A Look at Illustration fanatic Paolo Maneli’s Work


Paolo Maneli has the honor of being our first creative showcase on our newly revamped site! He has a little chat with us about his work, and also shares some of his illustrations. Enjoy!

Who is Paolo Maneli and what do you do?

Paolo Maneli is a fictional character that exists for the sole purpose of making illustrations.

I got accepted into the graphic design course at NMMU, but because I had been illustrating since I was a kid, I sort of became known for that, but I wanted to prove myself as a designer too (in a lot of ways I still do). So I suppressed my desire to draw for something like a year, and resisted every urge I had to approach a brief from an illustration angle. But as any illustrator will probably tell you, once you’ve been bitten by the drawing bug you’re pretty much infected for life. So the drawing started creeping its way back in slowly, first just in my sketchbook, then I started experimenting with digital painting and vectors in my own time, until I surrendered to the fact that I’d never be able to quit, and just started doing more and more illustrations but under a different name. The funny thing is that my real name is actually not that different from my alias, but every so often the worlds bleed into each other in the subtlest of ways , so I guess it still works. I know it may sound silly, but I still only resort to an illustration for a brief as a last resort. So yeah, I draw whenever I can find the time to and I really couldn’t see myself doing anything else for the rest of my career.


How would you define your style or art?

My style… Well it isn’t as distinct as I would like it to be just yet, but it’s heavily rooted in comic books. I’m drawn to that kind of art, because I respect the effort and skill that goes into it. I’m down for anything epic. But over the last year or so, I’ve been re-evaluating my work and trying to figure out ways of keeping elements of my work that I like, whilst also trying to make it commercially viable. In the end what I would like to end up with is something as distinct as McBess, with the technical skill of a James Jean and the cultural relevance of Studio Muti or Disturbance Studio. It’s really hard to describe, but if Spoek Mathambo and Babatunde clothing were to have a baby, the feeling you’d get from seeing that is the emotion that I want people to feel when they see my illustrations, haha. Style is such a fickle, abstract thing that I can’t really talk about it without resorting to using that kind of language. Hopefully you get what I mean though.


What inspires your work?

Effort. I just really value hard work so I draw on anything I come across that I think must have required a lot of hours of hard work and sacrifice. I’ve even got this playlist of videos that I watch before I start on a new drawing, and its just a random compilation of breakdance videos, traditional japanese animation, athlete performances, fashion runways – anything that doesn’t look like it was made as a result of an after thought. I look at  everyone around me who’s involved in a craft of some sort, and ask myself,”am I as good an illustrator as s/he is a writer/dancer/athlete etc?” That always reminds me of just how far I have to go, but that’s ok cause the journey really is the best part. Have you ever enjoyed working on an illustration so much that you purposefully delayed finishing it, cause the actual act of drawing it brought you so much joy? Anyway..


What are you currently working on?

Well, I just came off of a really successful solo exhibition hosted at a really cool spot in Port Elizabeth called the Friendly Stranger. So, a part of me is still just trying to get over all the awesome people I met through that. I’ve been keeping myself busy with this postcard project I just started on (basically I’m making a hundred handmade postcards and randomly sending them out to the first 100 people who liked my facebook page, just as a gesture of thanks). I’m also completing my thesis project in-time to graduate next year, all whilst also having a blast as a part-time employee at Boomtown Strategic Brand Agency. So yeah, I’ve got a pretty full plate at the moment, but I’m trying to find the time to do some street art projects as well selling enough prints to save up to buy my own shiny-shiny macbook.


What advice would you give young creatives looking to do what you do?

Well, I’m not sure I’m really in a position to hand out any career advice just yet, cause I’m probably in the same boat as they are. In which case I’d say: we’re all in this together, haha, so there’s no reason why can’t support each other and help one another on our way up, you know?

Also, I think so many of us look at all the projects posted by people in that Salon 91 Gallery clique, and have aspirations to be in that stratosphere as well, but we’re not gonna do it by being carbon copies of the designers and artists we admire. I mean, we’ve all got our own ways of seeing the world, so there’s no reason why the work shouldn’t reflect that too.. Or maybe it does, and I just haven’t been looking in the right places, either way I’m ready to climb off of my soapbox now.

Where can our readers follow your work?

Uhm, I’m pretty much all over the place:




One Small Seed








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