Nuria & Peculiar Girls
Tell us about yourself. How did you get started as an illustrator? How did you find your style?
My name is Nuria, Spanish illustrator and digital artist; however the name with which I sign my works is Nuri Ann. Like most people as a child, I liked drawing a lot. When I grew up, I continued doing it, and I decided to study Fine Arts. One of the most pleasant memories, I have of my childhood, is hours and hours immersed in mountains of illustrated stories and comics (many comics). So I guess this influenced me a lot, when choosing this profession. In my last years of my career I started to specialize in illustration, and I also entered the world of digital painting in a self-taught way.
Finding my style took me a few years, it's not easy. It's a slow process, it takes time, experimentation with many techniques and styles, but above all you have to be honest to find yourself. At the beginning I used traditional techniques, such as graphite, Indian ink, collage, watercolors and gouache. Step by step, I was introducing the digital technique in my works. The truth is that there were years of intense work and many mistakes, which led me to find a language of my own, with which to express myself. Now my final works are 100% digital.
How many times do you tend to draw a character until its right, and also how do you know that it is right?
When I'm creating a character, I always start by drawing the eyes. If I look at them, and they transmit something to me, that´s good and I finish it. If not, the drawing goes directly to the garbage.
What is the difference between editorial illustration and other ones?
The editorial illustration ranges from commissions of magazines and press, to book publishing, cover design, illustrated album, etc., among them the pace of work and delivery times are different. The advertising illustration is a wild work rhythm, I don’t know if it would fit with my calm character. Fashion illustration is something I have never considered.
Even so, I believe that the borders between the different types of illustration, as well as between illustration and art, are sometimes diluted. Maybe at a given moment the style of a child illustrator can fit perfectly into a specific project of fashion illustration.
With what technique are you more comfortable?
The pencil and the computer are my co-workers. The pencil allows me to capture ideas more immediately. I use digital techniques to play with the color palette and create the atmosphere, in which the plot unfolds. It allows me to correct errors and change colors in a short time.
Tell us about your recent project.
In recent years, I have devoted almost full time to working on my personal project: Peculiar Girls. They are female characters that I use to tell stories and convey emotions through their eyes and gestures. They usually look directly at the viewer so that it is immersed, and becomes part of their history. I like to create disturbing environments and situations.
Do you enjoy working with a handmade aesthetic, or do you do a lot of computer work as well? What is the process you have for creating your illustrations? Do you use any special technique? Please tell us about that.
The technique with which I work is digital, but I try not to abuse it. That is, I try to make the final product look like it has been painted with gouache or oil. First I make the pencil sketch, where I work the composition and the light, and then I pass it to the computer. Then, I choose the color palette and use the brushes carefully, as if I were painting in oil, with transparencies. Shadow by shadow, I superimpose them one by one with great patience until the characters acquire volume. This process, in some works, can last two or three months.
How do you approach creating an illustration? And is that different depending on if you are working for a client or for yourself?
If it’s a personal project, the starting point is my inner world, my memories and experiences. I also feel strongly influenced by traditional stories (Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, etc.). If the work is for a client, the main thing is to capture the essence of the idea that the client proposes, but without neglecting your approach and your way of telling things.
Your works are based on strong concepts and direct language and it is interesting that for you the content of your work is more important than the visual representation of it. Do you have a process for developing your ideas?
I believe that the power of illustration lies in the narrative burden, in what you want to tell, although aesthetics is also very important. When you have an idea in your head, the creative process never stops (you think about it when you walk on the street, cooking, having a coffee with friends, etc.) all the things that come to my mind, I write them on paper during several days. Then it’s time to investigate the topic that you have to develop, give a thousand ideas to find an image that tells, provokes, suggests or encourages the viewer to think.
Best / most fun part of your job:
To draw. To imagine and create environments. The creative process: starting from an idea, researching and finishing an unexpected site.
Worst / most difficult part of your job:
Everything else: bills, bureaucracy, seek contacts to give visibility to your work ... and long hours of solitude at the workplace. But dedicate yourself to doing what you like compensates for all this.
What types of illustration projects do you enjoy working on?
Although in recent years I have been focused on illustration for an adult audience ("Peculiar Girls"), I also had commissions for children's illustration that I enjoyed very much, now I am immersing myself in the world of the illustrated albums ... The truth is that all the projects I welcome with the same enthusiasm, each one gives me something different.
How do you imagine the future of illustration world?
It would be great to live in a society flooded with illustration. I hope that the power of images will be used more to make us think for ourselves, not to tell us what we have to think.
What do you think about e-books and apps like a new field of job?
We live in an accelerated society where this type of products allows you to consume books quickly and at a very affordable price. It seems to me an interesting way to explore new ways to interact with the reader, create stories with interactive illustrations, etc. But I have to confess that I have a weakness for the book as an object... The smell of the ink, the feel of the paper, the illustrations, the typography and the high quality of a good edition, for me, are not comparable with what an e-book can offer me.
Who are some of the other artists you take inspiration from?
Many ... infinite. In social networks I discover new artists every day with an incredible portfolio. I have always been attracted to the Pre-Raphaelite movement and Symbolism. But if I had to highlight concrete artists, I like the irony and the atmosphere that Marion Peck creates in her art; I admire Ray Caesar's technique, and I love the artwork of Stephen Mackey. I like an artist, whose work disturbs me and removes something inside me.
go outside and warm up your brain...
- Tell us about you and when did you decide to be an illustrator?
I always have been in touch with any kind of art, in my house my father use to paint at home, he was a graphic designer, but without computer, all hand made. So the smell of paint, gouache an turpentine and many art books have been always present. At school, like all my friends, we use to allways draw, the difference is that I never stoped, My books were always full of drawings. We use to travel a lot through the country, visiting many museums, churches, chapels and cathedrals. I was always fascinated by sacred paintings and sculputres, huge and laborious altarpieces that make you feel a tinny little person. Many relics in the center and some times a nun or bishop mummified. It was not about religion that came my fascination. I was more fascinated with all this darkness and pain that those masterpieces and sculptures reflected, surrounded by this ancient silence illuminated by a thin ray of light. I think because this, many people says that my works breath some time a little bit of… dark. But not only this, also Eddy, this character allways present on the Iron Maiden band, and the great illustrations from Brian Froud and many others inspired me too. So when all my friends were deciding which career they had to choose, I discover that I could live from this, so I landed at the Llotja Avinyó school in Barcelona to study Illustration.
- How do you define your illustrations?
It's difficult to say… maybe some times melancholic, other are more crazy, humorous, others maybe painful, some times i try to make you travel to the past… I don’t really know how to describe them...
- With what technique are you more comfortable?
I’ve tried many’s, and actually now I’m working with oil paintings. I love the colors, textures. Oil let you work slowly, so you can correct, eliminate the marks of the brush, and the paper the paper does not wrinkle.
The only bad thing is the smell.
- Would you explain more about your books, do you prefer philosophical story or fictional ?
Philosophical in a way to wake some thoughts inside minds of readers (or watchers in my case). When I do a entire book myself, story and illustrations, I like to be critic with some ideas or establishments that are in our society. WORDLESS and AMIGOS talk about how we treat animals in this world. But I think that is better to make you think a bit, showing you some situations where later it is yourself who make final conclusions. But just giving the informations, trying to be objective and showing what they are playing with, and the most important, not lying. But some times I like to illustrate just for fun, some nonsense story just to make you laugh, or represent ridiculous situations, or melancholic… depends of the moment.
- What is the importance of philosophical role specially nowadays?
I believe that even if it’s from reality or fantasy , illustrated books have, beside others functions like to have fun, make you dream, or feed your imagination, they have to educate. To show how to be sensible in front a situation, colors or textures. Inspire other minds with scenes illuminated in a particularly way. Show important values that they are going to find in their real life. As I said in the last question always telling the truth, without hiding the reality. Sickness exist, war exist, poverty, really bad people very well dressed also exist. Typical stories where pink princesses fall in love with the eternal blue prince for example have done quite pain to so many people… In my case for example, I’m in fight with all this authors that keep telling their beautiful stories in places like circus, farms or Zoos. Places where they want to show how animals are willing to make children happy or pretending that their life are easy and pleasant in those places. The reality is that those places are prisons for them, horror concentration camps where they loose they freedom and soon or later they will find a painful death because our benefit, fun for the ignorants and money for the cruel. So those are not themes to make beautiful stories for their benefit, these beautiful stories should be for their freedom. So For me I think this is the important role of philosophical in children books, don’t lie them when you deal with real issues.
- How many times do you tend to draw a character until it’s right, and also how do you know that it is right?
Never enough time… And I never know if it is ready (jajaja). We work with deadlines, so from the first minute they give the OK, time is running out. Many times in the middle of a project, they come to your head new ideas or different ways to do it… to me it happens constantly. But i guess that it arrive a moment where you have to learn to know when to say stop, and here you have your new character. The main character is going to be with you the whole Storie, she or he or it has to reflect the personality, the psychology of she’s or he’s or it's behavior, and make it fill it to the reader. so when you get that, is done.
- • Where does an idea come from and how does it transform from an idea into a book?
From everywhere, the illustrators have to be the best “observers” in the world. Every detail, movement, color or shape could inspire you. It is very important to read, to watch films, go outside, see the clouds, find forms in a dirty wall… that’s our food. All those things plus our personal experience and mixing it with a bit of craziness, you can get the idea you are looking for. The difficult think is to realize that this same idea, all along your whole life, is going to have to change, it has to mature. For example: there are many ways to represent a simple scene where some one is having a coffee. In the reality anybody stops in front of some one who is having a pleasant cup of coffee in a bar. But in a illustration, you are going to observe this situation closely, and it is my job, to give you more information of this situation: is she waiting for someone? is he just having some minutes of relax? is she nervous…. mysterious because the way the light touch her, keeps her face in shadows… but I show the smoke of a cigarette over her head been traversed by some ray of lights? The difficult is not only to have the idea, also is difficult what to do with it once you have it.
- How do you decide what to include and what not to include in the book?
When I do do the story board, you create many scenes to explain the story, normally you are attached of a determinate number of pages, so you can not extend to much on some pages to explain something. You choose in function of which of these ones will create some tension, or maybe to arrive at this moment of the story I going to need three steps to make understand what is happening. At the end you see which scenes you need and which ones you can avoid.
- How do you find thinking about the book as a whole – the text, illustration, design – in comparison with illustrating someone else’s text?
I think it is much more difficult to do a whole book by your self than to illustrate a story from another one author. When they give you a text you have everything done, you only have to worry about characters, architectures and the style you are going to use. But you own story? is very difficult to create a clima or to be sure if this is the way you want to explain it. Most of times, during the process, you are correcting many times the way to end it, or how you get to this point, I need to do 4 scenes more but oH! no more pages!! so I have to cut some other from the begining… it is always like this to me.
- Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking?
My father on the way of working, the way he educate me pushing me always to think that once something is finished, a second time it can be better done. And I can say clearly my wife. She’s been a example of how to be consistent with your life. That’s how I did get in touch with veganism. But not only with the respect to other species, as well on our dairy relation with other people. Most of what I am today, I I owe it to her.
- Can you give some advice to any illustrators out there who may be looking to become a children’s book illustrator?
Every day, when you’ll walk outside, worm up your brain, try to see everything, every little detail is important. Bring always with you a small sketch book and a pen, and draw something when you’ll have those little moments waiting for someone or something. Be yourself, don’t try to be others. It’s OK to be inspired by other people, everybody does, But try to use it a a tool to transform your own thoughts, transform it in your own language. And… don’t know, think that it always could be better, maybe on the next one ;)
Let Thoughts Flow Naturally
Could you give us a bit of background on your work and education? When did you start working as an illustrator?
My education was traditional. I graduated from Artistic High School and then graduated with an illustration degree from the European Design Institute. As a student I started making covers for comic magazines after which I got into advertising; for about ten years I worked as a storyboard artist for a major advertising agency.
Tired of being "invisible" and working at the behest of others, I started participating in contests (winning at times) and putting my works on illustrator sites. From that point on people started contacting me to offer me work, which in turn led to further success.
Your work is deeply personal: a sort of record of your emotions, thoughts and experiences. Could you explain a bit about the process and conceptsinvolved in your work?
I do not have a certain process for creating an image. At least I’m not aware of the process I use to create an illustration. Surely, the quality of the work I produce is the result of years of experience, work, study, and what we could call "inspiration" for the sake of convenience. In creating an illustration, there is a kind of analytical and emotional study of the subject involved, after which I just let the images flow through my imagination. Let's say that the ideal way of creating an image - as far as I'm concerned - is thinking directly in terms of images. When creating an illustration it's a good idea to let thoughts flow naturally because then the image will crystalize and result in a more authentic work. I believe that ideally one’s work should naturally be born from an initial spark to crystallize into a definitive image, because even if the initial idea is complicated and full of subtexts the image will not be too rigid or complex.
How do your ideas originate and how do they transform into books?
Reading is fundamental to an illustrator. Great attention and care are needed to translate the words written on the page into another language (i.e. the “language” of illustration), which is why l read, study, research, and look for documentations... I lay the necessary groundwork to adhere to the texts in my illustrations without depicting a simple reiteration of the words on the page.
How do you decide what to include and what not to include in the book?
Even here, throughout my creative process, there is no established rule. In my illustrations I certainly try to avoid communicating the same information present in the texts. Instead, I look for a new narration, something that may reduce the reader’s sense of security or transport him/her into an imaginary world that does not belong to him. Often, illustrations console the public (i.e. they pander to the demands of society), but I do not consider the ethical role of the artist to be as such.
Which technique are you more comfortable with? Do you prefer handmade techniques or digital ones? Please tell us about that.
I do not have a preference. [The choice of a technique] depends on your needs. The technique should enable you to be expressive yet practical. I usually try not to make a choice (any choice) just because it is more convenient. I prefer decisions to be dictated solely by creative needs. The traditional and digital techniques complement one another in that each uses a part of the other. My work starts from an initial sketch, which does not have to be perfect, but must have fluid movements and signs in addition to capturing an equilibrium in the medium in which I work.
I then proceed to constructing the image by using portions of photographic materials, which are first processed digitally and then with acrylic paint. I conclude my work by putting the finishing touches on the computer. Sometimes the whole process is completed digitally through Painter and Photoshop.
How important is technique?
Technique is important because it represents my language, my voice. To better express what I mean, I need to know all the rules of the language I speak, such as the grammatical and vocabulary nuances. Technique is important even if you choose an iconographic language (i.e. style) outside an academic environment.
I see you have done many illustrations for adults as well as for Which one do you prefer?
I do not restrict myself in expressing my creativity, however, it seems that the world of childhood illustrations is a little "blocked" for me. I find the world of adult illustrations more welcoming due to the presence of complex narratives and intriguing language structures.
My illustrations are not easily interpreted and are often not reassuring, so publishers base their decisions on industry conventions to asses which of my illustrations get published. Fortunately, I have many people who are fascinated by my poetry. It's always very satisfying for me when my works achieve great success.
What special characteristics do adult illustrations have?
I do not know. I do not make any special considerations in drawing illustrations for adults. Of course, as I have said before, the world of the adult illustrations belongs mostly to me because I express myself artistically using more sophisticated imagery ... but inevitable I have to be faithful to my poetry when creating illustrations.
What would you say is your strongest skill as an illustrator?
Sometimes it seems to me that it is an important skill to be able to produce conventional images and to respond to the demands of those who look at them. It almost seems that mediocrity is a rewarding trait. Thankfully such is not always the case, however, because there are many artists who enlighten their audience’s eyes and mind. For me it is an ethical question. I am still convinced that those who create art must enrich the imagination of the public, not comfort them or reassure them with what they already know.
What are some trends or visual styles you appreciate in contemporary illustrations?
I do not particularly appreciate any current trends. I appreciate the quality of work of individual artists. There is a tendency to conform to what the market requires, which causes artists to become victims of the market and it’s demands. Such conditions never create freedom but instead subjugate the artists and drive art to extinction. I remain mostly interested in the illustrator/author when it comes to the industry.
Which factors should illustrators keep in mind when trying to find ways to improve their work?
The process of studying, searching, and translating into images all that which nourishes the imagination of an illustrator. It is useless to reproduce the fruits of other people’s imagination just because it is exciting to do so or because such works become fashionable. Really try to be yourself even though it may be a risk. Do away with your sense of security and conventions. Follow these principles all time.