This week’s cover, titled “Arbustus,” is by East Hampton artist Savio Mizzi. Painted in watercolor with underlying traces of graphite, the work shows a woman’s hair gracefully twisting up from the top of her head and swirling into the branches of a tree. Spirited and surreal, the imagery forms the connection between man and nature—in this case, fusing the feminine figure and the tree—conjuring mythological nature deities and enchanted forests. Snowed-in during a recent blizzard, Mizzi lets us in on his artistic background—from his illustrations for Time magazine, Dell and Bantam Books, and his love of illustrator Bob Peak, to his current commissions and projects out of his East Hampton home and studio.
One good thing about being an artist is that during a blizzard you can probably still work.
That’s it—I had my studio built on the house, and I like to work where I live so I can sleep and wake up in it. I like to be confined to my house. I’ve always had it that way, even when I lived in the city. Being an artist isn’t just like having a 9 to 5 job—if you want to work late at night or early in the morning, it’s always there.
I was doing illustration work and design for a long time, and you have to work overnight to finish. In the late ’80s, early ’90s, I got really into it, and there’s always a deadline. They call you today and they need the piece tomorrow, especially advertising and editorial work. Those days it was a different way of working, before computer graphics. I’ve done a lot of books, too, like for Dell and Bantam, which gives a couple weeks for illustrations, but for magazines or newspapers, it was always overnight. They get the story and they’re going to run it tomorrow. That’s why I like to work from home.
In the ’90s, I moved out here. I love the water and I love to fish so it was perfect. I’m from Malta originally, actually Gozo, the sister island of Malta, which is a very tiny island. I still have family there. A lot of people don’t know how old Malta is. Because of the location in the Mediterranean, there’s a lot of history.
Who are some of the artists you admire?
One artist that I really admire, and I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of him, is Bob Peak. This guy was mostly an illustrator, but also a designer. He did all the posters for Star Trek, a lot for Time magazine. In my eyes, he’s the top. If you really like drawing you have to see it. He used to do a lot of work in advertising—about 90 percent of movie posters are his.
I was so obsessed with this guy I had to see if I could reach him. This was about 35 years ago, and the guy wouldn’t even talk to me. An uncle of mine was a window washer, and Warner Brothers owned one of the buildings in the city. My uncle knew one of the secretaries, and long story short I was able to get to meet with Bill Gold. He loved my work and said, “You know something, you must like Bob Peak.” I said, “Yes, I do.” A week after that I got to do a poster for The Goodbye People.
Do you do commissions?
Yes, and I just finished four pieces for someone. I do a lot of fish and combine a lot of weird stuff, octopus on faces, things like that. The person who commissioned the work said she hasn’t found anything else like it.
Savio Mizzi’s studio is in East Hampton. Contact the artist at email@example.com.