or not give permission to use one's art - like royalty free songs, but for art. Of course, it would be ideal if there was a way for AIs not to steal other people's work; most artists don't want to see pieces of their art inside artificially generated results.

In any case, I think using AI as a private reference, without posting it anywhere and without receiving compensation, is a pretty harmless practice. The current problem is that more and more people are posing as real artists, but using this technology to generate their own work, even selling it to people unaware of the situation.

This is no longer about the filters of the past, where you took a picture and made it into a comic strip or a Van Gogh work, the current situation is much more serious - the more people talk about something, the more famous they make it. Calculating public opinion and how companies use it, this seems to be getting worse every day.


Y: What would you change about the current art scene if you could? What do you expect from the future of art?

F: As a result of the experiences I have had, I can say that I would like it if there was a lot more information and transparency. We have seen that the mentality, in small steps, is changing - but unfortunately there is still a lack of seriousness concerning professionalism in this environment. In schools, students should be taught how to analyze and understand the contracts offered in the world of work - it is fine to teach how to "draw the picture," but it is essential to convey the values of respect, and then also explain when to reject a job offer, perhaps propose internships or apprenticeships, opportunities to gain experience in the field! This aspect of the curriculum is missing, it is not really calculated by the professors, although it is of basic importance. Students are left to their own devices and end up signing contracts that they do not know are unfair. Personally, everything I know now has been passed on to me by colleagues who have more experience than I do.

This situation needs to be resolved.

Otherwise, I expect many more underground projects, and I'm sure there will be more and more artists who will be able to fend for themselves through self-funded projects - I trust that self-areas will fill up with people.


Y: What do you think about the management of artist alleys in conventions nowadays? Are there any experiences you would like to share with us?

F: I don't have too much experience in the area, being that I've only been in the business for a small year. Fortunately, there are some Artist Alleys that are really well run: they have their own area and the organizers are responsible, they don't make a fuss over nothing, they give the correct information, and they require you to respect the schedule and the rules - plus, they give actual space to the artists and promote them very well. I wish there were more like this!

On the other hand, there are many Artist Alleys that do not help or support the artist. Organisers get in their way and fail at their job. Many areas are organized "haphazardly" - in short, they make it obvious that the organizers value quantity over quality. Artists have to sell a kidney to earn a place at the convention, and then they find themselves next to boothists who sell products bought on Aliexpress or AI-generated "works" and are treated better. I hope this will change in the future. 

That said, I did notice that there are a lot of people interested in art! They seem to really appreciate the contact with the artist, also having the opportunity to meet the artist directly in person-the environment that is created is very nice! Being able to interact with clients gives me a crazy rush of adrenaline and self-esteem. In any case, it's still a bit of a new thing, it will take time to figure out how to make it work best.



Many thanks to Fede for participating in the interview!

In case you are interested in her work, you can find her on Instagram as @fededeko.

If you have any doubts or questions regarding Copyright management and the protection of your works, we remind you that the Rights Chain team is always at your disposal! We wish you a great Sunday!


About the Author



Columnist, (He/Them)

Content Creator for cosplay, gaming and animation. With a degree in foreign languages and a great passion for Oriental culture, he writes about copyright to protect the work of artists and young minds. A cosplayer since 2015, Yako is an advocate of gender identity and the development of one's creativity through personal attitudes: be it role-playing, cosplay or writing.