If you’ve been into WAH Nails this Autumn, chances are you’ve spotted the adorable illustrations of Niki Pilkington hanging on the walls. Still only at the tender age of 22, there’s a lot more to see from this talented artist so it’s advisable that you get your commission in now while you have the chance!
Name: Niki Pilkington
Hometown: A little village in North Wales called Morfa Nefyn
Now lives: Between London & a little village in North Wales
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
Do you remember those books? The ones with the pictures of pretty girls & you had to cut out clothes and fold the flaps over them? Well I wanted to be one of them.
Have you always been into art?
Tell us about your career path - education, internships, first jobs…
I worked in a pub on a beach near my home every summer holiday & could be found drawing any time in between, then whilst doing my A-levels, I started working in a clothes shop, which really encouraged me to develop my own style even further. It’s not hard to stand out where I live. It’s still very traditional, and this almost encouraged me to be a bit different. I never liked wearing jeans & a t-shirt, so I never did- I could find all the bits that other people didn’t want in charity shops. After A-Levels, I received a Distinction in my Art Foundation course, which then led me to Ravensbourne College of Design & Communication, London. This is where I studied Fashion Promotion / Illustration. The reason I didn’t follow a strict illustration route, is because I love fashion, I always have, and I wanted to keep a strong fashion element in my work & this felt like the right way to do it. Fashion promotion meant that I got a understanding of the industry, without actually having to make the clothes-I could just draw them. I made it a priority to keep drawing as much as possible, so each of my projects had a strong illustrated quality. In my final year, I created my book ‘Voyeur Fifty. My Obsession With Girls’: It was inspired by the girls that you see everyday. I have a compulsion, one which makes me stare at these girls because to me they look amazing. I almost always have to stop them to take their photo to turn them into an illustration, so this is what I did for the book…fifty times. I graduated earlier this year with a First Class BA Hons Degree.
How did you get into creating art for a living?
By seeing that people liked what I actually enjoyed doing, and that I could make money from it too.
Is it always fun? What’s the best thing about what you do?
Yes, I’d say it is always fun - difficult but fun. I think if you could sit next to your client from start to finish, then it would be a lot easier, but because almost all communication is over the internet or over the phone, it’s hard to visualise exactly what they want, but it’s all worth it when they publish what you’ve done. I’d say the best thing is probably being your own boss. Knowing that you can literally work from anywhere and at anytime. That, and the people I draw along the way.
What other projects are you currently working on?
Mainly commission work for magazines and books all over the world, but as well as the commercial stuff, I’ve been asked to do a lot of portraits for people as Christmas presents, so I’m working really hard at the moment to keep up with all that. For me, it’s good to try to keep a balance between the big publications, as well as the personal stuff & especially so early on in my career - it’s great to have the chance to do both.
So what’s next with your art?
Working on new ways of displaying/presenting my illustrations is my top priority, it’s important to me that my work doesn’t become repetitive, so I desperately want to publish my own book, but it’s just finding the time to do it in between all the other things. I also want to draw more guys. I have a magnetic attraction to stopping intriguing girls in their tracks, photographing them, then illustrating them, but I don’t get the same impulse with guys - I think because I don’t get the ‘oh I’d love to own that dress’ or ‘I wonder where she got those shoes from’ thoughts, they don’t catch my eye, but it’s something that I want to start doing.
I always get homesick when I travel! What do you miss most about London?
I recently left London to return to my studio in Wales, and I think that I miss the girls the most! The sheer volume of illustration possibilities that pass you by from day to day on the streets of London is ridiculous, you just don’t get the same fashionistas up here- well not typical ones anyway. I’ve been lucky enough to turn this round though. I’m working on new work which concentrates on the everyday characters that I see here in Wales - the old farmers, the ladies in aprons brushing their front step, the sheepdogs etc etc, it’s quite refreshing to see these everyday people that I grew up around, in a new creative way.
Where do you look for ideas when you hit a brick wall?
I’m always coming up with ideas for new projects, but it’s usually when I’m snowed under with other work, so I write them down, and as a result, have a constant on going to-do list. So any time that I’m struggling for ideas, I just work my way through the to-do list. But I think in the first place, they just come from what I see around me. I don’t go looking for inspiration, I don’ think it’s something you can force.
What are your thoughts on fashion right now?
I think that we’re at a stage now where people - especially girls, find that clothing is the best way to express their personalities and feelings, and this is something which I would definitely encourage…the more that girls dress to suit their personalities, the better it is for me, because I get to draw them
What music are you listening to right now?
Any thing that I can think to type into Spotify. I don’t like to listen to anything twice (apart from the classics) or limit myself to any one type of music, I just listen to what I fancy at the time, it depends on what I’m doing.
Whats the future for you?
There is already a lot in the pipeline for me. Work in other countries and many projects will be keeping me very occupied for a while. There are some interesting projects in particular that will see my illustrations being used in a unique manner which I am excited about. The most important thing to me is to keep my head down and keep doing what I’m passionate about. You can keep posted on my blog on my website (www.nikipilkington.com)
Can you name your TOP 5 FAVE right now?
Having log fires.
Drawing with ball point pens.
Johnny Glen Budden.