When I was introduced to Niki Pilkington’s illustrations for the first time, I fell in love with her intricate details mixed with bright, creative hues. Niki’s work is not like any work I have seen before. She incorporates 3D shapes and color into her illustrations as if they were two separate pictures collaged together, yet somehow they come out to be so effortless and beautiful.
After talking to Niki I was not only intrigued by her artist technique but her charming charisma. Her personality shines through her playful artistic style. I look forward to seeing where Niki is headed next with her new projects and hope to see her name in shining lights across a huge gallery showing in the Big Apple someday soon. Niki had some of her work previously featured in our post “Our Favorite Illustrations From Ted’s Drawing Room by Ted Baker“.
D2G: Looking at your work I have noticed that you will do black and white illustrations with a vibrant and color element added in, can you tell us more about your techniques and reasons for working this way as opposed to all black and white or all color?
Niki Pilkington: Yes, that’s definitely something I make a conscious decision to do. There’s no real reason really, except I think that it lends itself quite well to the way that I draw. I always want to get as much detail as possible in the faces, so that you can feel you can almost relate to the girl, or that you know a little bit about her. Then the clothes are much more playful – it’s kind of a blank canvas for my to go as crazy as I want, so I usually do just that. By using just graphite on the face and body I can get a much closer representation of what I want the viewer to see when they look at the girl – I think all graphite would lose some of the playfulness I try to portray.
D2G: What mediums do you find yourself using most? Are there any other mediums you hope to use more often in the future?
Niki Pilkington: I always use Derwent pencils for the graphite detail, and they have some lovely ranges of coloured pencils that I hope to use more of soon, but at the moment I can’t seem to drag myself away from the felt tips and highlighters!!
D2G: Had you always wanted to be an artist growing up?
Niki Pilkington: Drawing has always been a big part of what I am and what I’ve wanted to become. My uncle’s a successful illustrator based in Reykjavik, Iceland and since I was little I’ve always watched what he does in ore. It was seeing him that really taught me that it was possible to have a career doing what you love.
D2G: Did you attend school for illustration and art or were you a self-taught artist?
Niki Pilkington: I went though all the usual routes of education – GCSE, A-Level, Art Foundation, then I got myself a first class Hons degree when I specialized in Fashion Promotion & Illustration at Ravensbourne, London.
D2G: Your work is very playful and fun, but still has subtle beauty in every piece. Where do you gather these inspirations from?
Niki Pilkington: As well as ALWAYS carrying a little notebook full of ideas that come to me, I have hundreds of websites and blogs bookmarked on my mac and I look through these whenever I’m in need of a bit of inspiration. But it’s not the websites and blogs of illustrators that I really turn to when I’m trying to come up with my next illustration – Instead I look to graphic design, fashion, textiles etc., because I feel I get much more original ideas when I look away from illustration. Books and magazines (all kinds) are my favorite source though, I find that I can always gleam some kind of idea out of them.
D2G: The majority of your illustrations are women and some of them seem to look very similar, do you have models that you use or are these girls you have made up?
Niki Pilkington: My illustrations are mix of reality and my imagination. Working from photo reference, I can modify existing photos by combining them with my own photography in order alter the composition, clothing, expressions, style and gestures etc. I studied fashion promotion and illustration as a degree, and because of this, my work is very fashion/trend orientated, so I’m a sucker for photographing cool looking girls when I’m out and about - I do this as often as possible, so I have thousands of photos of girls, but I also work heavily from what I imagination the girl could look like, I like to think this keeps my work looking fresh.
D2G: Are there any collaboration projects that you wish to do in the future? Is there anywhere you would like to see your work featured at some point?
Niki Pilkington: I have a couple of very new exciting collaborations in the pipeline, which I hope will be very much underway in the next few months, these include jewelry, craft and fashion brands/companies, so it’s all very exciting! I’d like to do more work abroad soon too. A solo exhibition in New York (among other places!) would be a dream come true, so I’m working towards that!!
D2G: Do you believe that fashion and art go hand in hand? Would you like to see fashion and art come together more in collaborations, gallery showings and fashion shows?
Niki Pilkington: I think art/illustration lends itself beautifully to fashion, because they’re both so expressive and creative. Photography is the obvious choice for fashion because it can say exactly what you want it to, but it’s good to see people wanting something different. There’s definitely more of it going on right now, I’ve noticed that it’s being used a lot more, even in the short few years that I’ve been doing it professionally, and that’s really encouraging to see. I think the more they cross over the better - it can only mean even more interesting and diverse visuals for us, so I’m all for it!
D2G: Are there any specific pieces that you are most proud of? What is one of your favorite events so far in your career as an artist?
Niki Pilkington: My Glorious Truths series is probably what I’m most proud of so far, because this was a series where I really tried to push myself to do something a little bit more ‘strange’ and quirky, not just what I thought the audience would want to see or buy. They were created for ‘Pick Me Up’, at Somerset House, which was definitely a highlight of my career so far. Having my work there in such a prestigious beautiful building and so early on in my career was a truly wonderful experience. I have 4 new pieces which I will be adding to this series in the next few days – I think it’s fair to say that these are just as obscure, but hopefully people will respond to them in the same way they did to the rest of the series.
D2G: Are there any illustrators you have followed growing up? Who are your favorite illustrators now?
Niki Pilkington: David Downton has always been a favourite of mine, and it’s fair to say he was one of the main reasons I became a freelance illustrator. I’m not sure who I would say is my ‘favourite’ right now. There are so many wonderful illustrators out there, I seem to discover a new love for someone’s work every week.
D2G: Is there any advice for up and coming illustrators and those studying art now that you would like to share?
Niki Pilkington: Just don’t be afraid of negative comments when you’re starting out – not everyone will like what you do and to be honest, it would be boring if we all liked the same things! Listen to the feedback you get, and build from that.
To contact Niki visit her at:
About Chloe Norred
Fashion journalist and blogger, Chloe Norred, is a Southern California native who is now living in San Francisco to explore the creativity of the cities art and fashion. Currently attending the Academy of Art University, Chloe is pursuing a degree in fashion and journalism, where she is able to mix her fascination for art and design with her love for writing. Chloe also has a personal blog on the side, Neurotic Delirium, where she is able to share her inspirations and write about all that is going on in the fashion world.