Interview with Sara Antonellini - Mama Bear to her community

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

SA: Hello! My name is Sara Antonellini and I am from Turin. I'm 31 years old and I'm currently working as a colourist and illustrator. Since 2021 I've been a colourist for BOOM! Studios and I'm also currently working for Skybound on "Arcade Kings", right now I'm dealing with other potential projects to take on, but we'll talk about that later!

As for my artistic style, I must say that it has undergone various changes over the years. Originally I only drew in pencil, while at school I was taught other colouring and inking techniques. As time went by, I realised that these practices were not ideal for me as I was an impatient and messy person, and when I worked with ink, watercolours, and acrylics I always made a mess. In spite of this, during my studies I developed a great passion for everything related to emotions and atmospheres conveyed through works of art; it can be said that this realisation is what drove me to also want to become a colourist.


Y: What prompted you to enter the world of digital art? How did you start your artistic journey? Did you study anything specifically related to art, or did your interest stem from something else?

SA: I think I learnt to draw even before I learnt to speak!  I've been drawing for as long as I can remember. If I’m now in the field of digital art, I have to partly thank the Graphic Design Institute I attended during my teenage years. I remember that both my teachers and my parents, during my middle school years, particularly pushed the idea of enrolling me in a classical high school, but I never changed my mind about wanting to become an illustrator, even though at the same time I did not want to risk embarking on a course of study with few job opportunities, which is why I enrolled in a graphic design institute and not an art school.

Once I finished the Graphic Design Institute, I was able to enrol in "La Scuola Internazionale di Comics", where I studied Comics for 3 years, and then concentrated on Screenplay and Digital Colouring. 

During the course, I bonded a lot with other local students and we decided to found an anthology comics collective called 'Potpourri Comics'. We published about one or two anthologies a year, and it was this project that brought me closer to the world of digital art. Being in the position of having to draw and colour multiple boards in a few months definitely pushed me towards drawing on digital media, and I can say that it also made my life easier.


Y: How is the art scene in the area where you live, or where you come from? What level would you consider yourself at right now? 

SA: I have to make a premise: my opinion regarding the art scene in Italy is almost entirely based on the work experiences I have had so far. Although most artists look at the professional field with bitterness (rightly so, if I may add), I must also admit that I deeply love the comics environment. 

Having said that, it is irrefutable that the Italian conception of the artist's profession is practically non-existent; creative people are often belittled, the pay is derisory and the time requested for commissioned projects is usually ridiculous. I will elaborate more on this point later, but I can say that the Italian publishing industry has not yet understood how best to act for the best possible output of Italian comics.

As for the level at which I consider myself at the moment, I can venture to call myself a 'professional', but simply because my friends have managed to convince me of this! Personally, I still consider myself as ‘emerging’, I feel like I have just stepped into the world of business and am learning to walk. 


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

SA: I think it has had a huge impact on both my life and the person I am right now. Being akin to art has allowed me to realise even the most seemingly insignificant aspects of everyday life: for example, I prefer bright, 'real' colours, as opposed to the usual neutrals and blacks found in most clothes on sale. I realise how art influences me on a daily basis especially when I hang out with friends and acquaintances who have nothing to do with the field, or those who work in completely different professions, usually with fixed hours. Working from home and from project to project, let's say that I often have the chance to manage my time as I prefer, something that a lot of artists have in common. You know what else they have in common? The very strong sense of guilt that invades us when we remember that we are not pursuing a 'normal profession', which is why we tend to work three times as hard, as if that would overcome the guilt. As someone who has been in the business for a while now, I can tell you that working in this environment has a very strong impact on your mental health, and I therefore advise you to take care of yourself first. Your safety and health must always take priority. 

Your safety and health must always come first. I have learnt this the hard way and I hope that my experience will at least help others not to repeat my mistakes. I have managed to impose a healthy work rhythm on myself, which allows me to have proper breaks and where I 'close the office' just before dinner, and then reopen it the following morning (weekends excluded!). I therefore appeal to all freelancers reading this: please do not work more than 8 hours a day and no more than 6 days a week! SLEEP! EAT! LIVE!


Y: Does your art allow you to support yourself economically? If not, is that a goal you have or not?

SA: Do you remember the collective I mentioned earlier? "Potpourri Comics"? I will now continue telling the story. One could say that this collective was our stepping stone into the world of work;By collaborating with colleagues, professors and the like, I was able to explore the environment. Some of us then went our separate ways, while I continued on my path within the artistic field. My husband, who was a fellow student at the time, became a screenwriter and game creator.

Those of us who originally founded Potpourri Comics then published an anthology volume called 'The Legend of Potpourri', and I must say that I always saw it as a kind of love letter to self-publishing. The volume sees us cartoonists as adventurers, and is presented as a testimony to the obstacles and difficulties we faced along the way.

It was with Potpourri that I also had the opportunity to enter the trade fair environment, around 11 years ago. Right from the start, I noticed that the Self Areas were always full of real talent, and I realised how these areas are the real forge of Italian art. With time, conventions have also changed, nowadays the quality within the Self Area is practically equal if not sometimes even better than that of the publishing houses, also because many authors who publish with publishing houses have been or are currently in the self-publishing business, and online printers give anyone the opportunity to create valuable volumes, but unfortunately, independent realities lack the power of distribution.

Coming back to the question, I can finally say that yes, my art allows me to support myself financially! It is a recent development, though. My husband has always worked in other fields as well, and for a while he was the one who allowed us both to be independent. In any case, since I've been working as a colourist forBOOM! Studios I have a different budget, but I often take outside jobs just in case. At the moment I also have some new upcoming projects, but for superstition's sake I'd better not say anything!


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 could be useful?

SA: What a good question. At the moment I use several platforms at the same time, each one has its pros and cons. During the pandemic, with the support of friends and family, I was convinced to open Patreon, and right now it is the designated place for explicit and erotic art, and generally exclusive drawings. For a while Patreon was the only place to get NSFW commissions, but I decided to discontinue them this year. Nonetheless, I must say that it is giving me a lot of satisfaction; having had the opportunity to form a real community, I realised once again how crucial human support is for moral well-being. I also use Facebook a lot, mainly to get feedback from other people, although the colours of the designs are always completely changed by the platform. As for Instagram, I don't deny that it is the social media on which I get the most visibility, but the format and quality of the posts are quite awful. In contrast, DeviantArt maintains the quality of uploaded files, but is a very unintuitive platform, and Twitter is no different. Basically, I juggle all social media a little bit, but I'm not going to obsess over the algorithm to make sure I get peak visibility; I'd just like the platforms to be optimised for the user.


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

SA: More or less. I often draw fanart of Disney characters, which is why I have always been careful not to violate any kind of copyright towards the franchise. As far as violations against me are concerned, I admit that there have been a few incidents. Years ago, a Deviantart user decided to make a collage of some of my works and posted it on their profile. I asked them to remove it and they did. Some time later, something similar happened with an online merchandise site: they were selling my work as designs available to be printed on t-shirts, mugs, and the like. Once again, I contacted them and they removed my artworks. Let's say the matter was always resolved in the best possible way.


Y: Have you ever had any experience with stolen art? How did you deal with the situation? On the same wavelength, did it ever happen to you that someone reposted your works and passed them off as their own? If you came into contact with this person, how did you deal with it?

SA: Personally, I haven't had too many experiences in this area, fortunately! I happened to see drawings copied verbatim from the works of some friends of mine: I clearly remember a post illustrating the character design concept this person was creating for one of their own characters, and it was blatantly copied from the works of an artist I knew. 

Generally, I have often come across reposted artwork with no credits and no way to trace it back to the original artist, whether it was me or not. Talking to those in charge of the account, I always received answers along the lines of 'it's only a drawing anyway, it doesn't affect the person'. At worst, however, I received no response but the posts in question were removed, so at least the situation ended well.

The problem is that this kind of thing shouldn't even happen.


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

SA: I have to admit that I am very ignorant on the subject, I am not particularly knowledgeable about this kind of technology, so I don't have too strong an opinion about it. What I can safely say is that I don't see NFTs as a particularly intelligent innovation, to be honest I see them as yet another ploy to make easy money and pollute the planet further; it is undeniable that the more servers there are, the more environmental pollution increases.

That said, periodically, phenomena that erupt overnight appear on the Internet, create disagreements and misunderstandings, and then within some time they disappear. NFTs could be yet another such phenomenon. Personally, I don't want to give them too much weight, as well as Artificial Intelligences; sooner or later they will be subject to sanctions and will be regularised, whether we want them to be or not. To be honest, I think AIs are an extremely useful tool that could really improve human creative and work processes; the problem lies in the way they are used. If they were 'trained' using legal and free-of-copyright databases, i.e. without taking the works of poor unsuspecting artists, they might even come in handy!

Basically, I think there is a lot of ado about nothing. I am not frightened by the idea of the entry of Artificial Intelligences into the field of art: fraudsters have always existed and will always exist. The beauty of art lies in the fact that behind every work there is a human soul, a personality and the hand of a living being - everyone has different tastes, there will be those who will be satisfied with AI, and there will be those who will always support artists.


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

SA: First of all, I would like publishing houses to be more focused and less dispersed, I would like for them to pay real attention to artists and their needs, so that they can facilitate them in the work they do. 

By the way, I know of an Italian association that is planning to become some sort of union for comic book artists in Italy! It is called MeFu and it works to publicise salaries, organise conventions, and generally fight for the recognition of the cartoonist's work and all its ramifications. Speaking of IAs, MeFu has recently been working to propose their regularisation, pushing a European law proposal in this regard. Join in, you won't regret it!

In addition, a few years ago I created a group on Facebook aimed at helping all Italian artists who have to deal with VAT management, because I for one barely understand it. Many parameters are unfamiliar and you need a good amount of knowledge to fully understand the subject, which is why I have strived to unite as many people as possible with the intention of helping each other!

I would also add that I would love it if manga became established as a genre for Italian artists, we have to distance ourselves from the notion that a manga series is only valid if it is Japanese. The genre is valid everywhere. 

From the future, I expect and hope that self-publishing will be recognised at the level of publishing houses, and that all those who work as freelancers will be able to lead a healthy lifestyle. Take care of yourself. That's all from Mama Bear!


We would like to deeply thank Sara Antonellini for agreeing to this interview and for sharing her ideas and opinions with us! We hope that her words can motivate all of you reading this to embark on any path in the world of art, if it is something that interests you!

For any doubts, questions or curiosities, the Rights Chain team is always at your disposal!


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.