So here we are, nearing the end of the first month of the year already and I have resolved to charge at it fearlessly like a bull. You see, in December of 2010 when the launch of aija, with long anticipation, was imminent I was diagnosed with breast cancer. And suddenly I am in disbelief that a year has passed by, and that I have come out the other end brand new and trying to work my way back into a hectic world that I have since slowed down from. It should be mentioned too that I am amazingly well, with a new vision for the life ahead of me and a willingness to give it ALL a go; even failure. For without failure, we cease to learn and grow.
So I’m thinking this blog will give you little insights into my world. I’m Nicole, an illustrator who has now ventured into retail with my work, so perhaps my career as an illustrator might interest you too. They run in tandem so there’s bound to be great things to talk about, no doubt challenges, exciting new products, and hopefully some little surprises along the way to keep us smiling. This, being the first posting, will inevitably be the longest. And it seems fitting, as we welcome in the new year, to let you know where I’m at and what I’m about.
I finished up 2011 with a bang, with a commission for Shell Australia which featured in a special liftout of the Weekend Australian, Dec 10th. In a completely different direction, Moosehead Fuse asked me to create images for their shelf trays to show the different hairstyles you could achieve with each of their products. Pop in to your local Coles supermarket to see them in real life. They were both great projects to work on, and I guess that shows the diversity of the work I do, which is what I love about being an illustrator. That each job can be entirely different to the next which definitely keeps it interesting.
Amid the deadlines, Aija, the label bringing my work into your lives, launched online last month. Aija was my mother’s name; of Latvian descent. I continue to find her inspiring on a daily basis despite losing her 14 years ago. It’s with enormous pride that I see her name around me every day. And I questioned early on whether the label should just have simply been my name, safe from confusion, but hers is a beautiful name and one I find engaging even in its visual form so it should be celebrated. Aija is my breath in this world. The work I do when I’m creating for me, not commercially as Nicole Onslow the Illustrator. It is my love for fashion, for women, for beautiful objects and imagery which translates into special products that I hope bring some joy to your lives too.
So it seems fitting then, with a new year and new journey ahead of me to talk about inspiration. After all, I’ve got a new aija range to focus on which I’ll reveal little insights and snippets on as these blogs peel open. And I’m trying to create a plethora of new work to showcase to the creative world to reenergise them about me after my year of hibernation.
Therein lays the first hurdle.
I read on Illustration Voice, Illustrator Steve Noble say about running his business that ‘At the end of the day, the illustration and creative portion only takes up a small percentage of the business as a whole. It is very difficult to manoeuvre from two opposite sides of the brain: creative to analytical.’
Trying to create, to feel free about your passions, to draw inspiration so deliberately from the world when you’re putting yourself under pressure to find work can be very difficult. My current dilemma is my feeling of lack of time. It’s a new year. I want to say hello to those I’ve worked with before, and introduce myself to new creatives to broaden my horizons. But in order to do that I need the new work to say ‘hey, here’s what I’m up to now’ so they don’t dismiss me as passé. But the new work takes time, so I find myself engaged in a mental angst of deadline versus free and undemanding creativity. They are counterproductive, like facebook is in the office, and yet commercially I seem to create better work under the pressure of those deadlines.
So I’ve had a realisation; that when under the direction of someone else’s inspiration I am like a freight train, but when creating work for the sake of inspiring others, I crumble. I have so many ideas, which means I’m clearly influenced much more than I realise, but often I am trying to surge forward in new and fresh directions and so under that pressure of reinvention I grind to a halt. I’m continuing to create the new work, but it’s not saying what I want it to say, or targeting the audience I intended it for. It’s not mature enough in its method or sophisticated enough in how it feels. And it’s not happening quickly enough. And really, I should just be working in a way and with subject matter that I’m drawn to and is drawn out of me.
To my delight, I started today with this new invigoration after reading on the same blog, Illustration Voice, in their industry advice:‘Don’t try to be someone else, be you. Each of us is unique. Artists, and other creative individuals need only tap into their passion, and be true to who they are as an individual’. Suddenly I’m lying in bed wondering why I’m putting myself under so much pressure to come up with some new artistic style and direction when I’ve been a successful illustrator for 15 years. So now my aim is not to massage my style to suit current trends so much, but to listen to my inner voice, and enjoy indulging in subject matter and creative methods that interest me. Too much time can be spent trying to anticipate what people would like to see you create or by me not wanting to be pigeonholed into a particular genre. ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ I read. Great advice.
So here’s to 2012. To finding continual inspiration, but to creating art organically, trusting my signature and hoping that you like it too.
Which brings me to now. What’s inspiring me at the moment? Well, this year will definitely have a good chunk of French in it. Why? I don’t know, I adore the language but speak it poorly. The country itself is beautiful, from the big cities to the quaint little villages. As for the pastries; well if only I could eat those everyday and retain my figure like they say the French women do. I’ll have to only dream. There’s always a little bit of something French in my work anyway you will have noticed. And I’m dating a Frenchman. It’s just the way it’s panned out for lucky me! Oui Oui!
I met a friend at the Prahran pool the other day. Her kids are on holidays and it was an easy way to say hi. Walking back to my car I passed Letitia Morris’ store on High St and was drawn inside by the amount of Bernard Villemot posters on an enormous scale. I was in love. I love his work. I wanted to buy them all. Bright, punchy and his simplicity is wonderful. True room stoppers. I love old movie posters too, covered in type. So he began my French addiction for the year at 11pm last night whilst agonising over the tennis. I’ve started on a range of horoscope images as homage to what I love about his work.
Below is the first of them, Leo, which in French is Lion. When the series is complete you’ll be able to buy your own starsign in my limited edition print section of the aija store. And buy it large, the bigger the better. The bold iconic style demands it and gives any room an amazing presence at that scale. I'm sure you'll see them as a new greeting card series too.
Soon there’ll be originals of my work for sale too. Works on paper as well as on canvas, but that’s a whole other story for next time. And I’m working on some digital print tops too. I’m so excited.
So, Bonne Année everyone. It’s going to be an incredible year. Oh, and Happy Australia Day!