Who’s your favourite artist / illustrator or designer?
I've always admired David Downton for the sheer class and beauty of his work, similarly Stina Persson, although what we do is worlds apart. I think this is a really exciting (and competitive) time to be an illustrator – there are so many creative’s out there doing such wonderful things, it really helps to keep me on my toes and pushes me to try new things.
What do you listen to when drawing?
To be honest, I almost never draw to music, I’m not sure why but I find it much harder to get the work done. Instead I like to have films, TV shows, documentaries etc playing in the background. I find that having something on whilst I’m drawing means I can just get on with my work without really realising I’m ‘working’ it’s like company in what can be a very isolated career.
How do you get your head in a creative space?
I start by reaching for my journal (that I never leave the house without!), which is full of ideas that I’ve scribbled down – a collection of images, words, themes, colours and notes that I simply couldn’t live without. From there I will draw a rough sketch, adding lots of text and usually lots of changes once I see the layout. I then get to work on the final piece (on a fresh piece of paper - I don't like working over roughs because they're always so messy!)
What’s your background in art and design?
After following all the usual routes for an art student, GCSE’s, A-Level, and art foundation (all in North Wales), I went to Ravensbourne college of design & communication in London, where I was awarded a 1st Class BA Hons degree. My chosen degree was in 'Fashion illustration & promotion', but strongly favoured towards the promotions side, so it's fair to say that in terms of my style and technique, I'm a self-taught illustrator.
What do you find inspiring for your work?
It’s definitely not the work of other illustrators that inspires me, instead I look to graphic design, fashion, textiles, typography and nature, because I feel I gleam much more original ideas when I look away from illustration. I think this is what keeps my work looking original (I hope!!)
What kind of materials do you use in your work?
I've always lived by 'if you have colour then you should use it', so there's always a strong colour identity in what I do, which is why I was so excited when I heard about these new Derwent Graphik pens! I have a penchant for neons too, or any type of pen that hurts your eyes if you use it for long enough. I almost always stick with pencil for the faces and detailed sections of the illustration – a mixture of Derwent graphic pencils, then express the rest though colour, patterns and textures. I like to include 3D elements in my work, because I feel that the added dimension gives my pieces an extra something that you don't come across very often in fashion illustration. I really enjoy the hands on, crafty part of putting the objects together and coming up with new ideas (I'm a sucker for different papers, glues, tapes and all things crafty!!) it's always a nice relief from my detailed slow pace style of drawing.
How long to you spend working on one piece or commission?
It really depends on what the piece is, and how detailed it needs to be – it can be anything from two days to a week and a half. If I’m working on a new collection, then I like to work on all the pieces simultaneously – this way, as they develop I can make sure that they look like a set. I also have a tendency to get bored if I’m working on a piece for too long – moving between a few illustrations means that they still start relatively fresh to me.
Top tips for students looking for a career as an illustrator / artist
I'd say just try your hardest, always, and don't take criticism to heart - try and use it to your advantage and learn from the feedback you get. Don't be afraid of negative comments when you're starting out - not everyone will like what you do and to be honest, it would be a boring world if we did! Listen to feedback you get, and build from that...and remember, no one likes a show off!
What’s the one tool you can’t do without?
Most definitely a sharpener!! I can’t do anything without a ridiculously sharp pencil.
Tell us about you! What, aside from drawing takes up your time?
I’ve just moved my life over to New York, so at the moment all my spare time is spent either turning our apartment into a home (I love being crafty and making new things for our space!) or exploring this amazing city. Because my job means I spend a lot of time alone, drawing, I like to socialise whenever I can and I’m a big fan of travelling and seeing new places. I love the fact that I can draw from anywhere, so whenever the opportunity arises, I jump at it.
Where can we see more of your work and what’s up and coming for you this year?
Since moving to New York, lots of exciting new opportunities have been popping up. As well as working on lots of exhibition work (for galleries over here and back in the UK), I’m also working closely on lots of exciting new things for a new store in LA which means I’ll be dividing my time between New York and LA over the next few months (lucky me!!). It’s all very top secret at the moment, but there will be lots of updates on nikipilkington.com very soon, as well as updates on all my other projects and commissions. Look out for lots of new additions to my Etsy store too – I’m bringing out lots of new products very soon.