With very little studio space available in the Charleston area, many artists are creating work in the comfort of their own homes. Spring share artist Chris Nickels is no exception. CSA co-founder Ann Simmons payed a visit to Chris’ digs on a recent sunny Sunday afternoon. Read on to see where he produces his digital illustrations!
Chris’ work space is located in the common area of the carriage house apartment in downtown Charleston that he shares with his girlfriend, Alex. A giant portrait of a skier that he found in an antique shop in Walterboro, SC, hangs on the wall, keeping a steady watch. The couple’s new Australian Sheppard puppy, Bishop, also keeps him company as he works.
The tools of an illustrator/digital artist’s trade: sketchbook, computer, tablet, scanner, and coffee. Chris begins by hand drawing the elements of each piece, scanning them into the computer, then manipulating the composition using Adobe Photoshop. The piece is then printed out so that he can hand draw more elements in pencil. He then inks it, scans the re-worked image, and manipulates the image in Photoshop again. This process is often repeated 3 or 4 times with color and hand-made texture incorporated in the later stages.
This homemade light table is another tool Chris utilizes to create his work. Unless deadlines demand otherwise, his pieces are typically created one or two at a time and are done in a single day (with the exception, of course, of editorial pieces that go through a revision process with an art director for the particular publication).
Sketching plays a huge role in the planning of each of Chris’ illustrations, whether it’s for a commissioned editorial piece or a series for a program like CSA. For illustrations commissioned for publications, he typically scans his thumbnail sketches and sends them to the art director with a very detailed, written description. Making lists of words can often help him work through a composition. Thumbnails are often followed by a more detailed sketch before he begins on the final piece.
A unique aspect of Chris’ work is that he draws many of the components of each piece separately, then puts them all together. Many other illustrators draw a piece in its entirety before scanning it into the computer to be further manipulated. His approach makes it easy to add and remove elements within a composition.
Chris often uses his own digital photographs as reference materials for his work. He also collects film cameras and considers photography to be a hobby. While his journey as an illustrator and designer began while attending Savannah College of Art and Design, he developed his love for photography in high school.
He has a particular affinity for Polaroids. Several boxes of Polaroid prints can be found in the studio, along with a special device that converts 35mm slides into peel-apart Polaroids. He and his friend Ben have been taking Polaroids together for over a decade, often considering putting on an exhibition of their images.
Chris Nickels is one of the 2015 Spring season artists.
PURCHASE CHRIS’ SEASON