Innocence and Menace: The Art of Illustrator and Actor Luca Martinelli

Luca Martinelli
Luca is very inspired by comic book and graphic novel artwork.

Actor and illustrator Luca Martinelli describes his artwork as resembling innocent childhood imagery that hides something dark and vicious right under the surface.

Luca was born and raised in Rome, Italy, and has a Greek and Latin major classical high school degree. Having enjoyed doodling his entire life, Luca started illustrating professionally two years ago; initially as a way to meditate and destress. His favorite mediums were initially watercolor paints and pencils, but he has since expanded into digital illustrations.  He is also a writer who is working on several graphic novel plots which he also plans to illustrate.

Luca recently discussed his projects and more via an exclusive interview.

Luca Martinelli
Colorful hues define Luca’s more abstract work.

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you discover your love for the arts and why do you gravitate towards comics?

Luca Martinelli (LM): I have always been fascinated by anthropology. I never saw our reality as something that made sense, same as when I was a child, I still feel pretty detached and confused by what most of humankind gravitates towards as a collective race. Through my anthropological studies at King’s College London I figured out that in certain points of history humankind did strive towards something that was full of meaning, but more important was the fact that certain cultural minorities really never abandoned such path filled with purpose. After one year of studies, I decided that it would have been more practical to tackle these anthropological studies at the source. Rituals and performance are my go-to when it comes to the human race. Para-theatrical works invite many of the cultural minorities to share their rituals and performances, it’s a window to a different reality and ability of connecting to others and with the self. Such process inevitably points your heart towards the arts and the mindfulness. I’m looking for ways to bring a window of new perspective on life in every home.

On a second note, I appreciate the potential of the graphic arts which can crystallize and freeze a thought from our fluid like minds. The stiller is the water in our minds when we freeze a thought, more are the chances that what we represented of seeing through the water’s reflection was the actual reality, which most of time is filled with irony.

MM: Why do you enjoy being part of the theater and what sorts of characters do you enjoy most playing as an actor?

Luca Martinelli
Luca’s art can be very disturbing.

LM: Alternative and absurdist theater are my language and reality. When performing a non-linear play, I have the chance to take back my personal sensitivity of space and time and to experience their relativity to the fullest. Not having to concentrate on creating any clear plot, but by just focusing on presence I can always trust that story will appear for the audience in a non-linear, yet more profound way. As I didn’t master this practice yet, I occasionally or professionally deal with traditional linear story arcs. Especially in comics, I’m still working mainly on digital and linearly, but I soon hope to expand towards my non-linear and non-digital artworks. Both in comics and acting I prefer to portray characters who are utterly failing at what they are doing, especially if it is failing at simply being the best version of themselves. I love to bring forward characters with irrational unconscious fears and anxieties, with the goal of creating journeys that will take them to the extreme of such internal obstacles. These stories conclude with either the release of the character from such fears, or the fear to incarnate and ultimately consume his host, turning into a cultural anathema.

Luca Martinelli
His pieces can also be very soothing.

MM: Do you think your acting career and illustration/graphic novel writing careers intersect and influence one another at all?

LM: In both practices I usually use a meditative process where I let ideas turn into images, it happens passively in my mind, as if I was giving the steering wheel to my subconscious. Images can be a choreography, a certain gesture or body movement, or more often characters in odd situations. The second step of this process is different depending on which practice I’m using it with. For alternative theater acting I mainly use such meditative state, which intrinsically brings forth and extreme level of concentration, while making shapes at different tempos in the space. These shapes tap into bodily memory different from the one of the mind. Images from my past usually appear, but occasionally I see abstract metaphorical images. This improvisation-based process allows emotion to be brought forward by the body and its memory as it strikes different shapes and moves through the space. For graphic art the meditative state is used while drawing. Before the thought of what I want to draw appears in my head I move the pen on the paper striking a simple line or a shape and I let it influence me, I try to not judge what I’m drawing until the act is completed. But usually I never complete and act until I’ve processed my frustrations caused by not reaching my futile expectations. It’s not the result of both these drawing and performing acts that matters, but it’s the process and the journey it brings me through that is to be marveled at. Every act is complete no matter the results, as long as I’m fully present throughout the process.

Luca Martinelli
Actor and illustrator Luca Martinelli describes his artwork as resembling innocent childhood imagery that hides something dark and vicious right under the surface.

MM: Can you tell us anything about the plot of your graphic novels?

LM: Following the previous statement in question two, my characters tend to be haunted by their failures, fears and anxieties, their destiny is either to exorcise or be consumed by them. One of my earliest graphic novel projects which I hope to publish one day is called “Ratfolks.” The graphic style can mislead into thinking that it’s a children’s storybook, but it’s actually the tragically epic and occasionally gory tale of rats trying to survive as they are hunted by a witch and her familiars inside her huge abandoned manor. Rich of existentialist philosophy this graphic novel wants to invite the audience members to meditate on their failures and how are they tackling their internal obstacles. Another project I’ve been working on is called “Nick Nightmare.” This graphic novel is the result of my elaboration of my personal trauma of sleep paralysis. I suffered of sleep paralysis too many times in my life and my relationship to, and perspective of, the event needed to change. This graphic novel fully maintains the horror of sleep paralysis by utilizing a jittery black and white graphic style, yet it explores how the phenomenon itself can be considered similar to the apparition of guardian angel, turning the whole event into a sort of positive experience.

Luca Martinelli
Some of his piece seem cheerful but might have something deeper under the surface.

MM: How much did you childhood in Italy influence your creative drive?

LM: I believe that if the city of Rome was to be personified into character it would be in the middle of an existential crisis. And old legend filled with great unlimited potential, yet it’s squandering it’s time by wallowing in a sea of humiliations, distractions and intoxicating substances. This legend just wants to be forgotten, yet to be even forgotten would be the final failure. Only a miracle can redeem Rome. In a certain sense most of my characters are in the same situation as my hometown. This makes me reflect at what an extremely deep level of consciousness must have the image of Rome influenced the types of stories I want to tell, since I subliminally wish to see them happen back at home.

MM: What made you decide to move to NY and has it been tough to make a living here?

Luca Martinelli

LM: NYC is luckily a huge patron of alternative theater. By living here, I get to see the Under the Radar festival as well as being able to go to La MaMa, Lincoln Center, BAM. NYC also allows me to keep up with my training in many various theater practices as in Suzuki technique and Viewpoints at the SITI Academy. I can sense the many profitable possibilities that lie under the frenetic skin of New York, the challenge is to be able to access this hungry environment without being swallowed by it. Up until now this has been my first year under a working visa and I hate to admit that my bank account sees more withdrawals than deposits. I’ve started to apply strategies for income by experimenting with Digital Marketing. I’ve several projects that hopefully, if come to fruition, will allow to support myself economically. I’m hoping to be able to create my own brand for graphic designs and sell merch. For now, I’m proceeding with a platform that allows fans to support their favorite artists, it’s called Patreon (my profile name: lucamartinelliart). For a monthly subscription as low as $2, Patrons can access a huge library of my projects and illustrations, as well as time lapse videos of my art work process. I’m gaining more drive day by day and I really desire to bring these projects to conclusion.

MM: What’s your favorite book, movie and/or TV show of all time?

LM: I don’t read novels, usually following a linear story bores me and I quickly lose interest in the characters. When it comes to books I mainly read text books about theater practices (Culture is the Body, by Tadashi Suzuki, was a revelation all read), or digital marketing or awareness as a human collective species. Cradle to Cradle, by William McDonough & Michael Braungart, and Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari, we’re incredibly sharp, packed with content and fun to read. I do have one graphic novel that I’ve terribly fallen in love for, both for the art and the story telling; it’s “Hellboy in Hell” by Mike Mignola. The story shifts constantly and the passage from one scenario to the other is always very magical, sudden and unexpected, much resembling a non-linear story as it seems to be told through different moments in time. The art is mind bending as most of the figures appear from the darkness of hell illuminated by either flames or magical sources. My favorite tv series is ‘”The Haunting of Hill House,” the editing shifts through time and the perspective of the different characters creating a very surprising type of storytelling. My favorite movie is “Midsommar.” Most of the para-theatrical experiences I participate in all around the world share similar scenarios that you initially find in the movie. Ari Aster depicts what would happen in a community, if ritual was intensively used to mold the community, accepting it as a single dogma and not allowing deconstruction of ideals to happen. The result is both innocently magical and nauseatingly nefarious.

Luca Martinelli
Luca created this wonderful poster for a one-act play at New York’s The Secret Theatre.

MM: What are your ultimate career goals?

LM: Regarding my acting career I have two goals that are coming closer to me every year as I keep striving towards them. I would love to attend the Watermill Center Summer Program with Robert Wilson in Long Island and travel to Toga in Japan to train with the SCOT company and see Tadashi Suzuki’s productions. I would love to be able to meet and work with more alternative performance artists and directors in order to better develop my mise en scène and work on bigger projects, and I can’t see a better place to start that than NYC. On the other hand, for my graphic art career I hope to soon be able to create biodegradable zero-impact stickers and high-quality hoodies with my prints. I’m slowly gathering all the techniques for creating and publishing my own graphic novels, but that still seems as a distant goal. I believe that the ultimate career goal would be, to be able to use my design skills to create puzzling props and innovative sets and location for performances.

MM: What projects are coming soon and is there anything else you would like to mention?

LM: I’m currently expanding my L.M.A. (Luca Martinelli Art) web page with a new section called: Vandalo. It’s going to be a Controcultural Art project, with inspirational and slightly subliminal messages. I’m trying to increase the number of Patrons on my Patreon account (LucaMartinelliArt) in order to have a bigger community that can back up some of my bigger projects. I’m going to star in a short student film where I’ll method act a movement and primal sounds based ancient Roman Demon; the production has invested $800 in special effects, costume and make up for me, and I’m thrilled!


Luca Martinelli Art aka “L.M.A.” is both his Instagram account (lucamartinelliart), and the aberration for his website as well as a Patreon page He is currently looking for people to support his work on Patreon with monthly subscriptions in exchange for graphic services. You can follow him on Instagram via @lucamartinelliart