High school nostalgia, anyone? Or...maybe not. Regardless, Nancy Julson-Rieley of Nancy Illustration has recreated the high school portrait with graphite, and these works will have you lighting up with a knowing smile. We've seen the beehive hair and the horn-rimmed glasses before, but have we seen them with an illustrator's amusing sense of style? I think not.
(AW) How did you get started as an illustrator?
(NJR) I've been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember, but in an attempt to be practical, I went into photography professionally first before trying art as a career. At the photo studio I worked at, I found myself drawing layouts and making cut paper props and sets for children's products. It was from doing that work that I realized my heart was in making art versus commercial photos. So, I ditched the photo job and got an illustration degree. I was getting some illustration work while in school and just went from there.
(AW) Where do you like to create most of all?
(NJR) I recently moved from Chicago to Los Angeles, and I'm finding L.A. so inspiring. It's such a new adventure in life to be in another part of the country with all new surroundings, climate, etc. In Chicago, I had an apartment where I had my own studio, and now my studio space is shared with our living area. It's been an adjustment, but I found that as long as I have a sunny room with lots of visual references and eye candy on the walls, I can happily create work. Although I do miss leaving paint and messy palettes out wherever I like.
(AW) Can you talk a bit about the Cardinal high school portrait series and your inspiration behind it?
(NJR) Surely! I guess on the whole that I'm a rather nostalgic person, and I think that school yearbooks are just fascinating. The practice of visually cataloguing people in such a formal, structured way is just so interesting to me. The books are a time capsule of their era, and teenagers tend to immerse themselves in the style of the moment more than grown-ups, so the hairstyles and clothing are just over the top and awesome. I also find the images so charming in that these are photos taken at what is possibly the most awkward time in life. There's a purity and innocence to these portraits where the students are dressed their best, and posed for posterity. I love the honesty of school photos, particularly in contrast to the perfection in our contemporary cultural images.
I started drawing from yearbooks last summer. The Cardinal series is the third set of fifty drawings that I did. They were drawn from a 1967 yearbook, and I could've done every single kid in the senior class--each was more interesting than the last. This particular school was full of trendsetters and out-of-control hairdos. It was SO fun to work with!
(AW) Have you always been attracted to realist drawing?
(NJR) I have. Although I really appreciate stylization as well, it's just not my personal forte. I'm not a fan of hyper photorealism; I like to see the artist's hand in a drawing (or painting). The skill required for photorealism is impressive, but I think what attracts me to art is gleaning emotion from a piece, which for me happens when you see the artist's hand in the work. I try to be representational with my work, but still leave evidence of mark-making and the messy art stuff that I love so much!
(AW) So, you have a cat. She has her own montage on your website...is she a collaborator in Nancy Illustration?
(NJR) Yes, she is. She is Assistant Director of the Moral Support department here at nancyillustration corp. (answering only to the Director, my husband Davey). And, being an ambitious broad, she is also my spiritual consultant as she is the most zen being that I have ever encountered. I hope one day to be as in the moment as she is.
(AW) Well, your drawings have definitely grasped the moment. Mady seems to be working her magic! Thanks for sharing today, Nancy.
Nancy's drawings, "Rose L." and "Otto B." (which make for a lovely pair) can be found on the Master Bedroom wall on Art Wall. A slew of their classmates are available on Nancy's Etsy shop, and her personal website is home to many more drawings as well as a link to her charming blog. Oh--and a Mady Overload!