Giovanni Caselli
Remembers D'Ami

Giovanni Caselli - Artist. Taken from his website -

My colleague Enzo Carretti was producing strip cartoons for IPC Amalgamated Press, London, through their Milan agent, Studio Creazioni D'Ami. I got in touch with Studio D'Ami and in July 1960 I left Florence, and my family, to seek better opportunities in Milan.

In the period between the two world wars Florence was the main publishing centre, and indeed the literary capital of Italy; after WW2 publishing in Florence had shrunk down to a handful of ailing literary houses, and Florence was gradually acquiring the character of a little provincial town.

The day I arrived in Milan I was invited to work as "studio assistant" with Studio Creazioni D'Ami, by Rinaldo and Piero Dami. Rinaldo Dami, a comic-strip artist, known as Roy D'Ami, had spent some years in London working for Amalgamated Press. Piero was a financier and an entrepreneur. Studio Creazioni D'Ami was undoubtedly the top editorial, art and design agency in Italy at the time. I found appropriate lodging and stayed on.

At Studio D'Ami I found familiar things, not only I found stacks of those magazines that I had collected at Rimaggio, but also a collection of issues of the National Geographic Magazine and one of the British comic's magazine Eagle.

All those English words beside the pictures, hitherto mysterious to me, began to speak...through my mentor's words.

I began with adapting French comic strip cartoons which appeared in the Corriere dei Piccoli, the weekly children's magazine of the house.

In 1961, I was assigned my own page in the Corriere dei Piccoli, then the most popular children's weekly in Italy. The job was given to me by the editor, himself an artist, Giovanni Mosca, and when journalist Gulgielmo Zucconi replaced Mosca, my job was confirmed.

I reluctantly started with a full page on football -a sport I've always disliked-, then I went on to what I really liked: a page on nature, where I illustrated and described briefly animals and their environment.

I remember Guglielmo Zucconi saying to his aids "Give that page to Caselli, who better than a peasant would know about animals!"

I also worked for the competition. I went on a trip to Rome, on D'Ami's advise and got some work from author Mario Faustinelli, then the director of a short-lived weekly children's magazine Bimbo e Bimba, styled upon the British Jack and Jill.

Alas, these jobs did not last for very long. Times were changing and such weeklies as the Corriere dei Piccoli were undergoing an image crisis. Belgian and French comic -strip publishers were influencing the taste with heroes such as Lucky Luke, the Stroumpfs and Tipitì, not in the style required by existing Italian magazines. Meanwhile I was preparing illustrations in view of producing a nature book with D'Ami.

Illustrated informative books were becoming more and more popular, and with Roy D'Ami, my mentor and my boss, we decided to drop the much loved cartoon world, and turn to illustrated informative books.

The illustrations in The Epic of Man, 1961, made a great impact upon my taste as an illustrator. Rinaldo D'Ami, hitherto ignorant on the subject of nature, pushed aside his great passion for "militaria", and took up the study of natural history, then my main interest.

My personal reference library was growing all the time, and from 1960 to 1964 I worked as editor, art director and illustrator, with Studio Creazioni D'Ami, mostly for the production of the encyclopaedic work called "Cosa fanno gli Animali" (What animals do).

This was to be a work in 12 volumes, it was edited by no less than Sir Maurice Burton, then Director of the Natural History Museum of London , whom D'Ami and I hired on the spot during our trip there.

This work was financed by Alberto Peruzzo "Publisher-cum-Ferrari", and was eventually published in numerous editions in several languages in 1965.

The editorial board of the encyclopaedia was made up of an array of Anglo-American students and tourists passing through Milan, and whom D'Ami easily recruited for a small fee.

The artists who contributed to this 'historical' encyclopaedia were:

Studio Battaglia, Sandro Biffignandi, Gian Battista Bertelli, Sergio Borella, Genni Buccheri, Ottavio Cencig, Svetozar Domic, Bruno Faganello, Natale Fedeli, Ivo Gattin, Ezio Giglioli, Cristina Greppi, Aldo Marcuzzi, Don J. Makela, Bruno Pennisi, Amedeo Petralia, Pham-Tang, Rudolph Sablic, Giorgio Scarato, Alberto Trincia, Emilio Uberti, Giancarlo Zucconelli, and several others.

In 1963 I experienced my first business trips to the Frankfurt Bookfair and to the city of London. Only later I realized that I had been a pioneer in this kind of thing.

The D'Ami brothers took me first to Frankfurt in a Mercedes stuffed to capacity with folders full of original artwork. Incidentally, we had trouble in explaining to the Italian customs police what boxes marked as "mustelidae" actually contained.

Roy D'Ami took me to London in November, where I experienced lobster and caviar at the Cafe' Royal, Piccadilly, and went to a number of Christmas parties in Fleet Street, while staying at the Regent Hotel.

It was November 12th 1963 - At Studio Creazioni D'Ami I had the opportunity of meeting the most illustrious cartoon-strip artists that Italy has ever produced, then practically all out of a job. I frequently met, among many others, Gino D'Antonio, Antonio Canale and Dino Battaglia.

I shall never forget Dino Battaglia for his civilised manners, wit and intelligence, and Antonio Canale for his civilised sense of humour. Dino Battaglia's work in comic strip design was complex ART.

I catered for a famished and downtrodden Hugo Pratt, on the verge of creating his Corto Maltese, and shared laughs and plates of spaghetti with many others who then, during the deepest crisis of comic-strip magazines, could no longer make ends meet.

Many of these artists and script-writers survived by occasionally joining us and drawing a Himalayan squirrel or a Siberian fox for our encyclopaedia, at 10.000 Lire a piece. Not a bad fee for a couple of day's work, considering that a plate of spaghetti at the local Trattoria da Mario cost then 500 Lire. Hugo Pratt had Corto Maltese already in mind at the time, an idea which was to give him the fame and fortune which he deserved.

Whereas the studio environment in Milan was very exciting, stimulating, and interesting, the best place to be for a career in the profession, I missed the then green hills, the then good air, the fields and generally the beauty of Florence.

The D'Ami experience was however beneficial to me, and probably to Studio Creazioni D'Ami and to a great number of otherwise unemployed and unemployable artists. After four years together all our lives were drastically changed.

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