Design Splat | Interviews with Awesome Designers and Creatives


Posted February 13th by Design Splat in Artists, Illustrators


Today we welcome Scott Nellis to Design Splat!

Hi Scott thanks for giving us a couple of minutes of your time! To get the readers started tell us a bit about what you do:

Hi Amber and everyone reading, thank you for having me on Design Splat.  I am a freelance illustrator/artist based in Brighton.  I create imagery that is often highly detailed – some of it is a bit weird.

How did you get into Illustration?

Getting into illustration has been a natural progression for me as I have enjoyed drawing from a very young age.  As I grew up, along with drawing I loved to write short stories, mess around with computer graphics, animate, and in my teenage years I began to play music and write songs, mainly for guitar.  You could say creativity is deeply ingrained in me.

When creating illustrations, what to you is the most important aspect: planning design or implementation? and why?

Definitely the implementation.  I often start with just a snap shot image in my mind or a crude thumbnail sketch. From there my work can be very organic and everything grows from a single element. I rarely know what the finished product will look like and my process often tends to veer towards the ad-libbed.

Do you create your pieces by hand or with the use of the computer? Or both?

If you had asked me this question a couple of years ago I would have answered that all my work is exclusively hand drawn on paper using a black ink pen.  Now, I still draw on paper with a black ink pen but I also combine other pens, techniques and mediums such as; my own photography, found imagery, monoprinting, scanning, and then throw it all together to be coloured digitally.

Where do you get inspiration for your illustrative pieces?

Many, many sources.  Over the years my subconscious has been bombarded by imagery from computer games, movies, TV, and books and so the results probably tend to show through in my work.  General life experience, emotions, and things that basically pique my interest, all go into the soup.  I have always been curious about other worldy things and listening to music never fails to generate visions inside my head.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I couldn’t say for sure but hopefully not on the dole. Making a living from the creative industries would be very much acceptable.

What’s the dream ambition?

Combining work with travel, either moving about freelancing or taking work in other countries. At least to be in a situation where travel is part of my life.

Does fame attract you?

As an illustrator and probably typically, I am quite introverted and spend many hours at my desk, alone with long spaces between human contact. Fame for me as a person is very unappealing.  If on the other hand you are talking about my work, I wouldn’t go as far as to say I seek fame but if I am at a point where I am consistently producing work of a high standard, then some notoriety for my work would be pleasant. Credit where credit is due etcetera.

How do you rate yourself as a designer?

Do you mean, do I think I am any good? I see myself as someone who is developing and improving as an artist and I am happy with the skills I have gained thus far. There still remains an unfathomable amount for me to learn. I need much more experience before I could answer that question properly.

What makes a good illustrator?

The text book answer would probably be someone who successfully communicates a message either visually or audibly with simple and concise conveyance.  Once again, I couldn’t answer accurately at this point.  Illustration is such a broad discipline, I don’t think there is a definite answer and I’m still regularly baffled by the industry.

My personal tastes lead me to enjoy drawings or paintings.  Work that retains a traditional feel and isn’t overly vectorised or pieces that express at least some craftsmanship.  This is what I consider good illustration.

Do you think the design Industry is difficult to get into? Are you worried about the amount of competition?

Generally you’ve gotta put a vast amount of time into studying at college, then university, building up a decent portfolio, before you can even attempt to step foot into the industry.  Logically, the less competition there is, the easier it is to gain employment, but I think if you have the dedication to improve your skills and promote yourself, then the rewards will come to you (He says looking in the mirror, trying to convince himself).  Although, there are a lot of illustrators out there.

Do you have qualifications in design? How important do you think qualifications are for designers?

I have a BA (Hons) in Illustration.  The letters after a person’s name aren’t important as a designer per say, but the skills and portfolio you gain whilst at University, in my opinion, are paramount to gaining work within the industry.  The qualification is perhaps something to fall back on if all else fails.

What obstacles – if any, have you encountered along the way and how do you overcome them?

Obstacles come along all the time.  It can be most difficult when you first graduate to either motivate or find ways to promote yourself, but mainly when grappling with the non-design side of things such as business acumen.  There are ways of finding some of this stuff out though, online or through certain governmental channels that offer advice regarding self-employment. Pricing jobs can be very tricky.  Some designers have written blog articles explaining different ways on how to calculate job pricing.  I guess most people discover how everything works through experience.

It can feel extremely cold once you take off that cap and gown, so if anyone is still at university I advise getting as much knowledge from your tutors as you can. Get your money’s worth!

What do you think it takes to become successful in the design industry?

I was hoping you could tell me! Umm, hard work? Talent? Extreme masochism??

Three words to describe yourself?

Creative. Determined. Puzzled.

Hobbies and Interests?

I love travel with a passion and have been fortunate enough to see various places in younger life – I am always hoping to do more.  I like the usual kind of things really;  Rock ‘n’ roll music, pubs, backgammon, football, film etc etc etc.

Favourite illustrator?

It’s tough to choose just one.  When I was growing up I enjoyed looking at horror, fantasy and sci-fi stuff. Then as a teen it was a mixture of album art, psychedelia, master painters and surrealism. Nowadays I look at the endless stream of contemporary illustration that is available to view on-line.  With so much information being taken onboard now I generally don’t remember artist names as much and because of this I’m going to give a bit of a stock answer. So to summarise and throw you a few names, I’ll go with the artists Roger Dean, Caravaggio and Vania Zouravliov.

Tools of the trade?

Pens, pencils, paper, camera, internet, scanner, Mac, Photoshop, printer.

Best and worst piece of work?

I did some really bad pieces of work when I was at uni. Work that makes me cringe when I think about it. I had some horrible critiques. I wouldn’t put any of that on my website. There was one where I was painting on a shoe box and pieces of wood – that was particularly bad. Also a mock cover I did for the Guardian’s G2 magazine was awful.  I occasionally come across it in my old computer files.

Whilst there are items on my site that are obviously not as good as some of the others, I am generally happy with everything I am displaying. A lot of my projects are my best pieces of work for various reasons.  I still love my older, highly detailed, pen drawings and I also love my newer colourful pieces. To answer the question I’ll give you the artwork I did not so long ago for Seattle band Holy Names’ album ‘Perpetual Beginner’ and an older pen drawing titled ‘Love Is…’.

Any Tips or advice to share with aspiring designers?

All the time I am learning how valuable it is to have an on-line presence.  Most of this will probably be obvious or old news to the readers but you should at least have a website or some kind of on-line portfolio.  There are numerous artristic community sites to upload work and get it seen by the world such as Art Review or Society 6.  Create a Facebook page and Twitter account to let people know what you are up to.  Sell prints and artworks via sites such as Etsy, Folksy, or Society 6.


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Some of the fabulous work from Scott’s portfolio


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