From the interview
One of my favorite quotes from Picasso is that it took him a lifetime to learn how to paint 'like a child,' and to me that's just, I think that there's a lot of things that are childlike in my artwork, that I just adore and I think that's what draws people in.
I come from a family of artists; my grandfather was a great artist; my mother's an artist; my uncle is also an artist. I was born with asthma. My mother got me these great crayons and colored pencils and everything she could as long as she kept me on the couch not exerting my lungs. The career chose me. I just knew that I could draw these characters and it came natural to me.
I was the guy in high school that when they wanted a banner done or if they wanted a mural on the wall, they just came and asked 'can you please do it' and I was so anti-establishment, I didn't want anybody to manipulate the way I was thinking and the way I was creating art. I came up with my own sort of a recipe, or the way I put things together; ingredients that make a Napoleoni painting. The simple placement of a heart, hanging off a branch, on a tree that has no leaves; that was one of the very first pieces I drew and put out there. There was no color -- it was just a black and white, and that was it.
My first art show was my first experience of just having it out there and people looking at it and hearing their feedback on how the artwork made them feel - it hit me really hard - I was like, 'this is unbelievable' - you know people are sharing these stories with me in a gallery where there's people around and they're tearing up and I noticed that people were just expressing their sorrow, and their loss for a family member, or even they had children who had issues and it made me feel more comfortable in explaining my situation to them and why I create the artwork that I do.
People ask me questions: Why are the trees in this position? Why are they crooked? Why is a heart all by itself? I was just open and I just basically expressed what I had just gone through. I never gave much detail -- I just wanted the art to sell on its own, not the story behind it, so I never shared that story with anybody.
In in 2004, while my wife was 20 weeks pregnant we had an ultrasound done, and my wife at the time was busy looking at the monitor, you know and seeing the heart moving, and the little legs and everything that's happening - but I wasn't looking at the monitor, I was looking at the technician's face and I could tell by looking at her face, and the way she kept that little probe in the same spot, that there was something there...that just wasn't right to her.
Everybody knows the word "cardio," so as soon as the doctor said cardiologist, you know automatically that there's something wrong with your baby's heart.
She must have weighed 2 pounds; you know a tiny baby, and there's tubes and stitches and things like that... that stuff just doesn't leave your mind. Why does a child, this young, have to start out life this rough? That just changed me, as an individual, made me appreciate life and just looking at things in a different perspective, and try to be more optimistic, and have a lot of hope.
My stint at the hospital, with her, my wife, and the people that I met there, including the nurses, doctors and everybody, they were huge sources - those people, I would draw them - I started to doodle and create little characters and incorporate a heart into them, and either holding and caressing, or the heart in the wagon, because the grandmother whose grandchild was born without a liver, he is in his little red Radio Flyer wagon and behind her was another wagon with all the things that he needed to make him function.
All of my characters, I try to use them as a way to capture what I'm trying to portray; there's something about courage, or love, or not forgetting what someone has done to you, and how they affected you.
The main character Marcenivo, he was basically put together from all the other little characters that I had started. The button, the shape of his face, the body, the arms, the fact that he has no thumbs, he's got "mitten" hands, and I want him to look more like a rag doll, something that was loved and loved so much, the hair fell off, clothes are missing, you know at one point, somebody had to put his stuffing back together -- the way you feel as a person -- you know sometimes you're fatter, you're ragged, you're runned down -- but you know you keep going on.
I used him [Marcenivo] to represent myself and how I felt through that process of dealing with my daughter. He was the the avenue that I chose to express my frustration with everything happening and basically just get out how I was feeling.
The heart is always, always, always in every single piece of the work that I create. I will never forget what it means to me, where my career has gone, because of my daughter, but I want people to understand and not forget that she played a huge part and where I am today.
When I look at something, I like to fall in love with it. I like for that painting to make my guts feel funny. I like for that painting to remind me of something or someone, whether it be good or bad, I want that emotional attachment to that thing hanging on my wall, so every day, when I walk by it, it gives me that feeling - it makes me think, "Oh I'm so glad I bought that piece of artwork." I love the way it makes me feel - that reminds me of this person. I hear that from the people that stand in line and talk to me.
There isn't a single person that I have met over the past three years, that does not share something with me on why they purchased that piece, and that's the part to me, about everything that has happened so far, that I completely adore.
I enjoy taking the time to sit and just talk to everybody. I'm not a person that just enjoys signing a signature and doing a simple doodle, and be on your way - I can't do that - I enjoy meeting people, I enjoy talking, I enjoy sharing stories outside of the traveling and going to great places, and meeting awesome people and gallery owners.
To me the "the stories" and that "sharing / building that bond" with the people that collect my art is the most meaningful thing to me.
I enjoy what I do - even during my downtime - I'm still doodling - I still create new characters - that's something for me that I enjoy. I enjoy creating all the time.
My saying is that you should buy art because you have an emotional attachment, there's something you can relate to it, don't buy a piece of art because you want to match your living room. There needs to be something there, that drew you in, you want to walk by every single day, and you want to look at it and it reminds you of something, it pulls on your heartstrings; there needs to be an emotional value to that, that never diminishes.
You don't want to change the living room, and then change your artwork. The artwork should always stay there because it means something to you.
I'm Fabio Napoleoni, and I'm an artist.