In the graffiti world, Andrea Antoni’s peers know him by his artist tag, Style1, which becomes the handle @stailuan on social networks. The graphic designer hails from Friuli Venezia Giulia, a rugged northeastern region of Italy bordering Slovenia and Austria.
“My town is Monfalcone, which is geographically distinctive, lying by the sea with the Karst hills in the background, just a few kilometres from the Alps,” says Antoni. “In other words, we have many different natural settings in one small area.”
Those surroundings have steadily become integral to Antoni’s work. Since 2014, the graphic designer has amassed a loyal fanbase thanks to his #STAILtone project, which sees Antoni painstakingly colour-match breathtaking natural landscapes to Pantone swatches.
The resulting images are magical: the crystalline waters of a remote lake aligned with cerulean shades; dense autumn foliage pictured alongside corresponding russet hues; a jumble of pastel village houses crouched around a palette of shell pinks.
“I always take the action-cam and my smartphone wherever I go, so that I can take pictures – I don’t have a DSLR and I wouldn’t even know how to use one,” explains Antoni. “Often I have Pantone swatches with me too. Sometimes the shot is real: swatch in hand, action-cam in the other, and I take the picture, but other times I just take a photo of something I like and add the swatch in post-production.”
To edit, Antoni mainly uses Photoshop (or, if he doesn’t have his computer, apps Snapseed, Layout and Lightroom) and his approach changes with his mood. “Sometimes I simply want to present reality cleaned of distracting elements like high voltage pylons in fields or cranes behind houses. Other times I want to share a feeling through colour and composition.” When it’s the latter, Antoni enjoys “playing games with reflections” using graphic software.
Interestingly, the image that kick-started #STAILtone wasn’t of a natural landscape or architecture, but a spontaneous behind-the-scenes shot in the designer’s studio. “I put some spray paints in colour order and photographed them from above with my feet in the frame, while holding the Pantone swatch in my hand,” recalls Antoni. “From this first shot the trend was born.”
Antoni reaches his 70,000+ followers from an isolated workspace, editing in a detached house behind his parents’ home – “it’s very pretty office and entirely white, with a light prefinished floor and a wall in green.” In the winter, when the days are short and the rain heavy, he may not come into contact with anyone for a week, other than online.
The designer has long been a digital native. After graduating from the University of Udine with a degree in Multimedia Science and Technology, he went on to take up graphic design classes, and became fascinated by the web. “It was a time when use of the internet was still not widespread, but I saw the enormous potential of taking advantage of it to market myself as an artist. I decided to build my first website to showcase my portfolio. Those were my first steps in the world of graphic design.”
Today, Antoni picks up the majority of his work through Instagram, along with Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, creating and finetuning photography for clients. He teaches effective social media practice in schools, and has even written a book on the subject. “I have my moments when I want to get off social media altogether, but to be honest, I simply can’t,” says Antoni. “It’s how I manage all my communication and most of my production.”
Time spent online is offset by real-life exploration. That might mean hiking local trails, or visiting the market during peach season for a fruit composition – “I took over the fruit corner for an hour, I needed 4 or 5 different varieties to make the whole colour chart, graduating from yellow to red Bordeaux. Wonderful!”
The designer is self-effacing about his work, saying he’s “surprised by all the compliments”, and has no plans to exhibit. “I was never particularly attracted by the world of art and galleries, and besides that, my virtual reputation is light-years ahead of my local presence.”
Though graffiti and hip hop culture still interest him, Antoni’s big love is stand-up paddle-boarding, a sport he’s enthusiastically pursued for six years. At one point, he was even sponsored by GoPro. “Whenever I have the time – and even when I don’t, because I find it by working at night – I put the board on the roof of my car, drive to the sea to go paddling. I can exercise, relax, contemplate nature and take very distinct photos.”
Above anything, it’s Antoni’s love of the colour swatch that shines through his work (“I find it a fascinating object, and iconic in my profession”) and a natural affinity with his surroundings which, along with the convenience of home-working, have kept the artist close to his native landscapes.
“From a geographic point of view, I really haven’t moved much!” he jokes.
Then again, with his Pantone passport, Antoni can go anywhere.
To find out more about Antoni and his work, you can follow him on Instagram.