Ray Oranges has always lived life in full color. "I always think about the blue of the sea I could see through the windows [of my home]... the soil of my father's boots when he came back from work... the color of the oranges my mother put on the table during winter," the illustrator says when we ask him to describe his childhood. It transpires that learning that he was born and raised in the picturesque, seaside Italian region of Calabria is reason enough to understand his art.
Chances are you've been a happy witness to one of Ray's illustrations, either staring down from a billboard, or up from the cover of a magazine. With clients around the world such as Airbnb, Monocle magazine, Sephora and Coca Cola to name but a few, his illustrations’ bold graphic patterns, saturated colors and intense motion have the tendency to not go unnoticed, or as he puts it, to make "the world more interesting."
"I like to go directly to the fundamental idea," he tells us about the creative flow of his work. "I love playing with shadows, gradients and shapes, and when I finish drawing I cancel all the distracting elements." Once again, he credits his background for his recognizable style. "In Calabria you can find so many empty spaces, and a lot of bright colors. And for this reason, even if my style is in continuous change, it still remains harmonious and simple," he shares, also citing his current base, Florence, as another important element in his artistic development.
Although he's loved drawing ever since primary school, he'd originally planned to study industrial design at the University of Florence and worked at an architectural firm during his studies. But that didn't last long. "I began participating in a lot of illustration and graphic workshops, spending my free time studying and developing my passion," he says.
It was joining his girlfriend for six months in Copenhagen, Denmark, back in 2012 that changed his life. "Once there, I started spamming every agency, every art director from London to San Francisco until one day someone replied. It was the DDB agency in New York; they asked me to compete with other illustrators to win the New York Lottery’s promotional campaign," which he won. Two months later his illustrations could be seen throughout the city.
Ray says that traveling the world and reading books by authors such as Charles Sheeler, Luis Barragan and Lucien Hervé: "Help me to understand what I want to see. (…) Nowadays, in my humble opinion, I think people need simplicity. We are bombarded by information and images and often the real concept [of what] we want to communicate is lost," he says. And ultimately, this is at the core of why the colorful world of Ray Oranges’ illustrations tells such an easy-to-read story.