He goes by Shout, but
unlike creative types such as Christo, Dr. Seuss, or, say, Snoop Dogg,
Shout decided to adopt his nome d’arte less from a desire to sport
a cool-sounding name than to preempt a potential lawsuit. In 2001, he
had signed an exclusivity contract with a Canadian illustration agency
under his real name, but he says the agency pigeonholed his work and
refused to market new styles as his sensibility evolved. “I felt
like a mute needing to talk,” he says. Ergo, a new name—and
the freedom to draw as he pleases.

So far, the strategy is
succeeding. His seductively eerie and minimalist illustrations have
appeared in publications in Europe and the United States, including
Le Monde, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles
—and no agency takes a cut. The jobs have become so
plentiful that he can turn down jobs for outlets such as financial
newspapers, which tend to request, he says, dumbed-down images like
“smiling men in suits with briefcases.” If that
weren’t enough, Jetlag 2, his second book for Milan-based
publisher 27_9, is now available in bookstores in Europe and North

With their uniform color tones, clear lines, and ample empty
space, Shout’s illustrations are deceptively simple; the work is a
window to a realm of absurdities, comic what-ifs, and poignant ironies.
“It has a surreal, fan-tastical quality,” says Wired
art director Jeremy LaCroix. “It takes you into a whole different
world.” For an article about wisdom in zany lowbrow films, Shout
drew movie popcorn shaped like brains; for a review of Marisha
Pessl’s novel Special Topics in Calamity Physics, a woman
picks up road stripes and tucks them into her bag; for an article on
judges who were deserting the bench for lucrative jobs in private
arbitration, he simply drew a faceless, wigged judge. “Chilled
humor” is how Giovanni De Mauro, director of the Rome-based
newsweekly Internazionale, describes the work.

Shout earned
his degree in illustration at the Istituto Europeo di Design di Milano,
then took—and promptly gave up—a job in advertising. (There
was no opportunity to draw pictures with “a dramatic
aftertaste,” he says.) He gave up animation, too—creating a
series of similar images was boring. But he has yet to tire of reading
novels, especially the bare-bones prose of Raymond Carver, whose style
inspired him to eliminate as many details as possible to get to an
image’s core essence.

Therein lies the magic: His professed
goal is “to strip away whatever I can.” The result stands in
stark contrast to today’s glut of elaborate, over-textured
rough-and-tumble images that cash in on an outsider aesthetic.
Shout’s low-key and unpretentious look, it turns out, is coming
across surprisingly loud and clear.