I am starting a series where I catch up with Wooster Alumni. Lukas Palumbo (Class of 2016) is my first interview. Lukas studied illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design where he graduated this past May.
Following is my interview with Lukas:
What was it like graduating college during Covid times?
Graduating during Covid was very underwhelming! It really feels like I never even graduated since I never got the closure of a graduation ceremony or leaving the Illustration building for the last time or other symbolic things like that. It was also really scary to think about leaving school to go find work in a world that had shut down, especially one that even pre-pandemic wasn't always kind to artists. Probably the worst part was being torn from my friends and the life I had created at RISD so abruptly. We literally found out we were leaving the day before we had to leave. But, I must say I've been incredibly lucky to have been able to make a living from my art since graduating, it is not something I expected to happen right away but is definitely something I have been working towards like crazy and am so thankful for.
I saw your work featured in Vogue last spring! Tell me about this exciting opportunity you had to work with Harris Reed.
Being in Vogue with Harris was the saving grace of my senior year. That was the one thing that got me through my last semester with any hope for the immediate future. Harris and I have been working together since the summer of 2019 on various projects, some have been released and some have not. Harris came to me a few weeks after RISD and their school, Central Saint Martins, had shut down with the idea of creating sets for their Senior Collection (Harris was also graduating). We spent about a week pulling references and creating sketches until finally I came up with a design that we both loved and modelled the rest of the seven sets off of. It was about three months of work and went on to become both of our Senior Thesis. It wasn't until around the last week of working on the sets that I found out the project would be released by Vogue International, meaning it went on to be in dozens of publications all around the globe. It was really incredible to have my art published around the world before I had even graduated, especially during a time when career prospects seemed grim.
What are you working on currently (Gucci??)?
I am currently working with Gucci creating illustrations for their two restaurants; Gucci Osteria Florence and Gucci Osteria Beverly Hills. It really is a dream come true, as the creative director, Alessandro Michele, is a personal hero of mine. I studied in Italy for six months of my junior year and while I was there I would not shut up about wanting to work for Gucci, as any of my friends could tell you. It really is a brand that I felt I belonged with, and it is amazing to have that feeling validated by the brand itself. I've worked on a few really beautiful things with them that I'm so excited to share, and hope to continue working with them for a long time. Other than that I've just begun an exciting project with another company that I've long dreamed of working with, they're an English company that creates the most incredible luxury homeware. I can't say what that project is yet, nor can I speak about the other work I'm doing, as illustration work tends to be very secretive until it is released. I've basically had to sign an NDA for everything I have ever worked on. But I can say that I am shocked by how busy I've become in the past few months.
Where are you currently living?
I am currently living in Connecticut with my boyfriend. We graduated from RISD together and have been waiting out the pandemic here for close to a year now. We are not sure where we want to move yet, but want to wait until it is safe to travel and explore all of our options. We studied in Italy together and since leaving not a day has gone by that we didn't think about moving to Europe. Most of my work has been coming from Europe and my boyfriend, Brad, is a painter so he can work anywhere in the world. We ended our time abroad with a trip to England, and it has become our dream as of late to move there. As soon as it's safe we will be over there testing the waters and scouting places out for as long as legally possible without a visa, and if we love it as much as we think we will, we can start work on the visa process.
Do you have any plans for the future?
I do have plans for the future. I am just starting work on a book that I plan to write into a series, and ultimately I would love for it to become a movie. I have been very interested in production design since my time at Wooster and it would be a dream to bring my work to life in a movie. I love to think that I would have written the story and designed the film. I'm currently doing a lot of work for other brands but ultimately I would love to be able to just make work for myself. My work is very personal and special to me, so using it commercially has never really been my goal but for now that's what I need to do to earn a living. It does sting a bit every time and I have to remind myself that it doesn't make me a sellout, that art is my job and of course I need to make money from it. But one day my goal is to be able to be as selective as I want with projects and be able to support my art through my own creations.
What was your favorite thing about Wooster?
My favorite thing about Wooster was that my teachers really felt like my friends. School is so much more productive if you enjoy talking to your teachers and get to see them as people and not strictly instructors. I learned a lot through talking with teachers about things other than classes, and it made high school infinitely more enjoyable and memorable. Another favorite thing was my classmates. Wooster is small and it's hard not to feel like you're missing out sometimes, but looking back I love that I can remember everyone I went to school with, and how different we all were, but how I really did enjoy something about every person. I think I got to know more people more personally than I would have at a larger school, and looking back I am really able to appreciate and remember everybody. And of course, Art with Mrs. Carlson was one of the most important, memorable, happy, and fun parts of my time at Wooster, as was Tech with Mrs. Gerardi. Both experiences have shaped me a lot and I don't think I would be where I am or who I am without them. Thank you Mrs. Carlson and Mrs. Gerardi!
Do you have any advice for us current Wooster students?
My advice for current Wooster students is to enjoy your time there while you have it, because one day you will really miss it. Appreciate and get to know all of your teachers and classmates because they are what make Wooster so special, and the things you learn from them will stay with you forever. My career advice is to constantly be looking for what you want, and for who you need to reach out to to make it happen. My career started when I began contacting people that I wanted to work with and telling them I wanted to work with them, that's how I've gotten my biggest projects to date. People are always so surprised when I tell them what work I've gotten just because I asked for it.
Set for Harris Reed
Garden by the Sea
The Myriorama 1