10Qs with Nic Farrell

Nic is an award-winning freelance illustrator who specialises in typography and all things hand drawn. She lives in Cambridge and splits her time between drawing, pointing at dogs and grumbling about poor grammar on signs. Nic designed the poster for Enchanted Cinema presents A Christmas Film Festival.

The festival is a fundraiser for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices and so Nic produced all the artwork for free. She’s great. Ellen and Nic had a chat on the phone and talked about illustrator life and what’s up next for Nic.

  1. How did you get started as an illustrator?

As a kid I was always drawing. It was such a great moment when I realised that illustration was actually a career! I studied illustration at the University of Plymouth, graduated in 2011 and then it all went from there really.

  1. How would you describe your style?

So I do everything by hand and most of my work is typography. I would say my style’s pretty playful. Doing things really accurately is not my thing, I like to be free and do things by hand. I’d describe my style as being quirky too. Playful and quirky.

  1. How did you find your style? Has it changed since you started?

As a teenager I doodled a lot, song lyrics and things like that. I’ve always loved language and working with words and lettering sort of came naturally.

At university I suddenly had access to so many resources and learnt different techniques and ways of creating imagery through illustration. I think you really realise what your style is when you’re working alongside so many other illustrators. I’ve realised how much I love illustrating through words and that I’ll always prefer to take on projects where I can use lettering and typography. That’s the great thing about being freelance, I can pick and choose what I do.

  1. What’s your creative process?

Normally I start in my sketchbook. I never really use a pencil, I just go for it from the word go and put pen to paper. I tend to scan in my work and then use Photoshop to fill in colours.

I don’t think many other illustrators are this old-fashioned, but I do still sometimes use tracing paper. Ooh and I sometimes use Indian ink and a dip pen.

  1. What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?

That I get paid to draw things for people! As a kid that was my dream to spend my life just drawing and now I’m doing it. I get to do exactly what I love and somehow I can earn a living doing it too, how amazing.

  1. What inspires you?

Modern landscapes. Signs. Literally any and all signs. Road signs, shop signs. I stop so often to make a notes and take photos of any that get my attention.
When I go abroad I always think that the most conventional and obvious place for me to find inspiration as an artist would be in galleries or at exhibitions. But that’s not really how I work. I tend to go to sketchy areas and draw shop fronts and old signs.
Music inspires me a lot too. Song lyrics often become part of my work. Language and words are always central to what I do. It can be a lyric, an overheard conversation, phrases in speech or wording on a sign that gives me an idea.

  1. Where do you do your work?

From home mostly. I have a corner of my living room where I do a lot of my work. We live in a little cottage and my neighbour has a studio which we use. I tend to do the sketching and scanning at home and then go to the studio for screen printing.

Something I love to do is meet up with my artist/filmmaker/writer/illustrator friends. We get together in a cafe – CB2 is a nice spot – and spin ideas. It’s nice to work alongside each other, think I’d go crazy if I did all my work on my own.

  1. What’s your favourite music/podcast to listen to as you work?

Good question. Music wise, it really depends on my mood and what’s on my mind at the time. I’ve actually only recently got into the big podcasts. I loved listening to S-Town and Serial. I’m also really into The Guilty Feminist, I designed their logo which was fun. Podcasts are great, it’s nice listening to conversations and stories as I draw.

  1. What did you enjoy about designing this poster?

It was really nice to have creative freedom to be playful with this design. I wanted it to be festive but not necessarily red and green and gold and glittery. I thought about what would catch people’s eyes as they walk past the poster. I enjoyed working out how to communicate all the info about the festival. It’s so pleasing to draw letters and experiment with the words!

  1. Why did you want to get involved in A Christmas Film Festival in aid of East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices?

I was referred to the project by a good friend whose opinion I really trust. I love film and it’s felt like a natural thing to be part of. The autism friendly screening of The Polar Express is something that really got me on board with the project too. It’s great that Enchanted Cinema are creating a way for people with autism, their parents and carers to enjoy a film in a safe space.

So why did I want to get involved? I’m always up for getting involved with local charities. I didn’t really think twice. I like drawing and, why not?

Catch Nic and her partner in Hot Yoghurt (self-titled ‘stay at home screenprinting sorcerers’) at Mill Road Winter Fair on Saturday 2nd December where they’ll be selling their prints, tees & tote bags for you to nab as Christmas presents for yourself or your favourite people.
Click here for Nic’s Etsy Shop & here for the Hot Yoghurt Shop.