This month's Featured Illustrator is Nicky Boo! Nicky is from England and for over ten years he worked professionally as a designer and an illustrator for printers and agencies. Now he is a freelance artist, having drawn for children's books, government campaigns, fantasy novels and a variety of other fun work.

My path to art was an obvious one. I’m sure many mums know the rage caused by their child doodling on their peeled back wallpaper, well that was me. I used to draw anywhere and everywhere, and I loved it, except in my art class at school. My teachers wanted me to draw fruit in a bowl, trees out the window, or the local architecture, but as a teen I wanted to draw monsters and big men with muscles – it was the 90s and prime time for the action hero. So, I would draw these things in the backs of my schoolbooks, hidden away from teachers’ eyes until one day I was caught by my new art teacher, Mr. Reed. I was avoiding the shoe I was supposed to draw and instead I was doodling some muscle-bound hero fighting a monster inspired by the latest 2000AD comic. Like a snail tucking itself into its shell I withdrew and expected scorn to spittle over me, but instead he burned a memory into my head that lasts until this day. He asked me with an amused smile, “why don’t you do this in class?”.

The question completely caught me off guard. I came out of my shell and preceded to show him more of my personal stash of drawings which he showed great interest in. That was a major turning point for me as an artist and I finally started to see value in what I loved to draw, which at that time was things that crawled from the pages of Judge Dredd, Sláine or the TV screen, such as Pin Head or flesh-eating zombies. You might be wondering, at this stage, how did this human start to illustrate for children? Well, I think the answer to that lies in my childhood. I grew up in farmland England, in a village, where everyone knew everyone, so my parents had no real reason to worry about my safety, just as long as I was home before the streetlights came on – that was the dark sigil that sent us running home for fear of missing dinner and getting a good telling off. With this stated freedom, I and my siblings fearlessly roamed the forests, fields and cliffs building tree houses, stick dens and tarzy (slang for Tarzan) swings. It is memories like these that spin my core, magical memories of being a child and having a "Narnian-like" adventure. This is what makes me love doing children’s art, and it is this which eventually morphed my love of monsters into childlike creatures.

Many authors and artists I grew up with help spin this core, too. Most notably is Brian Froud who, along with Jim Henson, left beautiful scars on my soul with movies like Dark Crystal. That movie used to scare me as a child, but I still love it alongside Labyrinth. C.S Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia was a massive influence as was Roald Dahl, since my primary school teachers used to read their books to us. Fond magical memories of circle time reading. More modern influences on my artwork are the wonderful movies by LAIKA – like ParaNorman, Box Trolls, and Kubo. I absolutely adore their art style, and I am in love with stop frame animation. For more inspiration, I regularly, as recommended by my university teacher long ago, search the children’s book section at the local bookstore in search of new artists to love. 

My professional journey to becoming an artist is different from my life’s one. Being from a tiny village nestled in the wilds, opportunity contrastingly wasn’t wild, and I ended up working in a circuit factory after I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts and Design. I didn’t give up, though, and I kept on until I got a job as a junior designer. This was a fantastical role since the manager sent me on lots of training courses and I learnt a ton about printing, the colour process and how it all works behind the scenes. This knowledge was instrumental in my development and to this day I value it. After this, I chose to travel and have been to many places since.

I first arrived in Australia alone, with barely any money and shaky knees, but I made it all around the country as well as New Zealand and Asia until I finally settled in Thailand where I live presently with my wife and son. While in Australia, I worked for a design agency for two years, and it was here where I really started to use my drawing talents. I became an in-house artist as well as Graphic Designer. It was this one wondrous job that got me where I am today. I still work remotely for them, and it was the artwork I did with them that led to my first children’s book, Quincy and the Sheriff. I also illustrated a book in New Zealand published in the Māori language about an imaginative little boy who didn’t want to do anything. Most recently, I’ve illustrated a set of books called I go to O.T. that feature Miss Britnie and her students that overcome certain disabilities. The book is educational as well as fun. In my other work, I design characters for animation and do commercial illustrative work for marketing collateral. I work from my home studio which is more of a creative corner in a room, but it’s my nerve centre, my "Batcave" and it has all I need. 

If I was to dispense any advice to an artist, it would be how to overcome procrastination. Headphones – I use headphones to help me focus, even if there is nothing playing in them, they help me cut out the outside world. It sounds silly, but it really works. The second would be a quote I heard but forgot where from, “action creates inspiration, the opposite is rare”. It just reminds me to get up and do it, the feel-good vibes come after. 

See more of Nicky's work here. Follow him on Instagram.

*All images by Nicky Boo

Tita Berredo is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures. If you'd like to be featured, contact her at illustrators@britishscbwi.org. Follow Tita on InstagramTwitter and find her work at www.titaberredo.com

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