Developing creativity in Italy

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28 years old.
Spanish, Catalan, Italian and English.
Graffiti and airbrushed helmets.
Factory work and vector graphics.
Comics and cooking.
Marc Ribas has done it all.

He sits across the table: baseball cap, dark brown hair curling out…blue muscle shirt…a silver thumb ring…shorts…thongs on his feet. I can see the gleam of the computer screen in his eyes as he clicks here and there with his mouse. It takes several attempts before I can actually tear him away from his project.

Despite his obvious passion for his work, Marc Ribas is definitely a laid-back Spaniard. I feel myself instinctively relax, drawn into the conversation as he meanders from paella to Adobe CS3, the Spanish educational system to his reawakened creativity in Florence at Scuola Lorenzo de’ Medici.

“The Spanish education system wasn’t very good, so I quit,” he tells me frankly. He assures me that it’s been restructured since then. Even so, he wanted something faster, more focused.

“We had this family friend in Girona, Spain, who recommended Lorenzo de’ Medici. I contacted Paolo,” he nods toward Paolo Ghielmetti, one of his professors at LdM, “and he explained the program and courses for the Professional Study Certificate. I was worried about the class size, but after talking to Paolo, I realized that classes at LdM wouldn’t be like mine in Spain, with thirty students and one professor. Here there are never more than ten. That was a big reason why I decided to come here.

“Once I got here, I saw just how personalized these courses could be. Each teacher—Italian, Swedish, American—has his own thing to teach. They really focus on my professional future. You get everything you need here; you just have to be open.”

His professional future. He’s being modest, not mentioning the fact that, after his first semester in the Professional Study Certificate program, he has already found a job doing graphic design work here in Florence.

“I’m using class concepts in work projects I’m doing, like vector graphics for business cards, or using raster graphics to manipulate pictures. Actually, before I came to Florence, I did everything by hand. Now that I’m learning these different computer programs, it really opens things up. Working with computers, everything is perfect. Mathematic. Things take half the time.”

Business cards and the mathematical precision of computers seem somewhat out of place coming from a former graffiti artist. I swing the conversation into more creative areas, like airbrushing.

“At the time, I airbrushed anything I could get—T-shirts, motorcycle helmets, whatever. After I quit school and spent time working in a factory, though, my creativity got…” He pauses, looking for the right word. “…it was locked.

“It’s back now that I’ve come to Florence,” he reassures me, swinging his leg back and forth under the table. “With all of the art galleries, museums and things, there’s always something creative that you can do. You meet people from all over the world in class, too. You exchange ideas.

“It helps, too, to learn from the beginning,” he continues. “LdM courses like ‘History of Graphics and Illustration’ give you the history of Graphic Design. They explain things like Futurism, Modernism and other different styles. I never got that in any of my classes in Spain. Mixing other styles in your own work helps you develop as an artist.”

Time is running out. I find myself asking him for his recipe for paella, and then slip in my final question as he lists ingredients. A dirty trick to get double information, but it works.

In between explanations of onions and saffron, roasted meat and rice, Marc tells me: “You have to do something you like. It’s hard to decide. You need to go to other places. Do different things. Always ask yourself:

“What do you really want to do with your life?”

Text by Marc Westenburg
External Relations
Scuola Lorenzo de’ Medici

Illustration by Marc Ribas Caceres
Professional Study Certificate Student

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