Art has no limit or boundaries and I am always to intrigued to get inside artist’s heads to find out what makes them tick. I actually came across freelance illustrator, Nick Willis of nick’s fault, as he entered my herbal tea competition on my other blog. Working in a funeral directors during the day and freelancing at night, I ask Nick more about his creative skill and dreamy, hypnotic drawings.
Where did your love of art come from?
My love of art is an old and deep-set feature of my childhood; my brothers and I would sit backwards on the pews in church as kids and spend the whole service drawing batman and cars – My dad used to pitch in (presumably if he wasn’t all that taken with the message!) and always managed to create really brilliant pictures in an incredibly short period of time, usually of steam trains and the like. I think I always just wanted to emulate him – What young boy doesn’t want the approval of their father? I also had a very immersive experience of picture books as a youngster; a story was never as good if it wasn’t filled with full colour, lucid illustrations. From then on, I always described the world to everyone around me through pictures.
Is illustrating your full-time job?
Sadly, illustrating isn’t my full-time job yet – I try to get as much freelance work as possible and am always working on my own projects but that isn’t paying the rent just yet, so I work full-time as an in-house desktop publisher for a funeral directors, of all places!
What or where do you draw inspiration from?
I try to escape reality in my work and always have. It’s not that there isn’t plenty of interesting stuff to draw from on earth, it’s just that I prefer to study it, learn to draw it and then take it apart, using various elements from everything that I’ve ever seen to create worlds of my own. I look at new and exciting science articles, hand drawn maps, old writings of explorers and biologists anatomical drawings – All of it end up influencing my work one way or another, albeit indirectly.
What materials do you use for your illustrations? And what computer programs?
I try to mix up my working methods but always have a safety net of ink pens and Photoshop – I’m always playing around with printing inks and lino cutting, as well as good old colouring pencils, but when I need to produce a professional final piece of work it tends to be rendered on paper and then coloured on the computer; it just means that I know I can make it print ready for my clients!
If you had to pick one of your illustrations, which has been your favourite to date?
Choosing one of my own illustrations as a favourite is really tough! I think I can pinpoint one which signifies a point at which I started to really raise my game in a technical sense and that’s an image called “Flying Inventions” – It’s just a bit of fun but it reflects my style and desire to create new things, as well as tapping to some more detailed colouring skills. I think I’ve probably created more detailed work since then but, for me, this image reflects my style and captures the fun I have while drawing.
What advice would you give someone trying to get into illustration?
It’s hard to give advice to would-be illustrators because I really still class myself as one too! For what it’s worth, I think it’s important to find your own style and go for it, unrelentingly. Anyone can follow tutorials of how to perfectly render a million photorealistic images online but it’s the people who create their own style from scratch and find a voice through it that have always made the biggest impact. Also, don’t give up if you haven’t made it in a year, 3 years or even 10! If you love it, keep doing it – Make ends meet however you need to but never let go of that small part of your soul that wants to draw something.
Sum up your design style in 10 words.
Escapist, skeletal-free whimsy in a world that’s too serious.
For literary lovers November is one of the most memorable months of the year: NanoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I was asked if I wanted to be a part of this fantastic project, and of course I said yes!
The idea is that a group of eight bloggers will contribute one chapter each using Rory’s Story Cubes to guide the narrative. You can read the first chapter from blogger, Sonny and Luca. Here is my contribution of the second chapter:
The house, ‘our house’. We’d only been dating for the past seven months or so, but it had gotten serious very quickly. We met in Area 47 and she was a lot like me; a deterrent of the pollutionators, sharing very much the same vision. Since the great lightning war men and women didn’t quite interact the way they once did so this chance meeting was what we both coined ‘fate’. Everything had completely shifted since that war, including the laws of the land.
I felt my wrist but it was bare. This is odd, very odd, I never take it off. My identity signet ring was also missing. Strange. A clap of thunder rumbled in the sky; I had to get back soon, before the curfew. But how on earth had I ended up in the waste land? Or what seemed like the waste land. The bin man had been of no help. We had to call them men but we all knew them as something different. They were never made to be helpful or polite, but now, how I wished you could hit playback on one of them and retrace my steps. How did I get here? So many questions and no answers; just a thumping headache and a smelly leather jacket for warmth.
I opened up the notebook once again and…
This is daft! How can I make sense of the old human way of writing, it is all gibberish to me. Though I can understand some of their drawings. The creased pages all have some kind of symbol, or marking. It was two small theatre faces. I’d studied these in the early years and apparently a man called Shakespeare had influenced the arts and drama culture of forgotten London. Royal characters living in castles and lots of other (what I considered) nonsense. This world was certainly no fairy-tale now. Who on earth owns this? Everything had been removed since those days and been kept under strict lock and key. One thing was certain, they’d be wanting it back.
Zzz…Zzz…The worn leather jacket was glowing a dim green colour and vibrating furiously. Anonymous. A faint whispering voice, female, “meet me at the sunny face archway. Use the light on this phone to signal your arrival. Head towards magnet town if you don’t know the way, don’t speak to anyone.”
That certainly made no sense. For one, these old mobile phones weren’t meant to exist anymore let alone work! I put one foot in front of the other and followed the sign.
Make sure you visit the Waterstones website and check out the 2013 book shortlist from the finest authors.
Find the next chapters here..
Following a brief phone conversation with my friend who is currently studying at drama school (not university), it made me realise what you miss when you’re away. You’re living away from home, and you have the ultimate freedom. You have no one to tell you when to wake up or what time you have to be back for. You do have to learn to live with others and their living habits, but generally it is fun, sociable and you think you’ve made it.
This impromptu call made me write this, following one thing she said…
“It was good to be back, in familiar surroundings and yes it does feel surreal. When I am living there I forget the endless months I spent being at home and working. Not that much seems different but I feel it. In myself. I know I have only been away a couple of months but I feel different, not this place. The one thing I noticed was they felt different.
In my halls of residence they are light and flimsy. They feel invisible to hold and you simply breeze effortlessly from one room to another. Yet back home they are sturdy and solid. When I curl my fingers around the shape I feel reassured; I know I am at home. The cold metal touches my small hands and I enter my bedroom. It all looks the same, everything in its normal place but I know I haven’t slept here for a while. The air is fresh but there is a lingering sense that time has passed.
I feel the door handle again and strangely it’s the only thing that is different. I have left home and gone away to study and all I can compare are door handles. Yes, door handles. The poorly designed door handles at my halls, to the heavy weighted round handles that I have always known. It seems odd you can move miles away, see different people day after day, learn new things about yourself and the world and you cannot shake the feeling that the door handles are different.
Perhaps it shows just how strong the human nature is, or how we perceive new surroundings and compare. Perhaps it’s a comfort blanket, what we know and what we now know. Whatever it is, I know I prefer my house’s solid door handles. Though I am sure I will open plenty more doors…”
Sometimes the small things make a difference.
1000 word extract of a novel I began writing this year, based on the London riots, Two Thousand and Tyranny.
6th August 2011
I flicked through my tattered notepad and tried to find her name. What was it? I had written it down yesterday and had painstakingly ensured her name was spelt correctly. There it was. Sumani Youlou Fransendger, age thirty-three and a protestor at Redham Court Flats last week. Pompous Paul had instructed me to find out all I could about her background as a protestor and find a creative way to angle “protester strapped to flats for three days, crumbles”. His eyebrows remained raised and pointed throughout the team meeting this morning.
For the past month of working at the paper, Paul had worn the exact same suit. His reliable grey pinstriped suit perfectly ironed with padded shoulders and no marks. He complemented this look with an off white shirt, black tie and impeccably shiny, grey snake-skin shoes. I imagined his wardrobe; identical outfits hung neatly from wooden hangers in chronological day order. Every day he manages to arrive ten minutes after everyone else: a Starbucks coffee in one hand, a briefcase in the other and always, without fail, a serious motionless face.
A distraught yell banished the images of my daunting news editor, snapping me back into reality and back within the walls of my red Fiesta. Outside Tottenham police station stood three figures in black surrounding a young, short male police officer. One of the trio, a girl easily identifiable by her curvaceous figure, was waving her arms frantically and her mouth was moving at an unimaginable speed. The other two were shifting from side to side and towering way above the police figure that now resembled a trembling mess.
In front of the station a huddle of protestors stood with banners offering support for Sumani. The older protestors in the group remained stationary clinging to their signs whilst the younger protestors reeled off numerous expletives and made disgruntled, animalistic noises.
The sound of screeching tyres came from a white Honda Civic that mounted the curb on the road opposite. Out of the front window a boy, no older than fourteen, stuck out his arm and chucked what seemed to look like a bright sparkler. I watched in horror as it fell in front of the young policeman and the trio scattered. An explosion of orange flames caught the officer’s trousers. Out of nowhere stones and bricks were being hurled at the front of the police station. Smashing of glass and cries of terror were the background noise to a high pitch alarm ringing indefinitely.
I froze. I was unsure whether to stay within the safety of my car or advance towards a scene of chaos and the unknown. Come on Joanna you need a good story after all. Breathe. I am a reporter, this is my job.
What a jolly bird, hopping to and fro,
He’s putting on a performance, he’s putting on a show.
Pecking through the grass, without any care,
He can’t see me watching, he can’t see me stare.
He’s plucked up the courage, he’s dancing on the road,
Hopping to and fro, oh no, he’s been squashed like a toad.
During a seminar this week we had a creative activity to devise a short story out of the following three sentences:
- “Your mother used to come here”
- “Please don’t break it”
- “Here they come”
A shaky hand gently shook mine. Clasped and clammy it made me shudder. The damp smell of lavender filled my nostrils, it was strangely overwhelming yet comforting. Strange and unfamiliar but so close.
The white walls screamed clinical. I looked around in hesitation at the dark laminate flooring and contrast of white. Why on earth did I come here today? I felt static. Completely glued to the spot. Before I arrived here today I visited my local pub for two strong drinks just to settle the nerves and angst. Dutch courage. Ha.
I looked into the stranger’s eyes opposite me and they remained hollow and empty. Motionless and without feeling. As she sat staring out of the large bay window her eyes were transfixed on the exquisite flowers and trees. A salty tear ran down her cheek. I could feel my throat seizing up. I inhaled a deep breath.
“Your mother used to come here, a long, long time ago.” Her white hair wispy and frail clung to her face effortlessly whilst her rigid jaw protruded as she spat those vile words. It was so hard to imagine someone so frail, was so, so evil. All that time ago.
Her small hands gripped her wheelchair tightly and she span round to face me. “Why did you come here? To laugh? To ridicule? I am an old woman.”
I slowly approached the crippling old figure, taking each step with caution. Out of the corner of my eye a photo frame glistened in the warm sun. It was me. I was barely four or five in a shimmering lilac summer dress with clear sparkly jelly shoes. I could feel myself burning up. The hairs on my neck stood on edge and I grabbed the picture with disgust. What a sick and twisted old woman. “No! Please, don’t break it!” She shrieked almost falling out of her metal frame. “It is my only photograph of you.” She pleaded like a filthy beggar.
I couldn’t speak. I knew I shouldn’t have come here. To offer forgiveness. Forgive and forget. Forget I could not. She had stolen my childhood. My normality. My relationships. My life. A glass ashtray sparkled invitingly on the table. One swipe and I…
“I’m. I’m sorry.” She wheeled towards my frozen figure and snatched the frame out of my hands. “It was different back then, there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t stop him.” Her lubricated eyes were filled with regret and sorrow. The red veins polluted the whites of her eyes. Her face was indifferent and not at all how I had pictured or remembered her. The menace. The terror. The anger. It didn’t matter now. It couldn’t. She was feeble and weak. In a child like state.
“I was six years old.” My voice remained neutral. Cold. My body moved without thought or hesitation towards the door. Closing it ever so quietly, the door neatly ‘clicked’. I turned to face the woman who had never put an end to the misery and pain I had endured.
“He used to whisper here they come and pull me under the duvet.” I grabbed a pillow that lay on the perfectly made bed.
Carelessly, she danced around the shabby grey building offering light and energy to every room she explored. The sides of her plump lips were glistening as she salivated whilst eagerly explaining my timetable, routes I could take to save time in the school and the profile of each teacher she came across in the endless corridors. I felt in complete awe. I wasn’t listening to her induction anymore and I blushed discreetly as I felt my eyes undressing her. Looking couldn’t hurt. Her soft curly chestnut brown hair bounced innocently upon her curvaceous body. A size twelve I estimated. The nape of her neck directed me further down her body, that I urgently wanted to reach out and touch. The tight white blouse that clung obediently to her, gaped ever so slightly , just so, encouraging the eye to glance momentarily upon a plump bosom being hidden in a black laced polka dot blue bra. The colour combination of clinical white with boisterous blue underneath was electrifying and almost erotic.
I settled into Finsbury Catholic High School almost instantly. Within four weeks I vaguely knew everyone in the year. My peers demonstrated the kind of manners, wit and charm that I had always desperately wanted to acquire. From day one I realised why Jennifer was perfect for Head Girl, the ambassador of Finsbury. She excelled her duties and as for showing me round, she was courteous in every sense of the manner. Her kind nature never failed to find ways to console and comfort me, ensuring I was settling into the sixth form and for once I had a friend. She was amazing. I was incredibly grateful that our timetables coincided as much as they did. It seemed an enjoyment sitting next to her in Maths and Physics. However, I reluctantly opted to study Law as well and had to sit in a room with dimwit blondes hoping to be the next Legally Blonde with peroxide, Coco Chanel and Gucci handbags at their legal side. “Dimtits” was Jennifer’s term for those breed of girls. The phonetic effect of that phrase made Jennifer shiver instantly as soon as the lexis rolled off her delicate tongue. Her whole frame shook and those moments made me want to wrap my arms securely around her. I realised after only two months that this strong heroine character who possessed intelligence, wit and a glowing manner was admired by the entire school. There was no way she had it within her to inflict pain upon another. Well, that’s what I thought.
My friendship with Jennifer ended on Friday 13th October, the night she came for a culinary feast at my house. My single, pathetic excuse for a mother persuaded me to invite her round. At twenty years old the slag of a mother had me. She has never been quite sure who my father is, or how she would diplomatically address every child’s question of a missing parent, “Your father’s out there somewhere. A hero undeniably. Fighting undoubtedly for this country or representing us within the law system.” I later learnt from snooping through mums’ photographs and letters he was a heroin drug dealer from South East London that she picked up one cold drunken evening when working her trade on the streets. Yet again she called it parlour work. Now she works for social services liaising with the police force and dealing with the outcasts of society. Irony slaps us all in the face. She was desperate for me to stop causing chaos at schools and to settle down. After only a few months she was astounded to see my change of behaviour since attending Finsbury, and frankly, so was I.
Mum was attending a works do when I invited Jennifer round. We watched chick flicks all night and laughed in unison together at the cringe worthy love making scenes. I am glad she concurred with my view on those distasteful scenes. Penises shoved in your faces. I popped to the local Londis and when I returned my friendship was destroyed. Jennifer’s coat and bag were gone and my laptop still balancing on the side of the table displayed a young fresh faced brunette on her back with her fingers slipped ever so poetically between her vaginal lips. You could clearly see she was aroused as she was lying there in a teasing position. Suggestive and saucy. This picture was by far my favourite.
The weeks leading up to Christmas saw the distance increase between me and Jennifer. Lessons weren’t the same. I sat at the back feeling cold, alone and had the empty pit feeling whenever I even glimpsed at the back of her hair, her shiny locks hanging over the back of the rigid plastic chair. Conversations between us two had ceased since that night, until the last day of the winter term.
I waited against the wall. My body was frozen stiff; the temperature must have been below zero. She had stayed late working with Jane on their IT assignment for next year and as I watched the two of them hug ever so tightly I cringed and crumpled my stomach. Luckily for me they both start walking in opposite directions. Jennifer took the alleyway; only a five minute shortcut to her house. I had followed her many a time.
The blood flow to my hands was restricted by the latex, almost unbearable, but the pleasure about to follow seemed to reassure my frozen digits. With one blow she fell to the floor graciously. The brick had knocked her instantly out. I unzipped my bag ever so carefully. What a contrast to my previous action. I could hear a faint murmur from her precious lips. I knew I had to hurry up. I lined up my weapons in front of me and smiled proudly.
I bound her wrists and ankles so tight I could see the marking being imprinted before my very own eyes. The pattern looked so harsh upon soft supple skin. She coughed and spluttered. Blood trickled down her neck staining her tarnished J necklace. I picked up the bottle and poured vigorously whilst retaining the feeling of laughter deep inside me.
The pain was excruciating. I could see it as her eyes opened widely for what seemed an eternity. The heat basked at my face and I could feel her beauty burning. The sizzling and cracking of her precious locks. Her quiet scream was shrill yet comforting. The body stopped twitching and the crispy ice air whistled silently. I picked up my bag triumphantly, flinging the latex gloves inside and pulling out an electric blue pair of woolly gloves. It was a chilly night. I whispered as I briskly walked past the disfigured body, “I only wanted a girlfriend.”