Nicole Graham is currently waiting to move on from Wales where she resides with her family. In her life so far, she has moved around a lot but her parents are from Wales originally so perhaps it was her destiny to return there. It’s a long interview and rugby or singing wasn’t mentioned even once so I am guessing Nicole is not your stereotypical Welsh person.
I first noticed Nicole through her work on TeePublic (it’s available on other platforms too). The work focused on Kingdom Hearts style stained glass window designs featuring various Disney characters and Link from the Legend of Zelda. The intricate detail caught my eye and I wanted to know more about this very talented artist. A quick look at her Facebook page will give you an idea of her talent. Nicole may have a tendency to overshare but I bet she is fun to be around. The interview was certainly a fun read. Check it out!
Nicole Graham Interview
A lot of artists choose a nickname but you use your real name. Is there a reason for this?
Uni, they really don’t like that sort of thing, They are old fashioned I guess and don’t get the whole online art community thing. It is understandable as it is more professional…but I do wish I did have a cool online name haha. I am Jostnic on my Deviant Art but that was made so long ago. Jostnic is a mash up of my two sister’s names and mine, mine being at the end as I’m the youngest. However, I have been waiting to change that.
Where were you born/raised/live?
I was born in the southeastern region of France, a city called Grenoble. My mother and father are from Morriston in Wales but moved there for my father’s job. I was raised there until the age of 5, we moved to Bristol in England again for my father’s work, we stayed there for another 5 years until finally moving to Wales to be closer to family. I lost count with the amount of times we moved house in Bristol. When we came to Wales we stayed in the same house, we got to Wales around 2000/2001 and here we still are…I’m still waiting to move haha.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love to play Video Games, making my own books (bookbinding) and sculpturing. To be honest, all my time really is spent drawing, a lot of what I do unfortunately I start but don’t finish. I have been wanting to get back into sculpting…I do have one that’s not finished so want to get that done before starting another, I just haven’t got round to it. I also love to make and bind books, I did make my own sketchbook until my dog destroyed it, luckily the damage ended just after the last drawn page. (I still have the book), but since then I haven’t finished another, started…but not finished….oh dear I see a theme here.
According to Facebook, you are 3rd-year Illustration Student. Is that up to date?
Ooh no, I need to update that haha I actually graduated, wore the hat and everything. There was a danger of me not graduating that year at all, I failed my dissertation spectacularly and had to start again, I managed to convince them to give me another chance to try and finish it as soon as I could, I wanted to graduate with my friends as we have been through a lot the past three years.
They don’t tell you this but a course where you use a skill you work hard on and is personal to you its is soul crushing to have that work critiqued and sometimes judged badly.
So wanting to graduate that year to be with my friends and for other personal reasons I was determined to write up this dissertation. I was given two weeks to start and finish a.. ooh I can’t remember now, a six … seven thousand word dissertation. Being dyslexic that task seemed to be an impossible one, (I wasn’t given any dyslexic help from the uni either, that’s another story entirely *roll eyes*) I still don’t know how I did it, to be honest, day and night I worked so hard, and at the last week I stocked my fridge with bubble tea I got in town, One a day, that helped as that was the only thing that got me out of bed TT__TT.
God, I hated it, and it’s not just the writing bit you need to get right either, you need to structure it properly. Every quote needed to be referenced along with any image you use. You also had to use real life books, it can’t all come from the internet…I had to buy books (it was ok as I wrote about the history video games so the books are interesting) OOH god and the bibliography …just thinking about it now makes me feel so sick haha. I couldn’t have done it without close friends and my lecturer, she believed in me when I didn’t, and sometimes that’s all you need to get you through something. Man, I’m sorry this has gone deep!
umm no it’s not up to date
Have you had any luck getting into the video game art world?
HA! No, it’s a notoriously difficult industry to get into, you can either fall into it mistakenly or be talented enough to get into it early (I am neither) it seems I have gotten into the film/tv industry more than gaming but I’m still trying. I’m applying for jobs and they want an unrealistic person, check this out; they want young fresh out of uni people, with a degree and or qualification in something BUT they want at least 3 years experience in the industry…its like HELLO!?! it makes no sense. the only reason I did illustration was to get a degree so I didn’t look like an idiot with no qualifications..now I’m an idiot with a Degree, I mean look, without spell check this is how I spell qualifications: qwolifercastion
Why are you interested in that specific area?
Concept artist would be awesome, like character design. The art you see in games for textures, props that kinda thing. I worked in a film studio for 2 weeks for some experience and they said I would be perfect as a props artist so I reckon I can do that for games.
Did a particular game inspire you?
There sure was, as soon as I played this game I knew what I wanted to do, I knew I wanted to be in the game industry somehow and from there on I worked on getting the skills to get there. That game is none other than Kingdom Hearts. That game is hugely influential in what I am and do. My favourite artist of all time is Utada Hikaru, simple and clean was the first song of hers I ever heard and wanted to hear more from her, since then I have all her albums, currently collecting all her singles, DVDs, live performances… anything!
Before that I never played games, I use to watch my sisters play games and I would think I could never play them…I remember thinking it looked scary to play (I use to think Spyro was scary haha)
A friend of mine let me borrow her game, I remember the front cover really intriguing me, (if you know the game you know the one I mean) I mean the cover was this pretty blue cover with a moon heart on it and there was this kid, with a strange looking key and what the hell!? is that Goofy and Donald duck!? it blew my tiny mind and since then yeah it changed me a lot. Now the kinda games I love are sandbox games and games with a really interesting story and a game you can just spend hours collecting shit, at the moment I’m playing “Rise of the Tomb Raider” and man its gonna take me a while to get everything. Ha ha. I also love indie games, some are really artistic and they just call out to me haha I would love to be a part of an indy company.
About the Artist
When did you know that you wanted to be an artist?
I’m not sure, my mother has said I drew before I could read and write, understandable now as I was discovered to be dyslexic, I was the only one of my sisters to be dyslexic, my sister thinks she’s a little bit but no she’s just a dumb ass. Ha ha.
I’m very much a visual person, I learn better visually and that’s how I understand the world best. I think that’s down to being dyslexic, we have different ways of understanding, something that explained simply won’t work and we only understand something that completely makes no sense to a well…we..we call you normies
I always thought of dyslexics like the X-Men mutants, we have that one thing we can do really well. In school we had a dyslexia unit, I was the art one, this guy was amazing at maths, another could play any instrument he was given and… well, there was this one girl who was a squib but we… we don’t talk about her…
How has the Illustration course you are taking helped in your t-shirt design?
Not one bit haha. To be honest for me the course was just a means to get a degree, I learned a lot. Don’t get me wrong but I learned more about myself rather than what artist painted this and how it makes you feel. Being given briefs just made me think of all the work I wanted to do, I did try and make my own brief into a poster once, I made up some bull crap about understanding the golden ratio (partly true, I really did want to improve my structure of an image) so I pitched my lecturer that I wanted to do posters like in the style of Drew Struzan, he was impressed as I gave him an example of my “The Wolf Among Us” by TellTale but as soon as he found out it was “Fan Art” he was all angry and was like NO! I tried to defend the fact that it was easier to use already established themes and characters but he was having none of it. So as soon as I left uni, I could do all the fan art I wanted. And doing the Stained Glass Window designs is so fun for me and people seem to enjoy them: I do them in my down time and when I want a working break.
Apart from t-shirts, are you involved in other art/design projects?
Nope, Society6 and TeePublic provide various other items for the image to go on like mugs, cards and what not but really it’s the t-shirt it’s really intended for. I do alter some images for Society6 to work with different products but other than that, nah. Putting that work up oh those type of sites is just a means for people to order them as people do seem to like them so why not :). I have been interested in pins…thinking about maybe making some of the stained glass into pins but I haven’t tried yet, I just think it may not work as they will have to be kinda big to get just some of the detail in…I may have to redraw them to make the design more simple for the pin…but again this is all talk, I haven’t even tried to see if it will work haha
Were you influenced by any particular artist or style?
Not really, to be honest, there are a bunch of artists that I love ( I follow way too many on Instagram…and cats..so many cats) but I don’t think I let them influence me a whole lot, I’m afraid I will end up looking like them. In their early days, I was like “I want to draw just like this artist!” and then ended up being a poor imitation.
I definitely have a style in my traditional drawings, especially my portraits but when it comes to digital I don’t think I have that down yet… BUT thinking about it now, I do absolutely love the works of Alessandro Barbucci and Barbara Canepa. I first saw their work on Sky Doll and loved the style. So when I draw, I do have their linework in mind.
With my digital stuff, it’s a little different, when I’m doing concept art for the environment and what not, it very much looks like Edouard Caplain on his work “Life is Strange”. When I played that game for the first time and saw the in-game art I was at first really shocked but I soon absolutely loved the style. Before that, I was very much a perfectionist and all of the brush strokes had to be hidden from my digital painting, but now I love to see the digital paint brush look in work, That game art made me realise that I was never meant to be a perfectionist in art, I still am in some ways hence why I have a lot of projects I start and never finish, however, my work ethic has changed to be a bit looser. That was one of the things in uni I learned about myself, that perfect isn’t perfect and imperfections are beautiful.
Where do you usually get your inspiration?
I don’t really know. When there is an image I love or strikes me in some way, whether it be style of art, colours or lighting, a photograph or painting whatever I will save it on my iPad and when I get an idea I remember later down the line I usually remember the image I want to reference and implement it into the image.
I do wish I was more imaginative but sometimes I do find it hard to get the idea down…it’s kinda embarrassing for an artist to admit but I lack the skills I need to get my ideas down…but I’m working on it! My ideas are just images in my head I can’t draw down D: it’s very frustrating at times.
Could you describe your typical design process from concept to completion?
Well, let’s use the Stained Glass Windows as an example. I like to think of a collection, the newest one being couples so I knew that would be Disney couples. I have seen all the movies I do the work on, (that’s why I haven’t done an Atlantic and Treasure Planet one before) and do some reference hunting.
I get the flow of the dress I want with the pose I want and stitch the image together, I use that as a base then draw over it with the lines, I make up some of the elements as there are elements I want to add. The Ariel and Eric one is a good example as I did three different dresses on Ariel and one outfit change for Eric.
I did the pink dress first then the wedding then the blue dress, with the same pose I used a reference to re-draw the style of dress freehand, along with Eric’s wedding outfit. The other images that go around the stained glass can be really easy or insanely hard, the hardest one was Tiana and Naveen, I just didn’t know what to put on there as it’s a particular movie scene.
The image behind the character can sometimes be a challenge, to put the image into a space that breaks up you either have to go so close to the face or space them apart depending on the positioning of the character or in this case characters. With the couples one I thought of it as a memory like with Aurora & Philip, Mulan & Li Shang and Bambi & Faline. Others are there of their true selves like Ariel & Eric and Belle & Beast/Adam. And the others just go with the scene like with Pocahontas’s leaves and Snow White’s petals.
Do you have any WIP/sketches/early drafts I can include in the post?
Unfortunately, I don’t, I delete the layer that’s the draft as its just not needed, I never intended to show it off so never felt the need to keep it. and to be honest I don’t sit down and sketch it out thinking, I just sit there and do it and change it as I go, it doesn’t take long to do one really, sometimes it can be challenging but that’s all the fun haha. the ones that take the longest are the computer animated ones like Tangled, Moana, and Frozen, as their designs are a lot more detailed in their design makes my job much harder haha.
What is your favorite medium?
Photoshop, by far! I would love to be able to paint like Audra Auclair and I just love her style and imagination. I use to in school, I loved to use acrylic and water colours but I was such a perfectionist I could never paint the perfect picture, I know if I painted in real life it will be very different, messy. I did some painting in uni but that was just using one colour and that was for life drawing. In uni everyone was sort of complaining about spending their money on materials and I’m here laughing as with photoshop the only waste of money I have is if it prints out wrong, with photoshop you have the freedom to make mistakes and just undo them or change a colour completely, changing a colour once you painted it is a little harder, you will have to alter it digitally if you want the colour change without wrecking your work.
About the T-Shirts
You sell your designs on TeePublic, NeatoShop, and Society6. Which performs best for you?
At the moment I am loving TeePublic, they have been really kind to me and made me a featured artist and gave me a free T-Shirt of my choosing. I tried to add my work on Society6 recently but for some reason, I can’t. I will have to contact them soon as I do love the variety they have in what they put your design on. I have been eyeing up their bedcovers I must say! haha
Which is easiest to work with?
Teepublic is easy to upload and they do the rest, Society 6 does the same but it does give you the chance to change the layout of your design, even uploading a different image so that’s cool, it just takes a while on both to upload but that’s with everything.
Of the t-shirts that you designed, which one is your favorite?
OOhhhhwww haha man I dunno, it was hard to pick a design when TeePublic asked haha.
I went with The Legend of Zelda as well its sort of universal, you have Link and you have Zelda, done! I do have my favourite princesses so I couldn’t pick just one so Zelda it was. Now tho I just put up a drawn together one…I would have ordered that one x’D
Do you wear the t-shirts that you have designed?
Just the one Teepublic gave to me, it’s a little big so I use it as a pyjama top. Haha, I don’t know if that’s really big headed of yourself to wear your own work. Haha I dunno…As long as you don’t go around saying you did it. If someone says they like it you can tell them I guess.
“ooh I like your top”
“thanks!…(tell them you did it….do it….come on they are just looking at you!…oh god the silence)”
“why is she smiling like she needs a shit?”
Photoshop or Illustrator?
Photoshop all the way.
About the World
Do you have any role models?
Utada Hikaru, in a world of skanky twerkers and skimpy outfits its refreshing to have a class act as Utada-san, She is a beautiful songwriter and poet (her Japanese songs especially) and if you take the time to read the translations of her songs you get to see how talented she is with her words.
I wouldn’t call her a role model as she’s
A: not real
B: is a bad influence
but Toot Braunstein is my spirit animal.
What is the most exotic location you have been to?
Japan. It was a dream come true. When my sister asked if I wanted to go (she often travels all over the world). I used my loan to go. Haha I did tell my lecturers I was going to use it for an end of year uni project but when I was there I had no intention of thinking about uni. I did end up using that experience for my end of year show so that’s good!
At first, I kinda didn’t want to go because my expectation was so high I didn’t want to be disappointed but my god it was more than I could ever of imagined and more!
I will go back again one day, for a lot longer….a month..yeah that would be amazing.
Where would you most like to visit? Why?
Japan again or New York/America. Ever since I played GTA 4 I always wanted to try Taco Bell haha and all the other American places I hear and see so much about…Wall Mart….Wendys…. haha its stupid I know, it’s like someone saying “ooh man I can’t wait to go to Asda!” but that’s just added stuff, I want to go to every Disney park in the world, not a lot I know but there is one in the US so I’ll go there if I went to America.
About Other Designers
Which t-shirt designer(s) do you admire the most?
Ooohhww I don’t have one sorry, I really don’t know a lot about the t-shirt designers scene. I do love Loish, Sakimichan but what digital artist doesn’t love their work!?
Have you done any collaborations for t-shirts? If so, who and what did you design? If not, who would you like to collaborate with?
Hmmm, I really don’t know, I never really thought about collaborating with another artist other than with some of my art friends. To be honest, I can’t imagine anyone collaborating with me haha but if I did collaborate I would probably do the digital colours on their line work.
Who would you like to see interviewed on the Shirt List next?
Oh ok, ill take them from the ones I know from Instagram.
Nathanclns, Auclair, GDBee, Octoplum, Lululles, Saructepes, Mioree_ and Munadraws
Apologies if you already interviewed any of these I haven’t had the time to read through the ones you’ve already done.
Any advice for aspiring designers/artists?
DON’T DO IT!! Haha. Nah, I kid. Draw what you love and keep challenging yourself. Don’t get discouraged if things go wrong and they will but hell that’s life, at least then you know what not to do. That’s why there is an undo button on the computer and an eraser on the pencil.
What are you watching on TV at the moment?
Oh, I’m watching some messed up stuff on Netflix, stuff to do with real murder crimes and forensic science stuff and what not. I don’t know why but I’m fascinated with people who do what they do…the terrible things someone can do to another and what drives them to it…I wanted to take Psychology in college but for a number of reasons I didn’t. I’m just interested in people and how they think and the reasons they think the way they do.
Oh man and I also watched Fifty Shades of Black recently haha! God help me I love spoofs. I haven’t even watched the original, that was one bandwagon I did not jump onto, I even saw a guy listening to the audio book on the bus, I just happen to see the book cover flash on his iPod and I was a bit shocked….I just imagined a book like that to be read by Droopy Dog or Gilbert Gottfried haha. I don’t understand why someone would listen to that…in public… just seems a bit dangerous if you know what I mean.
What’s the last movie you saw in the cinema/movie theater?
I saw Resident Evil, the final one (it probably won’t be), my mother and I had 4 hours to kill in town and went to the cinema and that was playing in the next 5 minutes. My mom likes that sort of stuff so why not….I did not enjoy it. I actually got really annoyed (I’m going to sound old but) of how loud it was, the jump scares unnecessarily loud and too many. I spent half the time with my fingers in my ears so I didn’t jump all the shitting time. BUT! I did see the advert for Resident Evil 7 Biohazard so that was cool :D.
Currently waiting for more episodes of “Two Best Friends Play” LP’s to come out. I tried pewdiepie (I’m not subbed to him lets get that clear) But stopped as he is a little bit annoying but not as annoying as Markipler (again not subbed)…I did really enjoy his FNAF stuff but sometimes he’s just a bit to scream-y loud-y for me. He and Pewd’s Just tried to hard to be “funny” resulting in them hamming it up big time.