Nick Moffatt BA PGCE
Hello there! I’m Nick - illustrator, graphic designer, and educator. Welcome to the School of Illustration where I hope you’ll join Frances and myself in celebrating our love of illustration!
I’ve been working as an illustrator, a professional one at least, for the past twenty years and in that time, I’ve worked on movies, comics, magazines, advertising, and everything in between – essentially if it could be illustrated, I was there! But how did I get ‘there’?
As with Frances I followed the well-worn path of academia at the beginning of my journey but as someone who’s work never really fit with the acceptable face of art and design in compulsory education, guidance towards a career as a creative never seemed particularly realistic or even an option. After much fumbling in the darkness searching for the light switch that would illuminate my creative path, I somehow found myself at university studying Fashion of all things!
It didn’t take long for me to realise however that illustration was where my heart lay and upon graduation, I was determined to switch industries. Using my recently acquired fashion design skillset and my newfound academic qualifications, I identified fashion graphics and branding as a way to enter into the creative industry without sacrificing the previous three years of study and hard work. This, I knew, would build me a portfolio and allow me to pivot my career to where I wanted to be - a world of pure illustration delight! Within a year of working on licensed characters in the design studio of a childrenswear manufacturers (the ‘Pyjama Factory’ as Frances calls it) I had enough experience and a strong enough portfolio to finally realise my dream of becoming a full-time illustrator when I successfully landed a position at a leading greetings card company.
Absorbing as much as I could within the studio -working to briefs, branding, collaborating, communicating with clients and making the switch to digital artwork - the next logical step for me was to go freelance and expand my creative output beyond the card industry. After an amazing few years in the studio, I ditched the comfortable, civilized confines of full-time employment and went at it alone, into the feral landscape of the self-employed!
It was a bold, exciting leap but as with all such bold, exciting leaps it was also terrifying and anxiety inducing. My solution was a simple one. To apply the same principles I had in every job so far – absorb everything around me, learn as much as I can and continually challenge myself to be a better illustrator and all-round creative by identifying my goals at every stage.
When I graduated with a degree in fashion, I identified a route into illustration which used my fashion degree. Once in a studio I identified my path to full time illustration and eventually freelance employment and used every opportunity to work towards that goal. Now I was out there I quickly identified what was required, and what was required was to run my illustration as a business. I consumed every website, every book, every magazine I could which talked about building your own business – not just creative businesses – any business. Marketing, promotion, networking… I soon realised these were every bit as important as my portfolio in establishing my practice and I embraced it all!
This hard work paid off and my clients over the years have included -
Google – Designed large scale props for an American game show produced by Google.
Microsoft – Created and Animated an Interactive Screensaver which allowed me to fully embrace my love of mid century design and goofy spy movies.
Virgin Holidays – Illustrated branding which appeared across a wide range of advertising including TV, print and billboards – seeing my work for the first time on a large scale in the London Underground was a real eye opener
BBC – Created a tie in promotional comic for reality TV show ‘I survived a Zombie Apocalypse’ as well as designing concepts for featured zombies. As a huge comics AND horror nerd, this was a dream commission
Paramount Pictures- Head Graphic Designer on feature Zoolander 2 creating everything from graffiti, logos, sculptures, and props to tattoos for Will Ferrell’s character, ‘Mugatu’. This was an absolute blast and my versatility really came into play on this project, as did my fashion degree!
DC Thompson – worked as a writer and artist on various strips for The Beano and The Dandy creating my own characters as well as working on legends such as Dennis the Menace and Beryl the Peril
Zomboy! – Designed the iconic mascot and branding for Dubstep artist Zomboy which has gone on to be the tattoo of choice for dubstep fans all over the globe!.
After my many years as a successful illustrator working on so many exciting projects, I’m thrilled to be able to bring all these years of industry experience to the School of Illustration and share what I have learned to help others find their own way into the industry. Combined with my academic experience teaching illustration at degree level for the past six years I can’t wait to put all of this knowledge to great use alongside Frances’ own amazing experience and expertise as we deliver an online illustration resource like no other here at The School of Illustration.
IF YOU WANT TO LEARN MORE..
Check out my experience below to learn more about my practice:
I'VE NEVER STOPPED LEARNING
Even though I graduated from organised education many moons ago and despite beingna commercial illustrator for the better part of the 21st century, I’ve never stopped learning! Every opportunity to further my practise, be a better illustrator or go that extra mile for a client - I’m there! Over the years I’ve embraced new technologies, new software and new techniques at every turn, all in the name of being able to say ‘yes’ whenever a client asks ‘are you able to..?’
And if there’s one thing I’ve realised it’s that when it comes to creativity, the best way of learning is by doing. When I wanted to learn how to animate, I made an animation – within a year I was producing animated music promos for music labels. When I wanted to learn print techniques, I created a series of limited edition prints that I could sell. Then using that knowledge, I was able to offer clients artwork that not only looked great but was also print ready! The wider your skill set, the wider your client base and the jobs you can take on, but also the more fun you can have just creating new work that surprises even yourself!
MY FASHION DEGREE STILL INFORMS MY PRACTICE
Though a degree in Fashion Design may not, at first glance, appear to be an obvious bedfellow to the world of illustration, it did in fact teach me the fundamentals which have consistently been the foundations my career. It taught me the importance of being versatile and adaptable in your practice – not limiting myself to one set of tools, but instead always considering the best solutions to a design problem. I learned how crucial the design process is in terms of fulfilling the brief – research, planning and experimentation are all consistent in the production of a killer outcome, whether fashion or illustration. And most importantly of all, it gave me a solid understanding of the commercial viability of creative work – who is the audience, what is the end product, what does the client need? – which underpins every aspect of my illustration work.
It’s my belief that all experiences can be essential tools in your creative practice no matter how ‘off brand’ they may appear at first.
I HAVE OVER 5 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE OF LECTURING IN DESIGN AT DEGREE LEVEL
Being a freelancer can sometimes be a solitary life, and after I worked on a large project a few years ago that saw me spending time as part of a larger team, I realised just how much I missed feeling part of a larger community and having people to bounce ideas off. So, with all my industrial experience under my belt I ventured off into the world of lecturing on BA (Hons) Illustration for Commercial Application at The Northern School of Art followed by lecturing on both BA (Hons) Concept Art and BA (Hons) Comics and Graphic Novels at Teesside University. The astounding work of not just the students it was my privilege to teach, but also the teams I was working alongside, inspired me on a daily basis and are a huge part of why I co-founded the School of Illustration.
ILLUSTRATION IS MORE THAN JUST DRAWING
I’ve worked for a lot of big hitters over the years on a lot of big projects, but I also make sure I take the time to build my own little corner of the illustration market by producing and selling my own work. I’ve exhibited and sold work at countless conventions and art markets as well as online through my own stores and through crowdfunding on sites such as Kickstarter. This ability to invest in your own work at a personal level not only challenges you to think about your own personal creative voice within a commercial context taking ownership of that voice but is also a great way to find and connect with your audience an audience which often includes potential clients.
You get to build a portfolio that establishes your creative brand but also attracts clients while still making you money. I’ve worked on several great jobs which came about because of me pursuing my own work and developing a market for it and it’s these jobs which always end up being amongst the most rewarding as not only is the client commissioning you based upon your ability to fulfil a brief but they’re commissioning you to fulfil that brief in a way that is 100% you.
And that feels great!