HOW DID YOU BECOME AN ILLUSTRATOR?
After getting an 'A' in Art GCSE, I considered studying fine art but instead chose to study graphic design as I was very interested in visual communication. I studied graphic design for a total of six years. I graduated in 'Graphic and Media Design - Typography' from the University of the Arts London (London College of Communication) in 2008. I completed the degree in two years as I qualified to start from the second year of the course. I still wish I started the course from the first year. The degree course focused very heavily on conceptual ideas and solutions, which I really enjoyed. However, I wanted to be more expressive outside of graphic design so I began to draw again. I found myself drawing a lot of abstract shapes and patterns; a completely new aesthetic to what I had before. I believe studying graphic design has been a big influence on my current style. While still at university, I began getting commissioned for illustrations. After graduating, I decided to focus on making illustration my primary discipline.
WHO ARE YOUR DESIGN INFLUENCES AND INSPIRATIONS?
I did a lot of research on Salvador Dali while I was studying art in school. Surrealism and Dada were two of my favourite art movements. Herb Lubalin was a great inspiration for typography and graphic design during college. My first dissertation was a comparative analysis between the works and lives of Marcel Duchamp and Damien Hirst. In 2010, I visited Pompidou in Paris, which was massively motivational and left me awestruck. It completely reignited my passion for art. I now try to visit art galleries and exhibitions as often as I'm able to. Contemporary illustrators who create abstract works inspire me the most. They challenge me to expand my own imagination. I adore shapes, colours, photography and typography, so I try to incorporate them into my own work. I post beautiful art, illustration and photography by other artists on my Love + Inspiration blog. I post beautiful graphic, information and brand design by other designers on my Love + Appreciation blog.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR A NEW ILLUSTRATOR?
Create a lot of work and build both a physical and online portfolio that strongly demonstrates your skills and personal style. Send links of your work to magazines, brands, studios, agencies etc. and join online design communities and social media platforms to get that initial ball rolling. It's about letting people know that you exist. Try not to let negative feedback or criticism deflate your confidence. Instead, use that criticism to motivate you to experiment, develop and improve.
WHAT MATERIALS DO YOU WORK WITH?
I almost exclusively work by hand with a lot of pens and paper. They're my favourite media because they give me the most control, I enjoy the process and prefer the results. I use mechanical pencils, fine liner pens, colour markers, plain paper, coloured paper, tracing paper, magazine cut outs, real photography, digital photography and an A2 lightbox. Sometimes I complete, edit or make final touches to my work digitally when necessary.
WHAT METHODS DO YOU USE FOR CREATING YOUR WORK?
I do a lot of preparation now that I didn't practice before. I used to draw with ink straight onto paper, with no clear vision of the final outcome. Now I sketch, lay out many compositions and test several colour/pattern combinations. The plan is to have the final artwork be as close to how I imagine it to be with as little mistakes as possible, so I can keep any digital editing to an absolute minimum. You can veiw the progress and development of many projects on both my Instagram account and my accompanying Blog.
HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU SPEND TO COMPLETE AN ILLUSTRATION?
This really depends on the detail, size and timeline of what I am creating. Illustrations can take between a few days to a few weeks.
WHY DO YOU CREATE MIXED-MEDIA ARTWORK?
Mixed Media Girls began in 2007 as experimental artworks combining found imagery with personal illustration. I initially began drawing only shapes and patterns but wanted to create artwork that appeared to be lifesize and otherworldly. I later decided to add women to the work to achieve this effect. By adding people, the patternwork automatically scaled up and became surreal environments. The inclusion of the women put their random surroundings into context. A mixed-media piece is always initially inspired by the original photograph. At first, I saw the women as either props to the patterns or just part of the canvas. However, I began to grow more attached to the women as I developed the Mixed Media Girls set. They became as significant as the rest of the piece and it was important for me to draw an enviroment that complimented them. I wanted to enhance the woman, not drown her out. I created Mixed Media Maidens in 2012 as a follow up set to Mixed Media Girls. They were no longer experimental pieces, but fully realised artworks with the intention to celebrate the essence and attitude that each woman evoked. Individually and as a set, they symbolise vivacity and fun. Naming these new women 'Maidens' was a half ironic yet deliberate departure from simply viewing them as 'Girls'. They each exude a matured sense of confidence and strength but still continue to retain an inherent innocence. My latest mixed-media set is called Manifestations of Me, which is my first self-portrait series exploring and celebrating the sensuality and vulnerability of the Black female body.
CAN I COMMISSION YOU TO CREATE ORIGINAL ARTWORK?
To discuss potential commissions, please contact me directly at email@example.com. Please note that I work almost exclusively by hand with pens on paper. Although mixed-media artwork and illustrations for products are a prominent feature within my portfolio, I am not a digital artist nor a product designer. I am unable to provide real imagery for clients requesting mixed-media art or source physical items (e.g. textiles) for product design projects. To avoid delays, please include the photography for mixed-media projects and deadline dates for all projects in your brief at the start of communications.
IS YOUR WORK FOR SALE?
Any work for sale will be available in my online store at shop.nikkifarquharson.com.
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