Meet the Italian sketching a new Swedish future

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Meet the Italian sketching a new Swedish future

For this week's My Swedish Career, The Local chats to Filippo Vanzo, a freelance illustrator who started to picture life in Stockholm after meeting his Swedish girlfriend online.


After growing up in Vicenza in north east Italy, 32-year-old Filippo was already looking for opportunities to escape Italy's economic crisis, when he started chatting to his future partner via Instagram.
Following several temporary stints in the Swedish capital, he moved to the city in September 2014 to share both an apartment and a studio space with his new "sambo" (the Swedish word for a co-habiting couple).
"Italy may still be seen as one of the cultural capitals of the world, but I felt like the respect for my trade was dying. Italian companies don't have so much spare money to commission original illustrations any more," he tells The Local.
"But in Sweden people still appreciate and want to invest in this kind of art," he adds.
Filippo has already been commissioned to illustrate several upcoming Swedish fantasy novels, building on a portfolio that includes drawings for video games, posters and book covers alongside corporate advertising.
Describing his art as "a blend of both traditional and digital media," he usually draws in pencil or ink and then colours in his work digitally "while trying to maintain a traditional feel".
"I’ve always been fascinated and inspired by the strongly narrative, densely detailed and yet delicate works by old masters such as Rackham, Rockwell, Doré, Bauer, Larsson, Clarke and Rossetti, just to name a few," he writes on his website.

One of Filippo's artworks. Copyright: Filippo Vanzo
While Stockholm may have a reputation as one of Europe's more expensive capitals, Filippo says the country's rent controls make it "pretty affordable" to work and live in the city, even as a relatively new freelancer.
"Plus, my job is creativity oriented, which poses no nationality issue when it comes to being commissioned a project. I am basically as good as any Swedish illustrator, as far as hiring is concerned," he tells The Local.
Currently teaching himself Swedish, he says he has been made welcome by his girlfriend's friends and is also putting his own roots down in the city by meeting other Europeans through social networks for other creative types as well as joining an international walking and hiking club.
"I think Sweden offers many opportunities to immigrants, considering its progressive stance on such issues as gender equality and personal and professional development. The immigration policy is generous, especially if you are an EU citizen or an asylum-seeker," he says.
"English is spoken virtually everywhere, which helps reduce the impact of the cultural and language barriers that being an immigrant in a foreign country often involves."
While he hopes that Sweden's positive attitude towards foreigners will continue, he says he is well aware that immigration is currently a hot topic and that the country's policy could change if the nationalist Sweden Democrats continue to gain momentum, and centre-right parties start looking at limiting new arrivals.
"Immigration is always a source of political and social tension. It it has become a major issue in my native Italy over the last decade, where immigrants are seen as a threat and not as a resource. It looks like Sweden will have to strike the right balance between openness towards immigrants, and protecting what makes it such a charming and inviting country to build a new life in," he argues.
"I think Sweden is truly the country of respect, for others, for rules, for nature, for personal freedom. As long as immigrants and the Swedes alike work hard to defend and stand by this core principle, we will all be able to benefit from it." 


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