Hope & Glory: a chat with Angelo Montanini

Tuesday, October 11, 2016 - 18:15

For any roleplaying game, graphics are a paramount factor, and in Hope & Glory images are an essential element in defining many of the different cultures in our gaming world. In this sense, were have on our side the contribution of Angelo Montanini, that did not simply illustrate some basic concepts, but actively created and gave form to many visual aspects of our setting.

We start today a light chat with Angelo, to find out a little more about fashion, fantasy, steampunk and inspiration, and how this led to the striking visuals he created for Hope & Glory.
  1 . Let’s start with a general question. As an illustrator, you have a long experience in the fantasy field, but you are also a fashion artist. How did it feel, working on an exotic steampunk project? Is there something in steampunk, or in Hope & Glory, that attracts you particularly? And what do you hate?
Previous experiences with fantasy and even more with cyberpunk helped me following a path that was new but in the end similar to those. Fusing the two themes, fashion and fantasy with cyberpunk I think I caught the right spirit to break into the complex steampunk world. The main push for me was to try and understand the spirit of these worlds born of cultural and ethnic fusions and interpret in the right way their way of expressing themselves through clothes and accessories showing a chaotic but not random contamination.
  2 . I read on your Facebook profile, a few hours ago, this phrase: “I grew up listening to the music of the beat generation, following the various fashions coming from the most creative and bright people, that often mocked even the Union Jack but loved their country."  
This was part of a very serious discourse on the current situation in the United Kingdom, but it touched a deep chord with me, because I too grew up with that music, and Hope & Glory is seriously indebted to the Beatles and their "Sgt. Pepper" and with The Kinks and "Victoria", and I think the spirit of George Harrison is haunting the pages of my imaginary world. Do you use music as part of your creative process? And in particular, did you take inspiration from some specific music as you created your designs for Hope & Glory?

 Music is a central part in my way of working and in my studio, soundtracks and songs by Beatles, Animals, Kinks or Rolling Stones are always there. Also, the bits from the clothes those bands wore are so part of my DNA that I don’t need to do research anymore: they are ready to be modified and updated through contaminations with the world of fashion.
Many designers do use in fact references from fantasy or comics. I do something similar contaminating the outfits of The Beatles with those of the Sex Pistols...

  3 . And talking about your illustrations, let’s start with the “English” one, the first in the series.
  In Hope & Glory, what survives of the British Empire is the Anglo-Indian Raj. To survive, the refugees from the British Isles had to adapt to the new continent and mix their culture with the culture of India. What was your inspiration, when you assembled this first image? Did you use any specific reference? What was your basic idea in creating these two characters?

In this case too certain references from the ‘60s, and that guy George Harrison with his music mixing guitars and sitar contributed in giving me a path to follow. And truth to be told, also the book A Passage to India, which I read many years ago in English, inspired me. Everything is useful and can be mixed to obtain new effects. And yet, also some images like San Francisco in the ‘60s, with military uniforms and flags used in an irreverent way helped me and guided my steps.

  4 . As someone that absolutely hopeless where art is concerned, what struck me in your first design for Hope & Glory is the level of detail in the costumes, the wealth of particulars and motives. Seeing some of my ideas take shape, together with other concepts I had never imagined (but I was quick to replicate) is priceless. But really it is the detail that brings life to these figures, in my opinion. So I don’t know how to ask, but let me try this way: how much of this detail comes from instinct, and how much is the result of study and planning? IN other words, do you decide to do a certain character so that you’ll be able to give them that certain scarf, that specific belt? Or as the character grows, that detail, that accessory, simply become necessary even if they were not planned? (I know, it sounds demented, but as I said, I’m artistically useless.)

As I said before, the choice of a character or an outfit are not casual but the pencil sketch is a moment of absolute expressive freedom. Changes due to movement and objects come later following the specifics from the authors. Once the sketch is ready, the passage to the chromatic follows precise cloth and materials rendering rules, derived from my diverse professional experiences.