'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 16 May 2019

Meet the Illustrator: Nichole Wade

Describe your illo style in 10 words or less: Endearing, relatable, heart-felt watercolour creations in traditional and layered piece style.

What items are an essential part of your creative space? I use my laptop to pull up inspirational images, my desk--which is so spacious I can spread out all over it, and my lamp--which is adjustable on every level. A good pencil and paper--and a cat laying on it. I love the natural light in here as well as being surrounded by fun treasures.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium? Yes, watercolour and pencil

Name 3 artists whose work inspires you: Its so hard to pick just 3 but I would say Marie-Louise Gay, Holly Hobbie and Emily Gravett.

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why? I would have to say Impressionism. Things begin to loosen up here and weren't so focused on exactly copying their subject but rather giving the "impression" of the whole concept. I like that. I feel I can relate to that in some ways! I like the look and feel of the style and this was really when paint became portable allowing artists to take it with them on holidays and trips. I think its the earliest version of "sketchbook" painting we see. And how fun would it be to go out for a picnic and bump into an artist painting flowers or his children in the middle of a park because he could!

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator? Three years ago I succumbed to watercolour. I had been curious about it for many years and really wanted to learn how to do it. When I finally gave in I quickly realised I had not drawn for years and I kind of needed to draw so I would have something to paint! I watched Anita Gadzinska on Youtube along with many others and started diving in. The world of illustration and my connections to it built rapidly from there as I started participating in Tania McCartney's 52 Week Illustration Challenge and then finding Nina Rycroft and her Picture Book Illustration Workshop. Being a writer first--but that also was on the back burner of life--I realised that picture books lived deep inside me and I could now bring this long suppressed dream to reality. The turning point for me was when I realised I was no longer just messing around. I knew that creating art was what I was meant to be doing and so that is what drives me. The stories themselves are now what inspire me the most as well as the deep longing to see meaningful stories in the hands of kids who need them!
Can you share a photo of your creative work spare or part of the area where you work most often? Talk us through it: When I first started painting I was in a tiny little office space downstairs in my home. It was a walk-through area with too much stuff in it. Both of our kids left home this year which led to a complete flooring re-do of the upstairs and then that led to me stealing the biggest of the rooms for my new studio space. I have to say it was the best thing I have ever done for myself! I could finally spread out and take over and create--yet at night shut the door and keep the cats out when there is wet paint. Its a joyful space full of colour and light and I never get tired of being up there! Plus it is literally 4 x the space! Norman (aka the best cat on the planet) is my sidekick and usually he is always at my feet, on the desk or taking a nap on the couch. I almost can't work without him!

1. My work desk. I actually had this desk built special for me. The top is laminate counter top material (white with gold sparkles). It fits perfectly over a plastic folding table. It is often used downstairs for game nights or large holiday meals. It is easy to move and store. It literally withstands water, colour, marker and cats. Yes it does! It measures 2.5 ft wide and a little over 6 ft long. It is where I sit all day long and create art.

2. Comfy couch and inspiration board: I bought this bright sunny yellow couch and made pillows and a covering for it because my 3 cats love to lounge around up here with me. They are not always nice to the furniture--bad kitties. But I found that when my kids were home they would often come and hang out with me in my creative space and we would have our best talks late into the night because there was a place for them to sit and talk. So it was essential to have something comfy in the new space. If I need to sit back and take a break it is actually a perfect fit for me too. The inspiration board changes once a year. Everything comes off and I start fresh with inspirational sayings, cards and sketches from friends or like now a few family photos and larger pieces I am trying to figure out where to store.

3. Drawers and bins: I have all of my supplies stored in bins and drawers and there is a separate desk where I do my cutting and have my t.v. I like to have a movie on in the background while I am working--it keeps my brain active and I can work longer without getting sleepy.

4. Picture wall: I have started buying prints from friends who are artists. Some of the work was art that was in my children's nursery! It is going to grow for sure. I love being inspired by others and it makes my space feel happy and energised. I just moved all of the art behind my desk to this one area because I needed a place to be able to storyboard and tack up finished illustrations to check for flow and colour.

5. Printing closet: You can see my antique studio door that I had to cut down and paint and find glass for. It was a real pain! But I love how it turned out. Behind that is the closet where I have more supplies as well as all of my larger items and a place to do printing. Its still a work in progress but how nice to not have that all in my creative zone.

What is your favourite part of the illustration process? I love the spark of an idea and then researching, pulling inspirational images and finally getting it started on paper. Its that moment when you see what you envisioned finally coming to life and you say to yourself, "there you are".

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator? Know that this is a creative process and journey and can take some time. But while you are waiting for your first book deal to come along don't forget to just have fun and enjoy making art! Do what speaks to you. Work on the projects that you've been thinking about for some time. Build up your portfolio and keep putting yourself out there. I am always looking for ways to improve myself and my art and so I ask lots of questions from those you admire or want to learn from. Having a mentor or a group that is willing to critique your work is a must! As artists we simply can't be objective enough. If we can take those insights that are well placed and do something with it we will be better artists and produce better work in the end.

Nichole Wade is an author/illustrator living in the Golden Valley region of Missouri, USA. She creates watercolour illustrations for children that are endearing, heartfelt and elicit a sweet relatable connection. When not creating art she enjoys being in nature smelling flowers, brushing the pony and listening to birdsong. She adores animals--especially her cats. She often dreams of the sea and secretly believes herself to be a mermaid.
You can follow Nicole on instagram and facebook or visit her website for more information.