Nicole Xu Talks about Bringing Watercolour Techniques into Her Rich Illustrations

With lush swathes of rich, exuberant colour, Nicole Xu’s illustrations convey emotion through their expressive marks as much as through her dynamic compositions and figurative style. She talks to us about how getting hands-on with her materials is an important part of creating this visual language.

peek_1_800

Nicole’s pairing of jewel tones against subtler creams and pastel hues creates a striking overall tone to her work, but it’s the connection to her days working with printmaking and watercolour that also give a sense of worked-by-hand.

As she talks about below, finding a balance between the techniques she used early in developing her process and working digitally on a tablet is an essential element to how she creates images today.

sketchfinalsmall

I’m an illustrator who primarily works digitally using Photoshop and a medium Wacom Intuos 5 tablet. While I was at art school, I also had a soft spot for printmaking and watercolors, and I believe that experimenting with those mediums have helped form how I work digitally.

tinyhomess_nicolexu_800

My work process relies heavily on intuition, but I always start off with writing lists. When I get a prompt, or if I’m just creating something for myself, I’ll scribble some words or ideas that pop into my head into my sketchbook. The resulting notes are probably pretty nonsensical and illegible to anyone who looks through them, but as long as they make sense to me, that’s all that matters!

insideoutside_800

After I have a good sense of what I want to draw, I turn to Photoshop to block out colors and try out different compositions in thumbnail-sized boxes until I get a combination I like. Then, I just enlarge the canvas, start tightening up shapes and add details until I’m satisfied with the end result!

698beadb-9c58-45dc-a546-294589088224

windowsweb_800

desk

© Nicole Xu, 2016

You might also like

  1. Dimension From Form and Colour with Richard Keeling
  2. The Ornate from the Simple in Paper Sculptures bu Diana Beltrá Herrera
  3. Deanna Halsall Lines Up a Summer of Plays in Emotive Posters
  4. Sophie Melissa’s Skilfully Edited Compositions
  5. Wonderous Characters in Dreamy Scenes by Josephine Kyhn
  6. Sharp Angles and Soft Colours in Illustrations by Sara Ciprandi
  7. Vibrant Jewel Tones and Balanced Compositions by Kaley McKean
  8. Exuberant Colours in Inky Illustrations by Katie Vernon
  9. Bold Lines and Pops of Colour with Vinnie Neuberg
  10. Catch Up: Narrative Treasures from Aart-Jan Venema
  11. Hypnotic Cats and Colourful Food in 3D Illustrations by AJ Jefferies
  12. Fundraising Event at Pop Brixton with Live Drawing and Doodle-based Entertainment
View All