You originally trained as a theatre designer and scenic artist – how did you make the transition to illustrator, and how has that theatrical background influenced your work?
My earliest artistic influences were from illustrators like Patrick Woodroffe, Rodney Mathews and John Batchelor. They appealed to me more than the contemporary fine artists of the time. My early work tended to have a theatrical flare with large backdrops so I was advised to go into theatre design. My acrylic paintings were always pointedly illustrative and I made the full transition to being an illustrator after going digital to work collaboratively with a game designer. I naively threw myself in at the deep end and taught myself 3D sculpting in Zbrush along with other digital software. I think illustration tells a story and sets a scene much like a play and the way you can use lighting in a 3D programme gives a sense of theatrical drama too.
Tell us a bit about how you tackle a brief – and do you prefer a tight brief or one where you are free to come up with your own ideas?
After a chat with the client, I like, if possible to jump straight into 3D and block out an idea in simple primitives, which gives me the options to rotate and scale and get more of an idea of how the finished illustration will look, rather than a pencil sketch. My favourite briefs are fairly loose ones where I can use my own imagination and plenty of colour.
Do you work alone or with other artists in a studio?
In the past I have worked collaboratively on projects with many people in the creative industries and my wife who is also an illustrator but these days I work solitarily in my studio surrounded by far too many books.
What other interests do you have and what would you have done if you had not become an illustrator?
I have had a long standing interest in aviation and flying machines of all types. Some years ago I learnt to fly and gained a private pilots licence, so maybe I may have done something in the aviation industry, although it’s hard for me to imagine being anything other than an illustrator or artist.
Which job are you most proud of and what be your dream commission?
Since the 2008 financial crash, I have been interested in economics and technology, so a recent commission from the financial times is a prominent one and it was very satisfying to turn around a 3D sculpt within a tight deadline and deliver the artwork early. As I have been a music fan all my life and listen to music as I work a dream job would be to illustrate an album cover for an iconic band such as The Rolling Stones.
Find more of Nathan’s work in his portfolio.