You may have seen Nate’s colourful and dynamic collages accompanying newspaper articles over the last few years. We recently spoke to Winchester based illustrator to find out more.
What initially drew you towards illustration as an art form?
I studied on an art foundation course and was so engaged with the process of making. I was folding books, laser cutting (and then inflaming) French dictionaries, dripping paint, power-drilling stuff, it was all very exploratory.
I later joined an illustration course and after a few years of battling with the tutors I learned how to not just make (hopefully) interesting images but make images that communicate with an audience, that translate an idea. That’s what draws me to illustration.
You have an identifiable style of work. In simple terms, can you take us through your process when approaching a new commission?
Well in simple terms I’ll sketch some ideas down in a note book with some of the worst sketches you’ll ever see and maybe I’ll show those to the Art Director and we’ll have a conversation then start working the chosen direction up in photoshop and it’s back and forth from there till we reach the conclusion. I’ll be using textures and marks that I keep and make and the images tend to evolve as I progress. I’m quite open to mistakes and errors and sometimes those are what “make” the image. It’s exciting.
A large proportion of your work is connected to political themes and ideas, when did you first start creating art which has links to politics?
I can’t really remember, it’s definitely something that crept in as I worked after graduating. Previously my work was dealing with narratives or science/tech based subjects but I suppose as new clients arrived the briefs would often be political and it’s stemmed from there. It feeds into my personal work too and I’ve made a few things out of …I guess a sort of rage: “fuck this I’ll make an image”, it’s more therapeutic than just stewing on it I suppose. I remember after the EU referendum, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it? It’s when the selfish exclusive ignorance party decided to risk the country for their political power and resulted in this political-societal meltdown called “Brexit?” Well anyway after that result I felt gutted, properly kicked to shit. I went on my computer and had this magazine cover direction that we hadn’t gone with from the day before and it sort of resonated with how I felt, I made some amendments and it began to encapsulate how I felt, it felt good to do it. I still felt 99% like shit but maybe it helped 1%, maybe?
Singer Chris Wood recently suggested that Britain is currently more like a ‘mosaic of insularities’ than a United Kingdom. Perhaps, collage with its overlapping pieces and interlocking shapes is the perfect art form when looking at the UK at the moment. Why do you think collage, in particular, works as a tool for conveying a political message?
I agree with Chris and yeah I guess collage does reflect that ideology very well. I think all art forms can push a political message and there are countless numbers of amazing illustrators doing so in a plethora of different ways, but in terms of collage, perhaps it can achieve that grit and tension; the tearing of paper, the layering of texture, that is less apparent in other mediums?
You’re based in Winchester, home to the well regarded Winchester School of Art. As a working artist does there feel like there’s a strong creative community there?
To be honest… not really. I’ve been part of some events and networks in the past but to me it never felt tied together or that it would materialise. I’m aware that maybe I’ve not been fully engaged with whatever is going on in the last few years but that’s because there doesn’t feel like there is anything to be engaged in. It’s a small town, you think if there was something here, you’d see it.
What would you see as the biggest challenges facing young, emerging artists in the U.K. at the moment?
Perhaps the biggest challenge is over-coming the ease of getting yourself out there now; we are saturated with “content” and it can be hard to have your voice heard in the crowd. It’s also hard to see fresh work when styles become borrowed and half heartedly re-invented. I think the best advice would be to love what you create and create it for you, don’t chase “likes” and the rest because that is worthless. If you are saying something in a unique way and translating fresh ideas to people that’s far superior than say an illustrated cult character with thousands of “likes”. I also think this shambolic government is terrible in terms of its investment in the arts, art foundations for example are becoming extinct and students are choosing to go directly to university courses. I lecture at a Uni on the illustration course and sometimes interview students; nothing is more apparent than prospective students who haven’t studied an art foundation, they think in ways that are too linear and you see them struggle down the line. Of course this isn’t 100% of the time but it is seldom that a student has skipped an art foundation and wows us with their thinking and image making.
As a country what do you think we do well when it comes to the creative arts?
I think we are bursting with creative and open-minded people, especially when you dip below the shallow surface of the mainstream. From artists, to comedians and musicians there is so much to be explored that maybe doesn’t get that prime slot, but in that way isn’t it more precious and more exciting to discover. It definitely needs more time of day but if you go searching you’ll find wonder…you’ll also find absolute shite too but there you go.
Cartoonist Steve Bell recently commented that the medium he is most inspired by outside of his ‘world’ is photography. What creative work outside of your area inspires you the most?
Ha that’s so hard because so much inspires me. Music is a big part of my life as I almost constantly have something playing, Jazz is sublime; the complexity, the calm, the aggression. I love comedy too, it’s another way of translating your thoughts on the world in a beautiful and humorous way, it can be bitter too which is always tasty. Films are also a massive draw, all the ways a story can be told, the journey it can take you on, how can it not inspire you? Mrs Doubtfire for instance: their dad becomes Mrs Doubtfire??? Nuts! In all seriousness though there are some fantastic directors of beautiful pieces, David Lynch’s work is so immersive and elusive all at the same time, his thinking on creativity is nothing but inspiring.
Where can people see your work? Do you have any exhibitions or events coming up?
Well I’ve been lucky enough to be working regularly with the Guardian for the last 3 years and I’m in that every other week in the opinion sections, (always best in print, keep buying print). I get invited to do a few collage workshops each year, nothing upcoming so far but keep your eyes out. The Tate get me in often for their Late events which are ace so check them out! Maybe I’ll do one next year? Otherwise you can see my website – natekitch.com or my instagram @natekitch, if you fancy seeing some of my work with a side of moaning about that state of it all then go on my twitter @natekitch.