Nicholas Stevenson

Get acquainted with a charismatic cast of characters in the portfolio of Nicholas Stevenson, whose narrative-driven work demonstrates that a single image really can speak volumes...

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Penrose Winoa - 2017 - Art is Hard Records

Describe your work in three words...
Dream, silly, magic.

What first made you realise you wanted to pursue a creative career?
As a young person, I didn't know exactly what drawing as a career looked like. I had some notions about it how great it was to be Picasso or a Pre-Raphaelite, but not a visual artist in the present-day-commercial sense. I went straight from school in to an Illustration Degree at Hereford College of Arts and I felt instantly at home being more self directed with my time. I love being my own boss, but I started from a position of simply loving my practice, and the career has just been a practicality that followed on from that.

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Trans Siberian Railway - 2015 - Diary of a Time Traveller, Wide Eyed Editions

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Oh No Mr McLaughlin - 2014

Tell us about a recent project you've particularly enjoyed...
I recently created the record packaging for my own music project Oro Swimming Hour. It's great and sometimes scary creating a piece, where you are also the client. I ended up creating about as many paintings as there are songs on the album, riffing on images of wounded figurines riding ceramic Staffordshire horses. After a long back and forth about which painting to use Oliver Wilde (the other half of Oro Swimming Hour) suggested collaging all the best bits together in to something more ambiguous and busy. The result was really unexpected, and in many ways reflected the recording process and dadaist ideas floating around in the writing. Most of my favourite pieces are in some way a surprise, and this was definitely one of those. 

What are your favourite tools, materials or bits of kit for creating work?
I am more and more dependent on my computer, but I have yet to convert to the tablet. I typically make shapes and lines with pens, a Pentel Graph Gear 1000 mechanical pencil, gouache, ink. I bought a little squirrel hair brush visiting a painting school in India, which seems to have outlasted all my other brushes and always makes great marks.

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Art Thief - 2016

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Ice Giant - 2016 - for Postcard Club

Talk us through your working process—how do you go about bringing an idea to life?
Each project brings new subject matter and ideas, it's great immersing yourself in something unfamiliar. I'll go hunting for relevant documentaries, podcasts and video material I can play while I'm working.

Once I've filled up with a good amount of research, I like to work very intuitively and allow for serendipity to take over. Strange things happen when you just start drawing. Unrelated objects placed on a page can start to interact with each other in unexpected ways. I like to be surprised by, or to even laugh at my own outcomes.

There's a strong sense of narrative within your work, how does this develop during your creative process?
Yes, narrative is really important to my work, although I rarely create sequential images. I think a lot about the moment in time I am capturing, is it before, during or after something has occurred? Which is the most dynamic, or exciting? I'm interested in images with a lot of potential energy, where things might happen, but haven't yet. A precariously placed crystal figurine, a raised dagger, hidden figures, strange poses, eyes locked. I like images with mystery, foreboding, ambiguity and secrets, but also fun, jubilance and silliness. All these elements begin to work together to tell stories.

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Shakespeare's Globe - 2015 - Diary of a Time Traveller, Wide Eyed Editions

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Frost Fair - 2014

What is it that you enjoy about working on album cover art and how did you start out doing this?
My other gig is playing in bands (Lucky Shivers, Oro Swimming Hour, Red Kite). I started a little lo-fi bedroom project when I was a student, and got to know everyone making music in the area through playing shows. This lead to me having a steady stream of posters, t-shirts and record sleeves to make. It's so great to know and be supported by other illustrators, but it can also be dead helpful to be the only illustrator amongst people who are all doing something else! It's a wonderful thing to respond visually to music, and it's quite a responsibility. There's a required sensitivity and understanding about the kind of visual space the music wants to inhabit, it's more intuitive than academic sometimes. I always listen a lot to what I'm designing for, and I try to create something that sings along.

What are you working on now, and what's next for you?

I'm about to return to Hereford as a tutor on the Illustration course, which I'm very excited about. It's great to see how the next wave of illustrators are thinking and what sort of ideas they have. Teaching such a broad range of people with different, but valid approaches is a real fun challenge, and it's already invigorated my own practice in many ways.

I also have a few album sleeve projects on the go, and a folk story I've started writing about eels and missing toes.

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The Slingshot - 2016 - for Cricket Magazine

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Eel Fishing - 2017

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Careless Camper - 2015 - for Cre Magazine

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Bug Problems - 2014