indie art & design blog
feature artist: nadia turner
Earlier this year, Melbourne-based illustrator & artist Nadia Turner exhibited her work in a group show titled "Stories To Tell". Nadia's careful brushwork and detailed compositions are so beautiful, and here, she opens a window for us to peer into her illustrated world...
I 1. How did you come up with the name "Wayward Harper"? It seems like such a good fit for your illustration work.
NT It's a name I've used for email and whatnot for years and it just felt right to use it for the website. It came about because I play the Celtic harp and I guess at the time I felt rather wayward in nature :-)
I 2. What led you into a career in illustration?
NT I studied a diploma of illustration at NMIT in Melbourne which was a really good course for teaching the basics of illustration, before that I hadn't really realised that you could actually make a career out of illustration. After finishing the course and working for about a year in unrelated retail and hospitality jobs, I was, I admit, fired from a job and thought wow; I really don't want to go back to working for another boss, so I’ve absolutely got to make this illustration thing work! So I applied for the NEIS scheme, where they teach you the basics of starting a small business, in my case a freelance illustration business, and pretty much just after starting NEIS a publisher contacted me with some work and it all started from there.
I 3. Where do you find your inspiration?
NT This is always a hard question, because inspiration can come from almost anywhere can't it?
But I would have to say from old myths and stories, beautiful old photographs, children's books, nature, music, and of course, other artists. But the list does go on and on.
I 4. What does the music of the Celtic Harp its associated mythology & folklore mean to you?
NT I went through a big phase during high school where I was obsessed by all things Celtic. I started to learn the Celtic harp, and I especially loved that with the harp there is such a long history attached to it, and how, in comparison to other instruments, it's played such a large role in lots of myths and folklore. It's just such a magical sounding instrument that really fires the imagination. I was playing a lot of music back then and art and music were a bit more equal in my life and guess it really influenced the shape of things to come, so to speak, in regards to the themes that I'm now drawn towards in my painting. Art has kind of taken over my life in the past few years and I haven't really had much time to devote to music, so that's something I really need to work on and get back.
I 5. How would you describe your painting style? Do you carefully plan your subject matter & composition before you begin painting?
NT Well, I work in a few different ways, depending on the project. For my illustration work, yes, everything needs to be planned out with rough sketches and then colour roughs for the client to approve, but in my own personal work I might simply just start a painting after a basic sketch and see where it goes from there.
I 6. What are your favourite materials & techniques? Which of your paintings are personal favourites?
NT I tend to use mainly acrylics paints, on wood, canvas or paper. Sometimes I do some ink and watercolour pieces.
I can become pretty attached to most of my pieces. I think that's natural when you work for so long on something. But at the moment I think "The gift of time to the Red King" and "Wind King" are my favourites.
I 7. What was the Illustration course at NMIT like? Did it just focus on various art techniques, or did it really prepare you for a career in illustration too? Did you find it a difficult industry to break into?
NT I found the course at NMIT really good, all the teachers were wonderful and really talented in their particular areas. It focused on all the different art techniques you might use in illustration (we had an amazing teacher who was brilliant in just about every medium you could think of, so I learnt a huge amount from him) as well as practicing all the various styles of illustration. My actual drawing and painting skills had improved by such a huge amount at the end of the two years and that was the most important thing for me. We learnt a lot about the industry but in truth, I felt a bit unprepared about the business side of being a freelance illustrator so I sort of fell in the deep end with that. But experience really is the greatest teacher when it comes to all of that, you've got to make those stupid mistakes in order to learn.
It can be pretty daunting when you start out when all you have is your student work and you are trying to convince clients that you really are professional! Once you've done that first job it really is so much easier to get hired, so until that happens it can be very difficult industry to break into. Australia also has such a small illustration industry especially when you compare it to America and Britain so that makes it very hard for us aussie illustrators, but hopefully one day that will change.
I 8. When did you decide to translate your art into products such as brooches & cards, and where can we purchase Wayward Harper designs?
NT I guess it's been a couple of years since I started the brooches and cards to sell at markets. They've evolved a lot since then. I haven't been selling at any markets recently but creations of mine can be bought at In.cube8r Gallery at 321 smith street, Fitzroy or at my etsy shop, which can be found through the 'shop' section of my website.
I 9. How did the Spiderlings project come about?
NT Basically, I sent out art samples to Brolly Books and they contacted me about six months or a year later (I can't remember how long exactly) with a project in mind for me. So far I've illustrated three non-fiction children's books for them, "Spiderlings", "The great dinosaur game book", and "My dinosaur ABC".
I 10. Tell us about your experiences in illustrating a childrens book – something many of us would LOVE to do! Do you have plans for another book?
NT Hmm... well, it takes up a lot of time! Admittedly publishing isn't always as lucrative as other forms of illustration like advertising, especially when you're just starting out, but there is something very satisfying about finishing all the artwork and finally seeing the book in its finished form, there's something very addictive about that.
I'll probably be doing some more non-fiction books with Brolly Books somewhere in the near future, but of course what I would love to do is work on some books with actual stories and characters so I can really sink my teeth into them, so to speak. And of course, I would love to write and illustrate my own book; I just have to work out what it will be about and try to work out how to write it!
I 11. Congratulations on your recent exhibition, "Stories To Tell". How did the group show with Alisha Ball and Rhiannon Mowat come about?
NT All very simply really. We all just decided we wanted to start working on a show together so we did! We all studied together so we have that connection and we are all drawn towards similar themes in our painting so our work usually sits together fairly well.
I 12. What's next for Wayward Harper?
NT Well, hopefully lots of things. I'm trying to work on some new designs for my brooches and cards and I will hopefully have a nice new range of prints out soon. All of these will be available at In.cube8r and through my Etsy shop.
And maybe, hopefully I'll get around to writing a story or two :-)
Thank you so much, Nadia, for this insight into your creative life!