This year we’ve updated our Meet the Artist series, asking more varied and targeted questions to help you gain a better insight into our illustrator’s lives and work.
This month we caught up with Christopher Nielsen, who answered our questions all the way from Sydney, Australia!
Your work has a really distinct, painterly style. Am I right in thinking that you’ve recently developed a digital technique to replicate your painted work in recent years?
I can’t say goodbye completely to the paints so I use a combination of scanned acrylic details, a texture library that I’ve developed and then I mash it all together in photoshop on my Cintiq screen.
You’ve said before that your work is heavily inspired by vintage toys and games. Do you have a favourite vintage toy?
I have a soft spot for vintage monster toys like this.
I love Outsider or Folk Art/Toys from various cultures. I recently made a cover for my band’s new album using those kind of folk art paper mache/chicken wire techniques to get the guys looking really lo-fi and naive.
What’s it like working in Surry Hills? There’s quite a strong creative community in that part of Sydney isn’t there?
Surry Hills is a melting pot of million dollar plus terrace houses, government housing projects, ad agencies, meth addicts, bars, cafe’s, boutiques, homeless shelters and hipsters. I guess the frisson between the rich and poor is a common denominator amongst creative hubs around the world. Artists and students tend to gravitate towards those areas because they’re high in culture and low in rent.
You’ve been working as an illustrator for over 15 years now. How have you noticed the field changing in that time, for better or for worse?
I like to stay positive about the industry if I can and overlook the fees and copyright issues and focus on all the exciting technology and progress that’s constantly evolving around us. When I started there was no email, you sent original work by courier to clients. You could only see other artist’s work in Annuals and there was only one weird dude with a clunky purple website. Look at us now!
How do you usually go about tackling a brief?
With editorial briefs the topics vary so much that I usually have to go and do some research apart from what’s provided before lifting a pencil. Then it’s thumbnails and concepts on paper until something catches. There are specific techniques I can use to generate ideas but I think the best stuff happens when I can just let go of my brain a little and let the subconscious do a bit of heavy-hauling. From there I move on to tracing paper to go over and refine the roughs before sending them off to my client and crossing my fingers and beginning final art.
With advertising clients, a good art director will know exactly what they’re after and hire the right illustrator for the job so he or she can just let the artist off the leash and do what they do best. It’s all about the initial conversation and getting on the same page.
If you weren’t an illustrator, what job do you think you’d like to be doing?
Full time rock star/animal handler.
What would your dream commission be?
I’ve always wanted to do a children’s book and I’m working on one right now so that’s one off the bucket list. I’d like to see more of my work animated. Then there’s the solo show with the Folk Art sculptures in LA. The backdrops for a Rolling Stones Tour before they retire. Oh and an enormously well paid worldwide campaign for Apple with complete artistic freedom…
Rolling Stones take note! You can see more of Christopher’s work in his portfolio.