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 outâ€¦blue muscle shirtâ€¦a silver thumb ringâ€¦shortsâ€¦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 deâ€™ Medici.
â€œThe Spanish education system wasnâ€™t very good, so I quit,â€ he tells me frankly. He assures me that itâ€™s been restructured since then. Even so, he wanted something faster, more focused.
â€œWe had this family friend in Girona, Spain, who recommended Lorenzo deâ€™ Medici. I contacted Paolo,â€ he nods toward Paolo Ghielmetti, one of his professors at LdM, â€œand 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 wouldnâ€™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.
â€œOnce I got here, I saw just how personalized these courses could be. Each teacherâ€”Italian, Swedish, Americanâ€”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.â€
His professional future. Heâ€™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.
â€œIâ€™m using class concepts in work projects Iâ€™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 Iâ€™m learning these different computer programs, it really opens things up. Working with computers, everything is perfect. Mathematic. Things take half the time.â€
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.
â€œAt the time, I airbrushed anything I could getâ€”T-shirts, motorcycle helmets, whatever. After I quit school and spent time working in a factory, though, my creativity gotâ€¦â€ He pauses, looking for the right word. â€œâ€¦it was locked.
â€œItâ€™s back now that Iâ€™ve come to Florence,â€ he reassures me, swinging his leg back and forth under the table. â€œWith all of the art galleries, museums and things, thereâ€™s always something creative that you can do. You meet people from all over the world in class, too. You exchange ideas.
â€œIt helps, too, to learn from the beginning,â€ he continues. â€œLdM courses like â€˜History of Graphics and Illustrationâ€™ 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.â€
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: â€œYou have to do something you like. Itâ€™s hard to decide. You need to go to other places. Do different things. Always ask yourself:
â€œWhat do you really want to do with your life?â€
Text by Marc Westenburg
Scuola Lorenzo de’ Medici
Illustration by Marc Ribas Caceres
Professional Study Certificate Student