Sydney-based illustrator Christopher Nielsen’s work is brimming with bold images in a fun, vintage style. I asked him some questions about his studio, his work process and his sources of inspiration.
Where are you based?
In a great warehouse studio in Surry Hills, Sydney, Australia. I think it was used to produce uniforms during WWII. I share the space with 4 other awesome illustrators (Nigel Buchanan, Jim Tsinganos, Stuart McLachlan and Lew Keilar) as well as 4 other creatives.
It’s a space where we can get instant inspiration, advice (and criticism), share contacts and hand on jobs to each other.
What’s your work process and the tools you use, especially how do you achieve your grungy/scratchy effects?
I’m the worst drawer in the world so the initial process is the hardest. With editorial work I start out with lots of really bad thumbnails¬†on recycled paper just trying to work with shapes and come up with about 3-5 ideas.
Once they start taking shape I move on to refine the drawings on tracing paper which I can also use to transfer the art to the illustration board once I get a go-ahead on a concept.
I then paint with acrylics on to illustration board, building up lots of layers that I can dig into and scratch away at with just about anything on hand. I want to make the surface look like it has a history and a story to tell.¬†It’s then scanned and I can tweak color and tidy up any marks that I don’t like in Photoshop on my Cintiq Wacom screen.
What inspired you most recently?
I’ve just put together a dummy for a kid’s book that was inspired by my 2 year old son and I’ve been looking at lots of vintage children’s book ephemera. I saw some hand lettering by a guy called ESPO done at Coney Island recently that was really cool.
I saw a talk online by designer Marian Bantjes which inspires me to keep doing what I love doing as opposed to following a trail of money.
As well as all the usual suspects like old medical/health charts, day of the dead imagery, vintage ad characters, battered and beaten hand signage.
¬© Christopher Nielsen, 2010
What are you working on at the moment?
I just finished up an illustration of Moses handing down “5 things to ask your plan adviser” for PlanSponsor, a female Bigfoot with online customized shoes for Nett Mag, a rum drinking polar bear for The Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend and 2 Mexican Wrestling cards for an article on credit v debit cards for Money Mag.