Art of The Shepherd: An Interview with Giulio Bilisari
As with many of the Italian artists I work with, I was first introduced to Giulio Bilisari through my friend Massimo Rosi. I often joke with Massimo and ask him if talented artists grow on trees in Italy—based on the talent level of the 27-year old Bilisari, I am inclined to think it is true.
From a art perspective, I first encountered Giulio’s work in early 2017 when he was teamed with Massimo on a book called Wrath of God, published by Caliber Comics in 2018. There was a rawness, a violence about Giulio’s work that both shocked and excited me. He was the perfect artist for such a book and the results were stunning.
After seeing that work, I commissioned Giulio to do a series of two Shepherd-related pieces in March 2017. The first is the subject of our discussion:
ANDREA: Could you tell us how you got into art? Was there a moment where you realized that you wanted to do this?
GIULIO: As far as I can remember, I always had this deep interest in art. I do not have a cool single episode in which I finally realized, “Okay, that's what I want to do”. I think I started like everyone, with the simple desire to express myself—and never stopped trying.
ROBERTO: Can you tell us about your studies at Scuola Internazionale di Comics? What was the focus of your studies? Who were your greatest influences as a student of comics?
GIULIO: Well, believe it or not, when I started at the school, I couldn't draw at all. I was barely the best in my high school class—a science class! So you could imagine how hard it was for me to have to learn how to draw practically from zero. I focused myself on every kind of comics, but my greatest influences have been Will Eisner, Alan Moore and the 90's superhero comics.
ANDREA: What comic book-related projects are you working on now? Can you share some of your art?
GIULIO: I am not working on a comic book right now because I think the most important thing is never to settle on something for too long, but instead research new and unfamiliar places. This is why I started painting and making concept art. Sure, I’m very happy and proud to share with you my latest artworks, they are here in my own Artstation account that I regularly update: https://www.artstation.com/gbili
ROBERTO: Let’s turn our attention to your artwork that depicts The Shepherd and the wolf-wraith, Legio on the rooftop. Your portrayal of Legio is VERY strong and foreboding. You have portrayed him with powerful, human-like muscles, claws that have torn into the roof, red smoke that billows from his mouth and scorching hot chains. An argument can be made that no one has drawn Legio in a more powerful manner. What were you thinking as you presented him like this?
GIULIO: I see Legio as the manifestation of all the pain and guilt that are going through the protagonist, Lawrence—the personification of his unresolved contradictions. The brutal part of himself that he keeps at bay not to be devoured himself, but also the most powerful of the reasons that move him. You rightly point out the choice to represent him with both human and animal features—but this is necessary to communicate the divided psyche of the protagonist, of which Legio is the distorted mirror. He reflects an image similar to a big puppet with a man inside—not entirely animal, not completely human.
ANDREA: As violent and dangerous as Legio is in this picture, The Shepherd seems in control. He holds Legio’s chain. He stands strong and resolute. It as if there is a tension between the two characters: one barely in control and the other, ordered and precise. Was this your intention?
GIULIO: Sure, there is clearly this division and this tension between the two, because by holding Legio, the Shepherd actually holds back the darker part of himself, the part that is boiling with anger and is ready to attack. But there is something more: there is the Chain, which besides being the instrument of the Beast's control, is also the link between the two, the one that binds them like a curse—impossible to break until the conflict of the character is definitely resolved.
Here are some other pieces, demonstrating Giulio's capabilities: