ALBERTO “STING” RUSSO is a graphic designer and illustrator. He is one of the newer generations of artists who have elevated the art of caricature into a whole new realm. Russo combines a traditional fine art sensibility with the use of computer technology. He produces portraits that are timely, funny, often insightful, and just as often immediately arresting as a work of art.
Like many artists, Russo can’t remember not drawing, but he started to do graffiti in 1990. His tag was “Sting,” which he kept as a nickname.
In graphic design school, Alberto studied figure-drawing. A professor noticed that he had a tendency to caricature the body of the models, and told him about Valott, a former student who had done the same thing. Russo contacted Valott and he introduced Alberto to the work of Sebastian Krüger.
“Sometimes I am shy to tell people I am an artist. I see myself more as a man who experiments with things.”
In 1994-1995, Russo attended CEPV École d’arts appliqués and in 1995-1996, ERAG École d’arts graphiques (now ERACOM).
In 2000, he created Area Design, his own design agency.
In 2010, Russo attended Krüger’s painting workshop, which helped him to start painting faces again after sixteen years without doing caricatures.
Sebastian Krüger’s caricature of Mick Jagger. Kruger was one of Russo’s teachers and influences on his style and career.
On caricaturing people
Alberto describes his style as being somewhere between the two worlds of graphic design and graffiti. He mixes traditional art mediums with digital mediums: “I mix my work with both and really love what we can do with new techniques. Digital or not. Remember: your computer loves you!”
Russo works with as many as twenty photographs on his desktop. Russo always starts by sketching in pencil or pen: “I enjoy the process of the drawing because it is a game to find a solution.”
“I select [my subjects] for different reasons. But the most important one is that I want to give my own artistic view on them. I don’t do subjective portraits or caricatures to make people laugh. I want to express how I see them—to share these feelings in my paintings. I need to study their faces, their attitude, their soul.
“I have found that with caricature, we do the same things with the face that one does with letters in graffiti. You can push and play with the face like one pushes the letters in graffiti. Even though you stretch the image, it still makes readable sense.
“When I draw, I go to another world with no time and people. Sometimes I am shy to tell people I am an artist. I see myself more as a man who experiments with things.”
Mort Drucker’s art for the front cover for the 1998 book Mad About the Movies. Faces to look for include Warren Beatty, Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando, James Cagney, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, James Dean, Faye Dunaway, Clint Eastwood, Errol Flynn, Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Dustin Hoffman, Malcolm McDowell, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, Christopher Reeve, Edward G. Robinson, and Barbra Streisand. Drucker was one of the artists who influenced Russo’s style.
Favorites and goals
Among the many artists he considers faves, he lists comic book artist Mort Drucker (of Mad magazine), fantasy painter Frank Frazetta, movie poster artist Drew Struzan, portraitist Lucian Freud, caricaturist Jean Mulatier, and Sebastian Krüger.
“Mainly my goal is always to do the right thing technically but with freedom. To do only the technical aspect of caricature is simply mathematics. But the freedom you have with the mathematics, the rendering and how the piece feels, is where the real creativity lies.
“Rendering is the music in the creative process. It is important to discover the essence of the subject you are drawing and then push this out in the right representation. It is difficult to explain the soul of the subject and not just get a likeness.”
Jean Mulatier’s famous caricatures of French actor Gérard Depardieu. Mulatier was one of the artists who influenced Russo’s style.
Clients and awards
Russo’s clients include Nike, Puma, and Universal Music. Alberto has done a lot of cover art for compact-discs by Swiss artists: “I really love to create artwork where [I] can feel the music and the vibrations. It’s a great challenge to put the energy and the movement in a static illustration.”
He has been awarded several Gold and Platinum Record Awards for his design on best-selling albums.
Eurocon Eurocature: Best Studio Piece, 2nd Place
Eurocon Eurocature: Samsung Galaxy Challenge, 2nd Place
Annual Design Awards, UK: Best Flyer
Swiss Nightlife Award, Mad Attitude: Best event serie
Swiss Nightlife Award, Mad Attitude: Best event serie
The FWA: Site of the Day
Moluv: Site of the Day
Ultrashock: Site of the Day
Russo has been one of the most recognized winners of the Caricaturama Showdown 3000 drawing and painting challenges.
A drawing by Frank Frazetta of Conan the Barbarian (or a barbarian who looks exactly like Conan). Frazetta was one of the artists who influenced Russo’s style.
A Gallery of Elvises
Alberto Russo is also an Elvis fan who has done several amazing portraits of Presley. Below find both his caricatures and straight drawings. I have placed them in chronological order of Elvis’s age, not in the order in which Alberto created them.
Books by Alberto Russo
Quotes from Alberto Russo
“I am continually trying to find new techniques to paint and draw while mixing digital and traditional techniques. It is a great challenge every day.”
“There is usually an expression that a person will have 70% of the time, and the other expressions 30% of the time. The caricature needs to capture the 70%.”
“It is difficult to explain the soul of the subject and not just get a likeness.”
FEATURED IMAGE: The image at the top of this page is Alberto Russo’s caricature of Elvis based on the photos taken of the young singer on his first visit to RCA Victor’s offices in New York in November 1955. This is probably my favorite of Sting’s pieces. Finally, here are links to websites where more Sting can be seen:
POSTSCRIPTUALLY, I have planned four volumes of caricatures of Elvis in the ’50s, and two each for the ’60s and the ’70s. There are at least two artists who have done enough high-quality caricatures of Presley to merit a volume of their own, Al Hirschfeld and Alberto “Sting” Russo. Here are links to the volumes:
The First Published Caricature of Elvis Presley
Elvis’ Golden Caricatures Volume 1 (Rockin’ the 50s)
Elvis’ Golden Caricatures Volume 2 (Rollin’ the 50s)
Elvis’ Golden Caricatures Volume 3 (Rattlin’ the 50s)
Elvis’ Golden Caricatures Volume 4 (Shaggin’ the 50s)
Elvis’ Golden Caricatures Volume 5 (Stuck on the 60s)
Elvis’ Golden Caricatures Volume 6 (Wild in the 60s)
Elvis’ Golden Caricatures Volume 7 (Elvis by Hirschfeld)
Elvis’ Golden Caricatures Volume 8 (Love Letters from the 70s)
Elvis’ Golden Caricatures Volume 9 (Aloha from the 70)