TRR:The Rickie Report brings you an exclusive interview with Nina Fusco and Alexander Mazzei, a mother and son whose artistry is not merely part of their lives, it drives their lives. They each see art as an integral, amazing part of their journey in life.
TRR: Tell us about your early artistic influences:
Nina: I think it has something to do with heredity. Both of my parents were very artistic. Mom was a kindergarten teacher and was always doing arts & crafts projects with us. Dad worked in wood. I always wanted to be an elementary school art teacher. In high school I even worked as an intern with an art teacher to see if I really liked it and wanted to continue down that path. I also interned with a display artist at a high-end men’s store. I initiated both of these internships on my own.
There was a story my mom always used to tell us, “The Little Red Man”. I wrote the story down and illustrated it and we’re publishing it as a family heirloom. I won first place in an illustration contest for it.
Alexander: My parents were a big influence in my taking this artistic path. I was surrounded by all kinds of different equipment and unique items that I used as props. Drafting tables and light boxes were part of our furniture. Whenever I wanted to be creative, I had the proper tools to express myself right at my fingertips.
I wanted to be a scientist, testing environments and pushing limits. Actually, I am a scientist now but in a more creative way rather than in the laboratory sense. I had a lot of talents that I explored one at a time. I started an entertainment company, had a costume company, and have performed magic all over the world to bring smiles to everyone. At a young age, while my peers were struggling to figure out who they were, I knew what I wanted to do. I love this path that I am on!
TRR: Nina shares how she continued her art education:
Everyone kept telling me that art programs were the first programs to be cut in the school system. They advised me to find a different career. I wanted to go to Kean University, formally Newark State Teachers College, because it was considered one of the best colleges for teachers. I decided to focus on art design and illustration. When I took a commercial art course, it changed my whole view of what I could accomplish. After graduation, I worked for Macy’s as a display artist. It was more physical work than I expected!
When I got married, I decided to open a home studio focusing on commercial art. I did branding, illustrating, and designed logos. I also did typesetting and paste-up for local newspaper ads. Having two sons gave me less time in the studio but also the opportunity to do other crafts with them. I am celebrating my first anniversary as a Florida resident and am pursuing my art career full-time now.
TRR: What drew you to paper sculpture?
Nina: I’ve actually been doing paper sculpture for the past 20 years. I used to collect TV Guide covers that had interesting illustrations. One week they had a paper sculpture of the cast of “Barney Miller”. I thought that was so cool. I needed to try it! The first piece I ever did was the “Art Nouveau Girl”. After that, I made a portrait of my husband.
I also do pencil drawings, photography, and collages. The latter is more rigid and realistic. My paper sculptures have a softness and flow, so they have given me opportunities for more growth.
Alexander: Right now I am doing videos as well as photography. As an entertainer, I envision how I want my images to be perceived by the viewer. It is difficult to have someone else capture what is in my own head. I wanted to be behind the scenes and control more variables, which is why I am pursuing photography.
TRR: Alexander’s photography is photorealism pushed beyond its boundaries. The scenes look like they were painted. The viewer wonders how he is able to have one shot look like a pastel and another look like a pen and ink drawing. The tremendous texture jumps right out of the photograph. The subject matter ranges from ethereal scenery to every day street happenings in the Himalayas. One moment you are looking at a flag flying in the wind and another you are mesmerized by the eyes of a child looking right back at you. And if this were not enough for this man, he is putting together a portfolio of photographs of a fashion model, which could easily have been taken from a page of a high-fashion magazine.
TRR: How do you choose the subject matter for a new piece?
Nina: I am very open, but I adore butterflies, so quite a few of my pieces are butterflies.
TRR: What is the favorite part of your art career?
Nina: Picking the materials! I love finding new papers. I have a passion for paper! I also enjoy working on special commissions for individuals or offices.
Alexander: This is what I live and breathe. This IS my life. I enjoy going to the most exotic places, meeting the people and eating exotic healthy foods. I adjust to new situations and learn from them. I am always striving to take what I do to the next level. I try to enjoy every moment in my life. I design and make adjustments as I go along.
TRR: What challenges do you encounter?
Nina: Each piece is fun to make and the challenge is finding the right customer. Who will pay what it is worth in terms of time and materials. My original pieces range from $100 to $350. In order to make my work more accessible to every budget, I have a photograph and card line which starts at $5.00. Right now I am exploring the possibility of making glicees on canvas to bring the price point down, so something that was originally $350 could be $250.
Often, when you enter an art show, the expectation is to only produce one type of art, in one medium. Most artists are known for one type of art work, but I love experimenting and trying new ways to express my creativity. I don’t want to pegged in one medium or subject.
Alexander: Since I am always traveling, the equipment I buy is a big consideration. I need to not only think about what I want and need, but how much it weighs, because I don’t want to have to pay a lot of extra baggage fees. I tend to pack small and play big. I have a mobile studio wherever I go.
TRR: What advice would you give to a beginning artist?
Nina: Do this because you love it. Do this for yourself. Be aware of the realities of the art business. Branch out and try different techniques and forms of art work. When putting a portfolio together, remember that it represents you. Display your best work.
Alexander: There are thousands of tutorials on the internet. Spend time learning your craft. It might take working for 10,000-100,000 hours before you become a master of something. Taking a picture with a camera does not make you a photographer. Unless you are content with self-expression, you need to continually strive to develop and perfect your craft.
Do your due diligence, homework, and research. Look at other people’s work and then try to find your own style. Consider location, lighting, involving a stylist or make up artist, and employing models. When I was young, I taught myself through tutorials and just continued to absorb whatever I was learning so it became a part of who I am. Even now, I will watch a tutorial at speeds of two to five times faster than they were filmed.
TRR: What professional associations do you belong to?
Nina: I belong to the Lighthouse Art Center and the North County Artists Association. My work has been displayed in two area restaurants, The Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens and Corner Cafe in Tequesta. Local Treasures in Tequesta also displays my work. Being involved with other artists helps push me out of my comfort zone. The art association will have a call to artists with a specific theme, which gives me the impetus to have something new to strive for. I am working on a website so people can see my work on the internet.
TRR: What story does your art tell us?
Alexander: The story of my life experiences. I spend a lot of time with my subjects, living among them. I couch surf so I have stayed at some amazing places. I recently was a house guest in a palace in India for two weeks. I like organic locations, staying with indigenous people. Telling the story of their lives lifts my spirits. I am able to display my memories through my photography and video productions. I try to create images that resonate with your soul.
TRR: Take our readers from the beginning of an idea to its final production.
Nina: I sketch a design first and ultimately use that as a pattern for piecing the different cut pieces of paper together. The real test of determination is that all of my cuts are done in reverse to what I just drew. I use a light source box, the sun shining on my patio door, or trace sheets with darker papers. I have a 3-D vision of what the piece is supposed to look like as I am working on it. Once the dabs of glue are dry, it is ready to be framed.
Alexander: I like finding the locations for my photo shoots. I also spend at least two or three days with my models to get that rapport you need to have trust in each other to work together. I hire a stylist, a make-up artist, and a lighting expert. I may take a number of shots until I feel that I have the right one. Then I move on to another shot. Once I get the image I want, I don’t waste everyone’s time taking more.
I will be taking this book of photographs to agencies around the world to market my services. I am always traveling and would like to focus on more indigenous people to tell their emotional story. I am also a mentor to a video photographer, which is very satisfying. We are both growing from the experience of working together.
TRR: How do you recharge your creative energy?
Nina: Being with other artists helps me a lot. My recent challenges with breast cancer have also inspired two new pieces that I am currently working on.
Alexander: Travelling to third world countries helps snap me out of my normal consciousness. I love being in these places and meeting the people. I see new ways of doing things and fall in love with life all over again.
TRR: How do you define success?
Nina: Pleasing myself, feeling that I accomplished something, and getting positive feedback about my work.
Alexander: Living the lifestyle you design to the best of your abilities. Success and failure are both temporary. Some days you are going to feel great and other days you’re going to feel low, so just go with the flow. Experience the world that you are creating to the best of your abilities. There is no such thing as “trying”. You have to live it!
TRR: Do you ever think about the commercial value of your work before you go ahead and make it?
Nina: Never! I create what moves me.
Alexander: I lived with my camera for over a year – – it was an extension of me wherever I went 24/7. The experience helped me focus on parts of my life.
TRR: Any other thoughts you want to share with our readers?
Nina: Network! Network! Network! And check out The Rickie Report for every new post to see new opportunities for artists!
TRR: Nina will be part of the North Palm Beach Arts & Crafts Fall Festival November 5th at the North Palm Beach Community Center, 1200 Prosperity Farms Road, North Palm Beach, FL. You can reach Nina at: firstname.lastname@example.org
TRR: This just in: The North County Artist’s Association awarded Nina First Place in the Jupiter Community Art Show!
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