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Exploring his bold, vibrant illustrations it isn’t surprising that Nigel also once won a silver medal from the New York based Society of Illustrators. At we were inspired by this fantastic designer, and wanted to feature a collection of his work.

With this in mind, we asked Nigel Buchanan to let us know more about himself, and the inspiration behind these brilliant creations…

Tell us about yourself – what influences the style of your illustrations?

I live in Sydney now but when I was about 6 or 7 years old my parents traveled abroad to New Zealand and brought back the books ‘This is Edinburgh’, ‘This is Paris’ and ‘This is New York’ by Miroslav Sasek. I hadn’t realized how much it had influenced my design aesthetic until I bought the recently reprinted books for my own son. I could remember in great detail some of the images that had made an impression on me as a young boy. With hindsight I can appreciate the intense observation of Sasek as he drew but mostly how his re-interpretation of what he saw shaped the image.

Example of NB’s creative influences: Jim Flora Illustration
Photo credit: Jim Flora

Others with a strong illustrative voice that have influenced me are Jim Flora and Edward Gorey. From my own perspective the lessons from them I’d like to apply to my own work is to use careful observation, interpretation and my own singular voice when rendering.

For more than 20 years I use the labor intensive airbrush with gouache. The logistics of sending finished work to overseas clients were formidable, with a few inevitable disasters with the arrival of damaged goods. It was a technique I enjoyed for the subtlety and being able to combine other more hands on techniques into the image.

NB- airbrush
Photo credit: Nigel Buchanan

When computers became user friendly and practical, airbrush immediately seemed to take on steam-age overtones. Photoshop adopted the terminology of manual tools making the change remarkably easy.

It was a new way of rendering but the image making and initial drawing on paper remains the key to achieving that essential singular voice.

NB- airbrush 2
Photo credit: Nigel Buchanan

You have worked with many high-profile clients including The Wall Street Journal, MTV, The New York Times and TIME magazine, has one in particular stood out for you?

Art director SooJin Buzelli has gained a well earned reputation for allowing illustrators a degree of freedom to interpret the thrust of an article. She works for Asset International who publish a range of financial magazines. If a literal approach to the subject matter was taken, the brief could be challenging to say the least but with a more oblique approach the results of her commissions have been stunning. Readers of the magazines have responded overwhelmingly positively to the interpretive illustrations, I think partly because there is an element of surprise and of the unexpected in each issue.

NB- SooJin Commission 2
Photo credit: Nigel Buchanan

Do you gather inspiration from the illustration and design students you have taught?

I get excited when I meet a student who ‘gets it’. Illustration is a business, it takes intelligence, hard work and focus. Now more than ever we need to keep abreast of the way the industry changes constantly. It pays to watch successful illustrators, see where their work appears both commissioned and in competitions, advertising and social media.

Would you have any advice for aspiring illustrators?

Two of the most important pieces of advice would be; do excellent work and let people know about it.

Any illustrator should be their own harshest critic. Find your own voice in whatever you produce. David Hockney said “Inspiration, she never visits the lazy.” So, yes hard work is essential and to sustain a career the hard work never stops.

Get your best work in front of people. There are so many ways to do that now.

When you do get a commission, be easy to work with.. stay on brief but give the client something extra, something unexpected. Stay on deadline. Most of my work is repeat business so reliability becomes a major part of keeping up a workflow. It’s a simple truth that if the client likes to work with you, you’ll get more work.

What will be your next challenge?

There are some projects in the pipeline; eight book covers, a series of three ads and a double page for an in-flight magazine, but the challenge is always to stay relevant and do good work.

NB various 2
Photo credit: Nigel Buchanan

Speaking with Nigel Buchanan has given us a valuable insight into the inspiration behind his illustrations. In addition to detailing the design story that has led him to this point in his creative career, Nigel offers perceptive advice for upcoming illustrators.

We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Nigel Buchanan Illustration.

Visit Nigel Buchanan’s blog HERE.

NB various 4
Photo credit: Nigel Buchanan

Example of NB’s creative influences: Jim Flora Illustration
Photo credit: Jim Flora