Nick Sheehy is an Australian-born artist and illustrator living in the south-east of England. After studying bronze sculpture in the wilds of Tasmania, Nick gave up on art only to re-discover his love of drawing whilst living in London, sparked by an interest in the city’s low brow art, illustration, street art and graffiti. In his work, Nick explores the dreamlike, sometimes semi-autobiographical scenes and oddball characters that echo from his childhood imagination. Employing a laborious technique, building up layers of texture and thin colour, his work infuses precision and attention to detail with random abstraction and clumsiness. He enjoys drawing various weird things for himself, exhibitions, publications and occasionally the odd client.
Hi Nick! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us about pencils. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?
I am an Australian currently living in the south east of the UK. I like drawing odd scenes and weird characters.
You sometimes combine pencil with paint in your work, and you also do digital colouring as well. Could you tell us a bit about that… what are some of your favourite materials & methods, and why?
While digital colouring is very easy, forgiving and unlimited, I don’t find it nearly as satisfying and quick as using acrylic paint.
It’s taken a while to find the right combination of technique and materials that sits comfortably with my working method. The biggest issue was finding the right paper. Finding a smooth paper that works well with heavily worked pencil and very thin acrylic washes took me a while. Also the difference that good quality paint makes is dramatic.
In short: crosshatch with a mechanical 2B-4B on smooth water colour paper and then layer colour until things look interesting.
Tell us about your creative process, from the initial idea to the finished piece. Is there a difference between work you get commissioned for, and more personal projects?
Everything starts as a bunch of thumbnail images that I bring into the one composition. I then push things around until I get the composition I want. Then I translate that to a bigger piece of paper and start shading. Commission work requires working within a particular physical size with other project dictated restraints, and I usually go much further in my research for commissioned work. Whereas personal work is more of a ‘whatever is floating about’ approach.
What is your favourite subject-matter and why?
I definitely enjoy exploring the more fantastical side of things. I like drawing magical beasts that take reference from reality. I’m not sure why. My mind wanders a lot.
Can you tell us about a favourite piece of yours, or a favourite creative experience?
My favourite piece is the one I did for Nobrow’s Brave New World (see first image in this article – TP.) It was a piece that helped me to solidify an effective approach to making pictures. An approach that works for me at least. Because I wanted to do the best piece I could, I took steps to tackled each issue that arose in a productive way. The fact that it turned out well and was for Nobrow –a publisher I was eager to work with– was a bonus.
Do you have any early memories of drawing?
I have early memories of drawing spaceships in a Roger Ramjet style. I used to draw them everywhere. A few years later I worked out I could easily replicate Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the album covers of Motley Crue and Guns N Roses.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
Definitely. It’s probably the most important part of how I operate. I get my better ideas when my mind is left to wander, it’s important to have a sketchbook handy to record those thoughts. It’s also important not to be too precious; They are only ever for me, so messyness and ‘bad’ drawings can stay in there.
What size do you tend to work at? Do you have a preferred scale?
I used to do everything at A3 because I thought my work looked better after being scaled down slightly (Via Photoshop). But crosshatching and shading an A3 piece of paper is tedious so I’ve started scaling down to A4 and smaller. It means I can complete a piece far quicker. Which is one of the most important things to me. I like to start and finish. The quicker I can move on to the next piece, the better.
What directions are you interested in taking your work in the future?
I’m never too sure about the future. I like to improve my skills, especially in analogue media. Become better with paint and less reliant on digital tools. I’d also like to put the planning aside and explore a more organic approach to drawing.
Where can we see your work next? And where else can we get a hold of more of your work?
Stay tuned to showchicken.com
…also follow Nick on twitter
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