Interview with Viennetta - Mental health & opinions regarding the Italian art scene

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. 

V: Hi! I will preface this by saying that I am quite long-winded, so it may be that the answers come out a tad long. My name is Betta, or El, but the nickname I use online is "Viennetta"; the name comes from an old personal account of mine, actually. My friends progressively started calling me that, and I must say that it has always belonged to me a bit, being that it was the dessert my grandmother used to buy me when I was little (Viennetta is an italian dessert). It also rhymes with my name, Betta!

I am 25 years old, and I honestly feel old. My anxiety drives me to think that I am late to life, but fortunately I am surrounded by people who have established themselves even at 35/40 years old, so I have many examples that manage to keep me grounded in reality. I am from Turin; more precisely, I live on the outskirts of the city, in the mountains, among the goats.

As for my artistic style, I can say that I prefer a stroke characterized by a strong "manga" influence - I have tried to make my style more cartoony, actually, and sometimes I succeed! Generally, the drawings in which I use this specific style are tributes to cartoons of the past, or means of emptying the mind. 

At the moment my main medium, and the one I cherish in my heart, is good old traditional art: specifically watercolor. I regret having shelved it for a bit recently, but I have to draw digitally now and then otherwise I'll lose the hang of it, and I wouldn't want to waste the efforts I've made so far. Going back to traditional art, I much prefer to sketch in pen: it feels like I'm drawing in a fresher way, especially since I can't erase - that's how I realize where I make mistakes and how I can fix them! This method was passed on to me by a professor long ago, and I must say that it has helped me grow a lot. On the digital side, however, I try to emulate what I do on paper, often using "pencil" brushes.


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

V: Having been born in Turin, later moving to the mountains due to family matters, I can say that I have been able to see two types of views regarding art. In addition, I also had small experiences in France and the Czech Republic, these occasions allowed me to see a completely different point of view.

In the small town in the valleys, art was seen as a mockery, even art teachers did not take students interested in the field seriously. I remember in middle school an art teacher had given an assignment and I had decided to do two versions to hand in, and where my classmates wondered why on earth I had put in twice the effort, the teacher even thought my intentions were to overpower her method of study, thus deciding to put only a passing grade on me, although the work was perfect. In the eighth grade exam, moreover, the same teacher had teased me because I had expressed a desire to go to art school, saying that a messy person like me would never make it. Generally, I was the only one who drew, especially in the area of manga and cartoons-a fish out of water. 

In the city, however, I got to know other people. On the one hand, it was a very positive turn of events, on the other hand, I learned about the existence of competition for the first time: when someone was better than me, insecurities were automatically triggered, whereas when I was the best at something, I immediately felt the negativity of envy permeating my clothes. That said, the teachers in town had a different method of viewing people and art in general! They treated us as real artists, without regarding us as simpletons who would never go anywhere in life.

In the city, I also got to know the world of Collectives: there are a lot of them in Turin, both underground and classical. Unfortunately, a kind of elitism is often established that precludes many from experiencing and joining these groups of artists. To make matters worse, my drawing genre is always seen as a middle ground, a foothold and not a definitive style, especially in professional circles: sometimes my portfolio is not accepted by publishing houses because it is "too manga"-not unripe, just "too much manga." According to many professionals in the field there are only two options: either you conform to a European or American style, or you go to work in Japan.

That said, I have recently been able to see some kind of evolution on the part of the publishing world, but it is really uninfluential right now. If we continue like this, by the time a noteworthy turnaround happens, I will be 60 years old.


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?

V: Like many people I know, I have been drawing for as long as I can remember-when I became aware I already had pencils in my hand. Art has been a constant in my life: when I was seven years old I still couldn't write and I couldn't communicate, I was writing letters backwards and from right to left as I saw them right - growing up, I don't deny that this marked me very much. Since I couldn't write and communicate, I didn't talk much for fear of being teased further. To get around this problem, in elementary school I started carrying around notebooks on which I drew symbols corresponding to what I wanted to say. Of course, I then learned to communicate normally, but the importance of drawings never faded. I wrote and drew my first comic strip when I was 8 years old, I had gone over it all with black pens and colored in pencil, it was called "Super Bilboy"; I was so proud of it and always wanted to show it to everyone. I wanted to be as famous as Mickey Mouse, as early as 8 years old. 

My turning point in the artistic sphere was when, in middle school, I became acquainted with the world of manga. I was absolutely in love with anything "gothic" - I can say that D.Gray-man literally changed my brain chemistry, I had to draw like that, no matter what. Another huge influence was the cartoon of "Total Drama: Island"!

Forced by my parents, I attended a year of high school where the same mentality that was present in middle school reigned: bullying and ignorance reigned supreme, especially with regard to a passion for less touted topics, such as "obscure" manga and anything related to Japan. No longer able to stand the situation I was in, I decided to flunk out and started from scratch at an art high school in town, where I met others like me among my classmates! The professors, however, were very fixed only on the humanities and left little room for creativity within art classes, in fact I drew Gintama and more japanese-like interests in my spare time.

During high school I studied a lot of traditional art: life drawing, anatomy, woodwork, sculpture from clay or scrap materials. My passion for watercolor actually stemmed from a professor I didn't particularly like, but who was truly a monster in his genre of art. He was never completely satisfied with what I created, always commenting with some kind of compliment, followed by a "but." This mindset taught me to be self-critical, and it definitely dampened the oversized ego I had as a child. 

As a result of what I learned during high school, I can say that to this day, if I find myself in burnout or art block, through copying from life and DIY I can find inspiration again!

Subsequently, I enrolled in the Scuola di Comics to study comics. The first year was completely dedicated to the use of the pencil and anatomy, while the second year was dedicated to inking and the specific study of genres; unfortunately, French, humorous Italian (like Mickey Mouse) and American were the only three genres we had a chance to study. As a final project, however, we would then have to come up with a 10-page proposal, based on an independently written story - in short, as if it were a project to take to a publishing house. That said, my first serious approach to digital was dictated by the pandemic-we all got tablets and had to spend the summer between second and third grade learning how to draw digitally, precisely because a different kind of medium was needed in order to continue to take advantage of the teachings, albeit at a distance. 

Studying at the Scuola di Comics, I understood the conception that the majority has of cartoonists, at least in Italy: you have to work at least 50 hours a week, if only to be able to catch up with the one who is further behind in the field. Even though we were still studying, there was never time to be able to do everything, especially having to go from digital to traditional and vice versa.


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

V: The first strong impact that art had on my life I encountered during my middle school years. Having a great passion for gothic manga I would often come across religious figures depicted within the stories. I come from a family of Jehovah's Witnesses, and at the time, the thought of consuming media that mentioned angels and demons, as well as often used religious symbolism, made me feel almost blasphemous. As I grew up, I realized how crucial these manga were to me, giving me the opportunity to explore this side of religion on my own. 

During my teenage years I also got to see the effects of art on mental health, on more than one occasion. So I would like to specify that it is of utmost importance to pay attention not only to one's own mental health, but also to the mental health of other artists-you never know when a person might reach a breaking point, or reach a malaise that would preclude themselves from continuing to do something that makes them happy.

As mentioned earlier, for my early years, art was absolutely essential to be able to communicate. As I grew up, however, it became a means of sharing thoughts and passions with others, thus forming lasting bonds. It started out as a childhood necessity, then became a manifestation of a pre-adolescent ego and, later, an adolescent sharing. I realized how it is now a necessity, an obsession so strong that it used to bother me: I could not watch a movie that my mind would go directly to a kind of mental, abstract drawing process. 

In addition, in 2020 I experienced a particularly heavy moment that deeply affected both my younger sister and me: I was responsible for letting her vent through normal methods, such as crying, long sleeps, and fits of rage-being the eldest, on the other hand, I had to find a way to be able to secretly vent, so I began to externalize my anger and crises through private drawings that I never published. They were all in black pen or red pen, again to link back to the thought explained earlier: I draw in pen because you can't erase the experience that I went through, it's a tracing that this experience exists, but it's also a push toward a better future. I think I would have been completely consumed if I had not had even two minutes devoted to a personal drawing moment. Once the period was over, I moved out on my own, and drawing again became a leisure and an outlet. 

More generally, during the pandemic, art was instrumental in keeping me busy and connected to reality. 

There was a year when, for personal reasons, I was so sick that I could no longer draw-it was frustrating not to be able to explain and communicate what I was experiencing. Moreover, it was in conjunction with a period of strong obsession with social media-I wanted to use it as proof of how skilled and capable I was, as a demonstration that even someone like me could do it. I do not deny that these situations marked me deeply, left an indelible mark - that said, they also made me stronger and further solidified the importance of art in my life. When I think of myself, I never imagine myself without a paper, or without a thought at least dedicated to the field.


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

V: No. More accurately, let's say "kind of".

Apart from fairs and commissions, fortunately I have a backup job - I create thumbnails for an Italian youtuber. Obviously, if I could participate in more fairs I would have more monthly income, but in order to make money in these environments it is first necessary to invest some money in merch production and Artist Alley memberships at the fairs, unfortunately I don't always have the guaranteed opportunity. Fortunately, living with my parents I do not need to have to earn enough to support myself completely, my current income is enough to cover my personal monthly expenses.


Y: What platforms do you use to promote your work? Do you think they need to be fixed and improved in any way? Do you think a new platform concerning only digital art would be helpful?

V: At the moment I publish and try to keep active on Instagram, although lately I've been jumping on Telegram - I didn't expect that there would be so many people using it as a "social," and I especially had no idea how useful it is for communication, I really like the kind of communication as if it were a group chat, it seems much more personal and intimate! Unexpectedly, though, I get most of the pre-orders mostly on Facebook!

As an occasional social, when I remember, I use Tiktok and Twitter, and right now I am trying to use BlueSky. I honestly don't understand Twitter very much, I feel like a boomer; as for Tiktok, on the other hand, I can make videos where I talk and so it allows me to communicate directly, but since they introduced promotion through ads, it has fallen flat.

Going back to Instagram, as of mid-2021, the reach is absolutely atrocious and is driving more and more people away from their passions, now frustrated by the lack of recognition.


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

V: Honestly, I never thought that my works could be copied or resold by third parties, because being drawn with traditional means, the process was far too complex to be worth it - but I had to think again. This year I came across some of my artwork being used for key chains on Aliexpress: so I contacted the seller on the platform, I lied by saying that the artwork was Copyright protected, and the listing was removed immediately.

Also, I had some problems with "tracing" done by small novice artists, but clearly they were much easier situations to solve.


Y: What is your opinion on NFTs and their impact on the digital art world? Are you in favor of Artificial Intelligences using your art to enrich their database?

V: As far as NFTs are concerned, I have to say that at the time I was particularly informed about their environmental impact, rather than their artistic impact, and already that had pushed me toward a very negative opinion of the situation. As an artist, it also generally seemed to me to be a bit of a "scam": it is yet another example of a personal sell-out to enrich oneself, to gain followers and influence on social media. It pains me to say it, but so many cartoonists have completely devalued themselves by participating in these projects, again and again only for economic ambitions.

On artificial intelligence, however, a great debate can be opened. Used in the right way, it could become a fundamentally important tool. If there were databases created from the works of artists specially paid for this work, a kind of library could be created and made available to anyone who needs to learn, or generally for reference, inspiration and examples. This could be a very interesting solution not only for novice artists, but also for professionals: ideally, you would have the ability to create a kind of personal database, so that the AI would create a sketch starting from your own style, so that the artist could process it and then bring it to a complete work by human hand, speeding up the process a lot.


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

V: Honestly, I wish there was less hypocrisy and indifference among the artists themselves. I have noticed that this problem is predominantly within the national scene; there is really less falsehood and less competition when dealing with foreign artists, or with Italian artists who often work with foreign clients.

All artists know very well what it feels like to be insecure all the time, to be "the odd one out," and to have all the uncertainties in the world about their art. I am sincerely sick of the falsehood present within the Italian scene, people cling to secrets and confidences, and use them to put other people in a bad light. There is already enough malevolence, there is no need to feed the negativity.

Futhermore, I see more and more people who have no idea how complex and "real" the work of the artist is, thus tending to devalue the work of others. Unfortunately, I see this kind of thinking both from people outside the field and from artists in the artistic environment, which is deeply disappointing. I just wish for a little more empathy. I would sincerely like if artists, especially those who have recently entered the field, could realize that competition and bullying lead nowhere: quiet life should be the basis, you don't need to be everybody's friend all the time, but a minimum of respect and empathy are essential.


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

V: Linking back to the mentality mentioned earlier, that typically Northern Italian idea stating that if you don't make money, you're not worth anything. That seems to be the motto of Artist Alley managers right now - they haven't yet realized that the less space they give and the more they raise the price, the fewer people will attend the fairs, thus losing more and more potential visitors. Unfortunately, fair organizers are still stuck in the old vision of Italian fairs, accompanied by a revulsion toward foreign events that, on the other hand, are focusing everything on popularizing art - achieving remarkable success.

I believe that the management of artist alleys should ideally be given to an artist - someone who knows exactly what it means to be within the creative sphere. In addition, I think a minimal review of portfolios is of paramount importance in order to be accepted within these areas.

Speaking from experience, I can say that I have experienced some really negative episodes in the industry. For example, there have been occasions in which we had been positioned under some stairs, halfway between candy vendors and 3D printer attendants, without a minimum of sense among the booths present-all accompanied by a horrible smell coming from a manhole a few meters away from us. All it would have taken was a little organization to manage the fair space in a better way, so as to enhance the artists present and not "throw them there at random." I don't think it is that complex to pay a little extra attention and make the Artist Alley a little more palatable at least aesthetically, so as to attract more people and thus benefit everyone. Moreover, it is neither in heaven nor on earth to charge 5 euros for a chair, not to have bathrooms available for the boothists, as well as to increase the price of tables after each fair, yet providing tiny tables without even placing the artists in decent areas.



Many thanks to Betta for participating in the interview!

In case you are interested in their work, you can find them on Instagram as @viennettart.

If you have any doubts or questions regarding Copyright management and the protection of your works, please remember 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.