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Thursday, 19 November 2015

Meet the Illustrator: Nicky Johnston

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Whimsical, emotive, nostalgic, flowing, engaging.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
Apart from my basic tools, watercolour, brushes, pencils and paper, I like a roomy workspace. I love to spread out and have everything on hand. This includes lots of jars of water because I get to busy to change the water. And tea … lots of tea.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
I go through phases with my favourite mediums. At the moment my medium of choice is watercolour and pencils. They are quick and easy to clean up!

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Only three? Gosh … At the moment … Judy Watson, Anil Tortop, Bruce Whatley.

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
I would love to visit the masters of the Renaissance period. I am obsessed with history of art, and fell in love with Florence when I visited …

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
I have always wanted to be an illustrator. I used to wrap myself up in children’s books, studying every tiny detail, every stroke, every colour, every item and placement. I would draw and draw and draw and my parents encouraged this obsession by providing me with buckets of paper and pencils … I’m still a sucker for stationary goods.

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often?



This is my studio that has only recently been built. I specifically have lots of work space. When I walk into this room, it is like entering world of luxury. I can lose hours and hours in there quite easily. My studio is separate from the house at the back of my yard, and on a number of occasions I have returned to the house (ahem – after losing track of time) and my whole family has gone to bed and locked me out!

I have also, however, been known to ‘make’ a workspace by pushing back piles of folded washing, or dishes on the kitchen bench.  Basically I will create wherever I can!


What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
Oh, I love every part of the illustration process. I love the freedom of initial rough sketches, creating characters and refining their visual personalities.

It is like putting a puzzle together when creating the illustrative story, deciding what pieces of information to include and what to leave out.

I always get a pang of nerves when I’m about to begin the final illustrations, overcome with a sudden fear of not being able to paint/draw. But when I see the finish artworks, I am filled with elation – sometimes because I love them and sometimes because they are finished. But after every piece I do, I still ask myself ‘How did I do that?’

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
I believe that drawing every single day is the key to unlocking visual creativity. The more you draw, the more you see … the more you see, the more you draw.

Illustration and creativity can be a rather isolating world to be in. And even though I need this ‘time out’ sometimes, through the power of the internet, I have gained a great benefit from being involved in creative communities such as 52-Week Illustration Challenge. I have been part of the Challenge for two years now, and not only have I created an amazing amount of artwork, I have connected with some of the most influential, supportive and encouraging friends in this industry. I can be a bit of a mad scientist sometimes, and I find it comforting to be among like-minded creative people.


Nicky Johnston is an Australian author and illustrator. Her books include several titles that deal with social and emotional issues for children, including Actually, I Can and Happy Thoughts are Everywhere. Nicky is the Creative Director of the 52-Week Illustration Challenge and a Black Dog Institute Community Education presenter helping reduce the stigma of mental health issues by raising awareness and sharing valuable information. Visit Nicky's website and Facebook page for more information about her books and artwork.

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