It would take a steady and incredibly talented hand to embellish these small sculptures into portraits of their original subjects. Italian artist Domenico Scalisi of Nobu Happy Spooky has not only managed to do that, but also to breathe life into his tiny subjects. Not always completely from Domenico’s imaginings, he brings to life wonderful interpretations of characters, ranging from Frida to Harold and Maude to killer clowns. Tiny masterpieces that are full of character and darkly sweet. Enhanced with incredible detail and a sense of humour, I find myself examining every line in an attempt to find the presence of the little soul inside, I am captivated by the tiny teeth, miniature buttons and dangling legs, coming alive in their own little universe. Anything you can dream up, Domenico can create as a truly compelling piece in his own unique style.
Nobu Happy Spooky pieces perfectly combine dark elements into adorable little figures, with affectionate expressions, even the most macabre characters are surprisingly sweet. I had an opportunity to speak with the master himself! I hope you enjoy finding out more about him and his work. Thank you Domenico for attempting this interview in English! It is wonderful.
Can you tell us a little about yourself, and what lead you to the path of becoming a full time artist?
Like many people, I pursue my passions and my dreams. I studied to be an artist but what I realized is I am also self-taught because you are always being tested and growing. Art has always been a refuge for me, it has kept me away from reality, and I remember that I had never done anything else in my life apart from what I do now, perhaps because it is not a hobby or a job, but simply a need. The magical creatures and fairy tales always attracted me. I am a fan of books and horror stories, imagining a parallel world inhabited by surreal and bizarre creatures! I strongly believe that the imagination represents almost a duty, that it teaches us to think and to look at life from different angles! The secret to becoming a full-time artist is involved and believe it, experimental and to not to surrender to the obstacles … but I think these rules are worth a little bit for all situations in our lives.
Where did the name Nobu Happy Spooky come from?
Nobu Happy Spooky was born in 2012 as a brand for my handmade creations. “Nobu” was my nickname for many years. My friends started calling me by that name since they noticed my resemblance to a character in a Japanese manga: Nobu Terashima. This character, in adolescence, was very similar to me, in looks, in character, in his passions and in the events of his life. The comics have always influenced my art and my life and I’m very proud because they transmit many values and emotions. Invite kids to read books and comics as much as possible because they can only learn! “Happy Spooky” represents the personality of my subjects “creepy-cute”. They have an aspect sometimes very spooky, but at the same time, very nice and sweet. I’m also a little spooky because I am attracted to all that is left, macabre, magic, dark, but also I am very “Happy” because I love the colours and smile at life despite all the difficulties!
Can you tell us a little about your process? Can you give us some insight into your daily ritual?
My daily life takes place mainly in my laboratory, in Italy. I participate in many artistic events, performances and exhibitions that keep me very busy. I’m happy to live in art, but the best thing is to share this passion with my partner, she is also an artist. In my free time, I like to travel, have fun with friends and relax with movies and TV series.
I love your new zombie donuts! Where do you draw inspiration for your pieces?
The donuts zombies are my latest creative pieces. One day I was creating some donuts while watching a zombie movie. I bit into a donut and I thought… what happens to one who is bitten? I immediately thought… they become zombies. Their emergence has been successful; some people have also requested tattoos and this made me very satisfied. I think the donut zombies will soon become other products, including t-shirts and pins. The inspiration for artists can suddenly arrive by observing the environment around us, even opening the fridge at home and finding moldy vegetables, can provide inspiration. Cinema is a great source of inspiration too as is music and literature … anything can become a source of inspiration if the mind is able to transform the information it receives. Perhaps you need to be a little crazy!
What is the most challenging aspect of creating for you?
The practical stage has the greatest difficulty, it is when I decided to sew clothes from real fabric. I am not very skilled in sewing and I needed help. You never stop learning and one day you may perhaps even become a tailor.
I know you are also a painter, I love your drawings too! What are your current plans for the future?
I am primarily a painter. I studied painting, but now I’m deepening my “sculpture” stage because I really enjoy it. All my sculptures are born from a drawing. I will never abandon painting, the art of it is always connected. Now I’m working on a few books for children and teens, and soon we will finally have our first publication. Stay tuned!