For our “X Questions With” series, we’re speaking with talented individuals from around the world who have inspired us with their creativity and passion. If you have a story to tell or someone you’d like to see profiled, let us know in the comments or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter!
Today, we’re chatting with Nikki Farquharson, a supremely creative freelance illustrator who uses vibrant colours and intricate details to create her mixed media artworks. To see more of Nikki’s work, check out her website and portfolio at nikkifarquharson.com!
1) Please tell us a little about yourself
Name: Nikki Farquharson
City: London, UK
Places: I’ve only lived in London. I’ve travelled to Paris, New York, Amsterdam, Portugal, Belgium, Scotland and Montserrat (my family homeland).
Passions: I have a really big passion for gaming. My tastes range from GTA to World of Warcraft to RollerCoaster Tycoon. I’m also very passionate about feminism and race politics.
Education/Training: I graduated in Graphic & Media Design at the London College of Communication (University of the Arts London).
Occupation: Freelance Illustrator
Creative Works: Past clients include MAC Cosmetics, Adidas and Malibu Rum.
2) We rather serendipitously found out about your art when you posted a photo of your new 2016 Paperblanks Diary. Any big announcements or activities you’ve already planned out for the new year?
Ah yes! Well I ended 2015 vowing to finally complete an ongoing collaboration I had with Singapore-based photographer Scott A. Woodward, before the new year. It’s titled “Mythos” and the theme is based on the classical elements. This is the first new project I have showcased in 2016. It is an exciting project for me because it’s allowed me to explore and experiment with new digital techniques combined with my hand-drawn illustrations. I’m working on another personal project called “Mixed Media Manifestations of Me” and I also have plans to start creating large and complex typographic pieces again.
3) Aside from that posting, your Instagram is such an amazing resource for artists (and art-lovers) to check out. We especially love how you show the step-by-step process of sketching and filling in your colourful artwork. Why did you decide to show your followers the road to the final product?
I initially didn’t realise that it would be interesting for other people to see the process of my artwork. As I draw and colour the majority of my work by hand, I take pictures to save moments of the progression for myself. One day I was working on a project and decided to upload a WIP pic to my Instagram account. I was surprised to see that it received such a positive response. Now it just makes sense to share my work in this way and social media is the perfect platform for this. Another reason why I share the development – especially on my blog – is that many times, people often mistake my work for full digital art. It’s a popular method for many creatives so I’m not surprised by that, but sharing the progress is a great way to showcase that I do in fact draw and colour my work by hand. It also gives people a good sense of how long a piece can take, how I make and remedy mistakes and how an illustration can evolve from a blank page.
4) Right now it seems like you’re in the midst of your “Mixed Media Manifestations of Me” project and this looks to be your most personal subject matter. What prompted this direction?
I’ve been creating mixed-media artworks for almost 10 years, for both personal projects and client commissions. But for every piece, I’ve begun with photography that I’ve either found or has been given to me. This has been great because I get to be continually inspired by new imagery to create original pieces. However, over time I’ve had a growing sense of wanting to create a similar art series from scratch – including the photography. It was also important for me to improve my representation of women of colour within my artwork – especially being a Black female artist. With these feelings combined, it slowly began to make sense that I ought to begin with my own body. By starting here, it has not only given me full control of the entire image, but as a feminist, has given me a new liberating space to express my autonomy in a way I’ve never creatively done before. I have a growing need to express my personal politics into my work and this project is my way of stepping in that direction.
5) Your graphic style is so unique, with the intricate line drawings and even more detailed patterns you fill them in with. How did you develop this style?
I’ve been drawing ever since I was a little girl but after my GCSE’s (school exams taken at 16 y/o) I did much less of it as I chose to study graphic design. While studying the subject, I began to feel constrained by the strictness of the discipline. I felt that there were too many design rules to consider and I just wanted to feel free again – as cheesy as that sounds. I released this frustration by drawing in my free time but noticed that my style had dramatically changed. My drawings had always been slightly surreal but I was quite fond of creating still life. Now my drawings were incredibly abstract with a strong graphical edge. I could only attribute this transformation to my six-year stint with graphic design.
6) We found it interesting to see a photo of Joanna Basford’s Enchanted Forest on your Instagram, when your own art seems like the perfect style for a colouring book! Have you ever thought about approaching this medium from a publishing standpoint?
It has been suggested to me several times by many people and my cousin who loves adult colouring books has even asked me to produce a single edition just for her, but I’ve never given it much serious thought until quite recently. It seems like quite a daunting task and at the moment, I just don’t have the time to commit to a challenge of that size but I would like to revisit this idea in the future.
7) Are you especially inspired by any artists or artistic styles?
This won’t come as a surprise but I am greatly drawn to other artists and illustrators who specialise in abstract, patterned artwork. I find it more attractive and expressive than most other styles. Any piece of art that displays a high level of intricacy and time-consuming detail will always catch my attention. It motivates me to increase my own skill and to continue exploring new avenues to improve my own work. Instagram is a great place to follow and keep up-to-date with the works of my favourite artists and I also run a blog called Love + Inspiration where I collate and present art, illustration and photography that keep me inspired.
8) How did you go from graphic design school to successful freelance artist?
I studied graphic design in three consecutive courses for a total of six years, graduating in 2008. While studying for my degree, I began to draw as a hobby (along with creating other design projects such as Random Got Beautiful) to offset my discontentment with the limitations of the subject. I taught myself to build a website and uploaded these random drawings. They caught the attention of a student blog which then caught the attention of It’s Nice That, a popular blog which was very new at the time. Shortly afterwards, I got an email from Sims Snowboards expressing their interest in purchasing an illustration after seeing my work online. I was stunned that a brand wanted to pay me to create something I love doing for free. They became my first client while I was still at university. That was the turning point that made me fully aware that this could be a legitimate career path for me.
9) Do you have any advice you could share with aspiring artists?
I always advise people to stay true to themselves, and what I mean by that is to avoid following trends or trying too hard to imitate the style of their favourite artists. There are different degrees of success and we all have varying definitions of what it means to us, but to create a body of work that sincerely represents your own vision should be the foundation to having a portfolio you’re proud of.