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Art: The Cambridge artist painting love stories

On a quest to find local love stories to tell in this Valentine issue of Velvet, writer Riadh Falvo discovers the work of Federica Marinaro, a Cambridge-based artist whose paintings capture real-life romance

Federico Marinaro - The Meeting (54471496)
Federico Marinaro - The Meeting (54471496)

Perhaps the most curious thing about receiving this writing assignment is that I actually did go on a bit of a quest, not to find love per se, but to gather love stories in my early 20s. Ironically I was running away from my own love story at the time, because sometimes we do that don’t we? As it turned out, my real love was for travelling, but I had to go on the journey itself to find that out. Sometimes we have to do that too.

I collected, wrote, and illustrated love stories during my initial travels across Europe and the UK. Disappointingly, I gifted the handwritten book to another writer who had promised to fill in the other half, and never did. I still remember most of the stories however, and what I remember the most, is that none of them were perfect. Which in a sense, made them even more so. . .

Do a search for “love stories” now and you will invariably find pages of myths and historical accounts of beautiful queens and noble knights, great warriors and helpless princesses, faces that launched a thousand ships and irreparably injured Achilles’ tendons.

While everyone falls in love at least once, even celebrities, I was after love stories that were a little more down to earth, relatable even, and a lot more believable. We cannot all be kings and queens after all, at least not all of the time.

Federico Marinaro - The Wedding (54161878)
Federico Marinaro - The Wedding (54161878)

What turned up and stood out in my most recent search were the stories told with colour and without words by Cambridge-based neuroscientist and artist Federica Marinaro, who here describes how she fell in love with, and now captures love stories in, watercolour illustrations.

“I have always been good at telling stories, and in recent years I have discovered a new way; through the drawing of what I see around me,” she explains. “I draw fragments of life, and my sketchbooks are now a hymn to love for what I live.

“This ability of mine to synthesise and narrate emotions is the basis of the commissioned artworks that I make, which always turn out to be drawings of beautiful love stories of couples, friends, relatives, colleagues.

“I love to ask commissioners to tell me something about the subjects that I will have to portray; to be able to add a detail, such as a colour or an object, that speaks of that person, something that does not catch the eye of a passing observer but that has a strong meaning for those who will receive and keep that artwork forever.

“Beautiful couples decide to entrust memories of important moments of their life together to my brushes, and it is exciting for me not only to work with them, but also to know their emotional reactions upon seeing the finished artwork - take the case of a woman who asked me to create a triptych that spoke of her first meeting, the proposal, and the wedding day with her beloved husband.

Federico Marinaro - The Wedding (54161879)
Federico Marinaro - The Wedding (54161879)

“Over the last year, many businesses, both big and small, have faced many difficulties and some have been forced to close. An independent shop near my house - Meadows - carried a special offering of local and international gourmet produce for their customers in the neighbourhood.

“The team behind Meadows is composed of people who put their souls into this small business; a team that grew stronger during this difficult time. The artwork I made for them celebrates the ability of the team to stay together and to keep smiling, even if under facemasks. This too, is love.

“My artwork has been offered as a wedding gift from a bride to her own bride on their wedding day; a painting that furnished the entrance of the first house bought by a young couple on the day of the exchange of keys; the image of a family banquet on a sunny day, and many others. Another beautiful experience was to create a book with a series of handmade drawings that was made for a marriage proposal.

“All the drawings I make of my life, of my meetings and experiences, but also of all these beautiful requests that come to me from those who commission my artwork, are a source of unique emotions, and I feel eternally lucky to be able to share them with the world around

me. That’s amoré!”

To see more of Federica’s work and find out about commissioning follow @dery_tarta on Instagram.

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