Today, we are joined by Daniel Nyari , he is a Illustrator. You can view his portfolio here.
Firstly, I’d like to thank you for the interview. We’d like to understand how your interest for illustration started shaping up. Tell us a bit more about what made you go this route!
Likewise, Thank You for the opportunity. I always drew. Originally because of soccer. When I wouldn’t play or watch, I copied cigarette cards, posters, stickers, etc. To re-create my heroes. In hindsight it was really just to fill the space of a tumultuous childhood using soccer as a distraction but in hindsight I am thankful that my brain was able to focus on something so precisely and that I could later use as inspiration. I originally started as a merch designer for Heavy Metal Bands straight out of college. I graduated at the worst possible time, right before the stock market crash in 2008 with a useless film degree. I could not find any suitable jobs. On the side I was creating Designs for friends and people in the Heavy Metal community which led to a brief stint as a Merch Designer. This forced me to learn programs like Photoshop and Illustrator. At the time I had no training but my own and the only way I got jobs was to basically lie and tell clients I was familiar with certain programs and that I can work within extremely limited time-frames, etc. I taught myself these programs over weekends at times by scrapping together any online tutorials or by looking and mentally deconstructing any graphic I could get my hands on for days on end. Eventually I began getting some work here and there. Mostly terrible clientele with condescendingly low pay but I saw this as a signifier for my first foray into Graphic Design – something that could become a career. That naturally led to Web Design. Freelancing was still difficult and I worked for small start ups and studios here and there but ideally I wanted a job at a big creative agency. I spent two years putting a portfolio together or what I thought would be a suitable one and I applied to maybe something like 300 agencies and got a dozen or so interviews. None of them led to anything and I was desperate. I began to question whether Graphic/Web Design were right for me or what it even is about them that I liked. One day I was sitting at a cafe with a dozen or so magazines and for whatever reason I never noticed before but this time several Illustrations stood out. I never realized that this is something you could actually get paid for. Just drawing things in magazines. I thought – “I know how to draw and I’ve tried everything else, why not give this a shot. At least it would be something I’ve done since I was five.” I began to explore ways in which I could become an illustrator and most important was to find my “voice”. At the time I was using a Vector Program named Illustrator quite a lot and when I sketched I noticed it really informed the way I draw. I realized that something about the aesthetic of Graphic and largely Web Design was beautiful. I didn’t quite articulate it as such back then but I was following my instincts. I really just attempted to try and merge traditional illustration with the aesthetics of Web Design. It took a while to realize what I’m comfortable with and I still feel like I’m learning and not even close to finding what I want but this was the big turning point and from then on, I knew that this is the path I wanted to pursue and would do anything to achieve it.
Tell us a bit more about how you learned it all. What changed in the last few years in terms of ease of expanding your skills and knowledge?
This is a bit tied into the first question. I think we are in an interesting time where so much work is becoming digitized and there seems to be a backlash against it from a lot of more traditionally trained illustrators. Conversely a lot of illustrators are embracing it. Modern technology is also allowing people without the training to try methods of illustrating which is encouraging more people to be creative. I very much want to embrace this new technology not only in its tools but in its way of being. When I look at Graphic and Web Design I don’t just see technology but a new aesthetic language. We are so used to seeing “Send” buttons and Browser windows, website layouts in general that they have become part of our every day lives and so has its aesthetic. This won’t change. Not for a long time. I am interested in seeing how this aesthetic can merge or rather coexist with that of traditional illustration. Can I approach Illustration the same way I approached creating a website? This is one of the fundamental questions I ask myself in my search for what others would perceive as “style”. I’ve become more focused in on this question, moving further away from what is maybe recognizable and possibly towards abstraction but it’s just the beginning. I see a lot of heavy-digital or even flat illustration that is usually associated with web and graphic design and mostly from people who call themselves illustrators AND Designers, and most who don’t have a background in illustration so there is always a certain apprehension present about pushing this philosophy further. In my continued effort to expand on what I’m already doing I’m going to continue to study both forms as well as potential avenues for what their amalgamation may hold, for I believe it’s something entirely new and exciting.
What does your creative process look like?
It’s fairly straight-forward. I always start with a concept and sketch. Concept first. Always. I do sketch keeping in mind how I will later on digitize the work and how it works on an “invisible” grid that I at first only abstractly imagine based on several rules I lay out for myself. I scan the sketch into Adobe Illustrator in which I do most of my work and I begin to create outlines, which I then turn into shapes as I never deal with the usual black outline you find in most illustrations. I make everything gray-scale at first to get a good sense of values and then I choose a color palette and finalize. Sometimes I also use Photoshop to adjust any colors.
Do you have any recommendations in terms of good books, programs you use, or media choices you’re willing to share with us?
I mainly use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Using a vector program allows me to better view and move around shapes with visual clarity and with a versatility of moving and changing the work around with more ease. As for books, I love Burne Hogarth’s anatomy, lighting, etc. books. Very detailed and complex enough to keep you studying it for years.
Do you have a special place or object that boosts your inspiration and helps your creative drive? What is it like and why does it have this effect on you?
Creatives will usually tell you everything around you inspires you and you should get out there and seek it. I don’t think anyone should forcefully get out and seek abstract inspiration. Inspiration is the world you know and the world around you. if you are stuck inside and are anti-social, your world is your bedroom, living room, kitchen and the thoughts of isolation. Combined with your interests, you generally already have the sources you need to feel inspired. Just draw what you know and love. Whenever I begin to feel an inkling of the need for inspiration I always tell myself this and that I’m just trying to avoid what is in front of me. It’s definitely healthy to get out there and expose yourself to things but don’t rely on this generalization for inspiration. If you have to seek it, you are probably avoiding the already available inspirations that are right there under your eyes.
Could you describe how a productive day would look like from your point of view? Which are the most important hours for you?
Nowadays I work an average of 10 hours a day. Sometimes I work up to 15 hours. I didn’t exactly put myself in a great position as a full time illustrator and Creative Director but I feel like I am still learning to balance these things. When I wake up I usually take care of administrative duties; answering e-mails, as an Art Director; finding, and indexing artists, assigning projects, formatting files for a variety of uses, and taking care of self-promotion. Then I just begin to work. The most productive periods for me are still evening into night and I think maybe that’s because it’s the time I started working while I had a full time job and it just carried over. I am also trying to change that.
What would you prefer: a steady, well paying job in a local agency, or the freedom and often stressful life of a freelancer? Why?
I think this depends on personality. I am stubbornly self-reliant. I need to know that I can do things on my own with as little reliance on others. It’s why I’m self-taught, and prefer a freelance life. It’s certainly more difficult but I have a sense of freedom I don’t think I would have in an office environment where I could never really follow the rules or general facade of happy “good mornings”, “how was your weekend”, etc.
How would you describe “the ideal project”? Did you have any recent opportunities to come close to this
This can probably mean ideal client. And the client allowing me full freedom to do whatever I want. Hire me for my brain rather than for what I have done. I have several ideal clients, some of which I know what I could offer them because it’s work I’ve largely done to get their attention. Then there are dream clients who are outside my field whom I don’t yet know how to get their attention. Right now I am working on something that I can definitely use in order to chase a dream client. Unfortunately I can’t reveal much more than this but it’s telling of the kind of moves you have to make as a freelancer. Always be aware of who you want to work for and do the kind of work that can get their attention. But you have to be willing to enjoy this work along the way.